Beyond The Photo, Tiffany Domanposted on 13 August 2018
WELCOME TO BEYOND THE PHOTO
Beyond every final professional photograph or video lies a series of highly coordinated events necessary to achieve the desired outcome for your client. In Imagecloud’s new Beyond the Photo series, we take a closer look at the expanding global community supporting all types of professional independent photographers.
Photographic artists using Imagecloud– be they a portrait studio in Hong Kong, an interiors photographer in London, an architectural photographer in New York, or a videographer in Brisbane – are ever-increasingly dependent on a global, contingent workforce to alleviate their time, lower their operational costs and meet demanding deadlines.
By sharing the stories of suppliers who service the global photographic market, Imagecloud aims to humanise this vital process and break down the geographic, cultural and social barriers built up from digital communication.
In the first instalment of Beyond the Photo, we discuss the challenges faced by professional copywriter Tiffany Doman of Altstory.com.au
Starting her copywriting career straight out of high school, Tiff was taken under the wing of a retired journalist and trained on-the-job, meeting with and writing for some of Australia’s largest blue-chip technology companies of the time (think EPSON Australia and Hewlett-Packard).
She then did a stint in eLearning and honed her skills on quick comprehension of diverse industries and subject matter. Fast forward 11 years and it’s Tiff’s capacity to step into the reader’s headspace that is seeing her use copywriting to help businesses grow through the power of words.
Was writing an interest you had since a young age, or something you came to after school?
Growing up, I swore I would never work on a computer. At the end of high school, I was accepted to study a Bachelor of Justice Studies, but had to defer for a year to save so I could move away to do it. I recall having an off-the-cuff conversation with my Head Teacher of English, where he asked if I had a job to go to (I didn’t). He explained that he had a friend with a writing business who was looking for someone he could train up to become a professional copywriter. I met with him, did a couple of tests and within weeks found myself sitting alongside him, opposite the National Marketing Manager for EPSON Australia, taking a project brief.
What type of copywriting do you do now, and how does it differ from when you first started out?
When I am asked what a copywriter does, I often say, ‘I write anything for business that needs words’, and it’s absolutely the truth! The job is whatever the business needs written. Sometimes that’s content for a piece of marketing collateral or helping the business develop the language that makes the brand feel like a brand. Other times it can be a speech for a director, a blog post or – as it has been regularly for the past decade – property copy for real estate marketing.
Back when I started in 2003, copywriting felt like a very uncommon line of work and client deliverables were aligned with more traditional print media marketing. There was the odd webpage, but mostly it was all about product brochures, case studies and articles about the products being used by the customer (and certainly not in the way a social media influencer might promote a product now!)
I think we’ve come a long way on not just the way we sell products and services to the consumer, but also the value we place on surrounding ourselves and our businesses with professionals (like copywriters) who specialise in bringing finesse and a competitive edge to what we’re selling.
Tell us the challenges you face when writing copy to a series of photos? Do you have a different process when writing about a product compared to say real estate? Can you share with us how they differ, and the different approaches you might take?
When you can’t physically experience the product or service you’re writing about, the most important thing is to get as much information as possible from the client’s brief. The internet is fantastic when it comes to researching and joining the dots on things, but if you don’t know what the client’s agenda is, there’s a risk of taking the copy in the wrong direction.
When it comes to real estate copy, there is so much that can be picked up on from good quality photos. My process always includes getting as much insight from the agent and then leveraging the likes of Google Maps and its Street View functionality to really grasp the feel of the area and a property’s locality to important services or attractions. I also look at what else is on the market in that area (to understand where the property sits with its competition) and the brand language and style of the listing agency.
It’s a very methodical process for me, especially compared to other products and services I write about, but no matter what I write, I still obsessively read the copy out aloud until it sits right with me to move on to the next line.
As photographers, we take great pains in producing styles and processes that make us different from our competitors. What are the influences in your individual writing style? And what makes Alt. Story unique?
I tailor my writing style to my clients’ needs, but in general, it is always my aim to ensure the reader or audience can understand what on earth I am talking about! It’s all well and good to be able to write a formal letter or professional brochure, but if your audience is just seeing a heap of words that mean nothing to them, you’ve missed the mark.
Attention to detail is a big thing for me. There’s no ‘that’ll do’ in my work. It’s either done right or not at all. I’m also big on hitting the brief – if the client’s not happy because they’ve moved the bar on what they want, that’s one thing, but if the client’s not happy because the copy I deliver doesn’t hit the brief, I will work until it’s right. That’s just good business as far as I’m concerned.
As for Alt. Story, my brand was born out of a desire to combine my love of writing with my philanthropic heart. I have a passionate agenda about generating positive change through the power of storytelling, but as writing for business is my ‘day job’, Alt. Story has a fast-growing, lesser known twin – Alt. Copy. Over the coming months, both will function alongside each other, offering copywriting for business and social change.
When writing copy from photos for a tourism or property marketing gig, what aspects in a photo help you tell a story? Regardless of the information you’re given for a job, are there photographers whose work is easier to write for? If so, why do you think that is?
I have been blessed to work with a number of clients – including many real estate agents and photographers – who truly value premium quality photos and marketing campaigns. I certainly note the difference between photos I can flick through and stitch together in my mind, versus those that don’t tell the property’s or attraction’s story. I’m also acutely aware that as a consumer, a photo makes me click into whatever is being sold on a website or social media feed and while quality copy is important, if the photo doesn’t make me want to click, then I’ll never read the copy (unless it’s really bad, and then I’m not reading it for the right reason!)
I have worked with real estate photographers who go to spectacular lengths to ensure the styling or layout of furniture for a photo is next level, rather than just shooting things the way they were on first arriving. The care factor shows through and sets the tone for the kind of copy that should accompany those images.
Having any type of online business has it challenges. What are the specific challenges that you face when working remotely with clients, and what steps do you take to break down these barriers?
I’ve been working remotely with clients for the best part of the last decade, so I believe things are only getting easier on this front; however, I will say that there are some challenges around version control and multiple people involved in reviewing one document. These things are easily cleared up by setting the expectations from the start of working together and agreeing on which program or file sharing option best suits the client accessing the work being completed.
Video conference platforms, like Zoom, also put clients at ease when it comes to feeling like they’ve met you to kick-off the start of a new project.
Many of the suppliers we speak with express challenges around competing with the growing list of cheaper online competitors. At Imagecloud, we’ve seen that after 170,000 projects, suppliers who offer reliable, quality products and a good customer experience consistently get the majority of our members’ work, regardless of price. When a new client tries to work you down on price, what are the value propositions you put forward on your work at Alt. Story?
If you’d asked me this question a couple of years ago, I might have answered with a little more concern, but at this point in my copywriting career, this kind of competition doesn’t come into the equation for me.
There are always going to be people out there looking to cut costs, while still expecting great quality. You get what you pay for – in output and service. If a new client wants to test the waters on cheaper, less experienced or a lesser quality service provider, with the product or service they are proposing to their marketplace as ‘premium’ or ‘valuable’, then that’s a little ironic in itself.
I don’t begrudge a client not having the budget to extend themselves in the early days – we all find ourselves there, but there is a polite way of talking through that to find a happy medium. I have worked with clients who want something for nothing and the result is always that they come back a little later wanting to “do things the right way” now.
The best client relationships are the ones where we value the same things in what we think is acceptable to deliver to a client. Personality comes into too – I think we all know, when we speak with or email back-and-forth with someone for the first time, if they’re a good fit for how you’ll work together in the future.
Starting from today, Imagecloud members can now order Alt.Story copywriting directly from their video or photography projects. Simply select the gallery your project requires copywriting for and under more actions choose “Create Copywrite” and follow the ordering process. It’s that simple.
The below set of services are available for instant booking through Imagecloud, though further-scope or variations can be quoted as required:
Property Description Copy
Video Script Copy
Professional Bio/Profile Copy
Blog Post Copy
Product/service brochure content
Magazine article/news website content
Social media post content
Business documentation / planning/content
You can find more of information on Alt.Story at their website : http://www.altstory.com.au/
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