BriefVirtual reality (VR) hasn’t taken over the world yet. But it’s about to. FitXR is a tech startup that makes really cool fitness apps for VR headsets. You’ve heard of FinTech, right? Well this is FitTech, the new frontier. FitXR needed a copywriter to help develop their tone of voice and write copy for their new website.
ThoughtsImmersed in the day-to-day it’s not always easy to see the big picture and grasp how to make your business appealing to an online audience. But when you hire a copywriter you benefit from their objective opinion. I worked with the FitXR brand team to focus on the reader and craft copy that serves two audiences: gamers, who make up the bulk of customers right now, and, let’s call them people who shop at John Lewis, who FitXR want to reach in the future.
ResultThe new website looks and reads beautifully. The FitXR team are much more confident about how they should write online. The company is growing fast. I’m happy to have played a small part in that. And watch out — VR really is coming.
What the client said: >
BriefFood is a subject that’s very close to my heart. Or should that be stomach? Either way, I was thrilled to be contacted by The Bear Kitchen: an ambitious young company that wants to change the world by changing the way we eat. Co-founder Jens called me in need of web copy, as well as copy for a flyer and a poster.
ThoughtsMy challenge was to turn Jens’ vast knowledge and undeniable passion into effective web copy. You have only limited time to convert a visitor to your website. You can’t say everything so you have to make tough choices about what goes in and what’s left out. The Bear Kitchen vision is huge—to reduce the risk of ecological meltdown by encouraging the rich world to eat less meat—but their requirements at the time were simple. Jens needed a tone of voice that would convey enthusiasm but also the seriousness of what they are trying to achieve.
ResultThe website did its job and the supper clubs were sell-out affairs. I went to one myself and deeply enjoyable it was too. The web copy concisely communicates what they’re all about. Making the bear female was a nice touch. Just a tiny way of sticking it to the patriarchy.
BriefHuckle the Barber is a smart, gents barber with two shops in London. Chris Ward, founder and owner, wanted interesting, light-hearted content to help raise the brand’s online profile and engage their high-earning clientele.
I devised a content marketing strategy and began writing a fornightly blog. Recent posts include an interview with Oliver Spencer, a guide to clippers and trimmers, and a rallying cry for bald men everywhere to embrace their inner super villain
ThoughtsHuckle is smart but not stuffy, so my approach was to create sophisticated posts, written in an informal and witty voice that speaks directly to the audience. You can find the blog here.
What the client said: >
BriefThe Flower Appreciation Society has been making flowers lovers happy for almost a decade. They are pioneers of the fresh, wild style that has helped drag floristry from its formality-dogged stupor. When they needed a new website they called me to write the lot.
ThoughtsThe floristry market is super competitive, especially in London. The challenge was to help The Flower Appreciation Society stand out, communicate their passion and expertise, and highlight the fantastic brands they’ve worked with. All done with engaging copy as warm as the personalities of the founders, Anna and Ellie. No problem.
ResultThe new website is receiving more traffic, bookings of The Flower Appreciation Society’s renowned floristy workshops have increased significantly and the site is now ranked third on Google, organically, for one of the company’s most important long tail keywords.
What the client said: >
BriefWho hasn’t heard of Rolls-Royce? It’s an iconic brand no doubt, but few people know the story of the risk-taking, ruling-breaking pioneers who founded the company. Charles Rolls was an aristrocratic daredevil, Henry Royce a working class engineering genius. Together they made history.
I was hired by ENERGY for Rolls-Royce copywriting at Goodwood Festival of Speeed in 2017. The stand was showcasing the Black Badge range; Rolls Royce’s menacing alter ego and their most powerful cars to date.
ThoughtsThe challenge was to digest a huge amount of historical information in a short period, choose the most compelling anecdotes, then retell them for an event audience. The copy was displayed on panels around the beautifully designed stand.
ResultThe production was very well received by festival goers, Rolls-Royce’s top brass and the wealthy individuals who placed orders during the festival. Rolls-Royce had a target for the number of Black Badge rollers they wanted to sell over the six months following the event. Thanks to the powerful impact of the stand, and the way it invoked the bold spirit of the company’s founders, that target was smashed in four days.
Rolls-Royce sold almost 30 new cars as a result of their Goodwood display, and the stand won a gold award at the Field Marketing and Brand Experience Awards 2017.
What the client said: >
BriefI was commissioned by the Toronto Star to write several pieces on skiing in Europe. On a press trip hosted by Best of the Alps, I visited Lech, Austria, and met an Olympic legend.
Lech – the Cradle of Alpine Skiing
I’m gazing into a cabinet packed with medals and trophies, including gold from the 1962 world championships and 1964 Olympics, well-polished and arranged in neat rows on the green baize. As I admire the haul its owner, Egon Zimmerman, appears wearing a huge grin. At 76, he looks quite different from the airborne figure painted 15 ft high on the outside of his hotel—the luxurious yet cosy Kristberg, in Lech, Austria—but his handshake is firm.
Lech is one of a group of resort towns that evolved from farming communities in the Alrberg, named after the massif which dominates the landscape, and known as the cradle of alpine skiing. In nearby St. Anton more than a century ago Hannes Schneider pioneered the techniques that became the foundations of the modern sport. I’m here for my first runs of the season and, as an intermediate but somewhat rusty skier, I can only hope there is something in the water.
Lech-Zürs (as the ski area is known) now has 283 km of groomed pistes of all levels and 200 km of free-riding. If the mooted lift connection between Zürs and St. Anton is made it will create the largest network of slopes in Austria. A short walk through the pretty town (sophisticated without being flashy) brings me to Strolz, fabled maker of custom ski boots, where I collect my (off-the-shelf) gear. When Egon sped to victory at Chamonix and Innsbruck he did so in Strolz boots.
Transplanted from the city to this lofty perch I feel an anticipatory burst of adrenaline as the Schlegelkopf I chairlift whisks me up the mountainside through the ice-fresh morning air. I had planned to ski the White Ring, a 22 km circuit of groomed pistes with 5,500 m of vertical connected by seven lifts, but snowfall has been light and not all sections are open.
At the top of the Kriegerhorn lift the view is spectacular. Carolin, my guide, names each peak in turn as we look north towards Germany and then south into Switzerland. The valley here starts high, at over 1,400 m, which means the vistas are expansive and, as Carolin explains: “There is more sun, so the people are happier.”
The weather is indeed glorious and we carve down uncrowded blues and reds until lunchtime before sweeping into Oberlech, a tiny ski-in ski-out village, to refuel on the terrace of the Hotel Goldener Berg. Austrian food is hearty, perfect for active appetites, and the mountains are sprinkled with delicious eateries. The generous portions might go some way to explaining why European ski culture is a little more relaxed than North America’s. As one Canadian I met put it: “Back home it’s all about clocking vertical. You adjust to a different pace here. It’s slower, more sociable.”
After an espresso to cut through the calories it’s back on the piste. South facing slopes and manmade snow make for icy conditions and I scrub my way down the steeper sections. I imagine Egon as a boy in the 50s, with no formal training and second-hand equipment, charging down these mountains on his way to glory.
A session without a major wipeout is a victory for me and it’s with sore legs and soaring spirits that I put in the final turns of the day. Back at the Kristberg Egon is waiting with a glass of schnapps and a nugget of wisdom. “Talent is paper thin. It’s hard work that counts.”
With skiing this good on the doorstep, you won’t find me slacking.
BriefSuitcase Magazine have a beautiful website where travel and fashion stories are collated for their devoted readers. They commissioned me to write a mini guide to Lisbon.
Lisbon: The Perfect City Guide
It’s hard not to be charmed by Lisbon. Sprinkled over seven hills on the bank of the River Tagus, the city, one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful, vibrates to the echoes of history while at the same time thrusting forward with infectious optimism.
The hills, trams, thriving gay scene and bridge designed by the same architect earn comparisons with San Francisco, but Lisbon’s soul is uniquely Portuguese. A stroll will take you from medieval ramparts; through cobbled alleyways lined with family-run restaurants and drinking dens; past crumbling buildings adorned with street art three storeys high; onto Praça do Comércio, the size of five football pitches and ringed with monumental architecture; and finally to riverside clubs where revellers dance all night, energised by the prospect of a prosperous future.
Portugal’s battered economy is bouncing back from the Eurozone crisis and Lisbon is leading the way: renovating rundown areas, supporting local businesses and attracting entrepreneurship – a forward-looking mentality that is allowing creativity to flourish.
Doubtless Lisbon’s contemporary culture is inspired by Portugal’s colonial past, with Angolan, Brazilian, Goan and Mozambican influences meshing in this cosmopolitan capital. Whether you want to eat kulyachem tonak (Goan crab curry), rave all night to kudoro (high-speed Angolan dance music), or sip ginjinha (cherry liqueur) from a hole-in-the-wall bar, curious senses will be satisfied.
Exploration is a pleasure as the sun shines more often than not here on the edge of Europe (a Lisboeta would say the centre), illuminating vistas from rooftop bars and miradouros (public viewpoints), encouraging dining, drinking and dancing outside, and warmly nudging you to peak around just one more corner.
What you find may reveal the sense of the Portuguese word saudade. There is no direct translation but its essence is of a bittersweet longing, like that of a woman who marries a man who goes to sea. Whatever you’re yearning for, Lisbon is a good place to come and find it, or, have so much fun that you’ll forget.
Here is a selection of my favourite places to stay, eat, drink/dance and things to see and do…
BriefThis piece, about a water buffalo fighting tournament in Vietnam, won the Daily Telegraph Just Back travel writing competition.
A Raging Buffalo Battle
A track leads away from the highway into the jungle where a pit of bare earth gapes like a fresh wound. Several thousand people stand on terraces 70 feet high carved into the clay by excavators. All eyes on the arena, which lies empty, waiting.
The air clings with the smell of popcorn and barbecued pork. Families gather with their boisterous broods, buying drinks and snacks from vendors who have set up shop on low plastic tables. It’s Saturday in the Bac Quang district of northern Vietnam and the water buffalo tournament is in town.
Men slide heavy wooden poles aside and two magnificent buffalo bulls are led into the public gaze, the numbers 18 and 32 chalked on their backs. I brace myself for the inevitable violence but…nothing. Officials, tiny from our distant perch, look foolish whacking the half ton slabs of muscle on their backsides, cajoling them to rage. Then…18 nuzzles up to 32 and licks his neck.
A roar goes upfrom the crowd. The announcer’s voice rings from the PA system, shrill with excitement. This brotherly love is unprecedented. Five long minutes later something snaps and they lock horns. Thirty-two drives forward and, after a few seconds of resistance, 18 swivels to flee.
The next contest is pure fury. Number 31 bulldozes straight at number 48, closing the 20 metre gap in seconds. Forty-eight is oblivious to the snorting thunder bearing down on him. Just in time he lifts his head and two horn bosses collide sending a shudder down the flanks of both animals.
Now their thick necks are bent into the battle, the tops of their heads brushing the dirt. Hooves grind the earth as the initiative switches from beast to beast. Testosterone flows in the deadly struggle and the fleshy red tubes of their penises are exposed.
Thirty-one forces 48 backwards across the arena. An imperceptible shift of weight and 48 is on the offensive, regaining lost ground. Until, suddenly, 48 knows his opponent’s superiority and surrenders. He makes for the corner of the arena and hurls himself against the wooden gate but there is no escape. Thirty-one smashes into his side and knocks him to the ground, legs flailing. A flash of horns driving into exposed chest. Men hurry to intervene, wary of being crushed, dancing to drape flags over the rampager’s head – taking the target from view, damping the murderous flames.
Thirty-one will fight again in a bid to win the 45,000,000 Vietnamese Dong (£1,400) prize. But ultimately all competitors share the same fate: skilful dissection with a butcher’s knife, flesh hacked into profit. Outside the arena, yellow chits litter the floor. The iron tang of blood claws from stalls where hunks of fresh meat glisten.
Delicious, I’m told, and expensive at 280,000 Dong (£9) per kilo. Down by the river; a freshly stripped buffalo rib cage, massive, the white bones in stark contrast to the dark figures working on it, the muddy bank and the churning chocolate river.
Cliveden Conservation restores and conserves the UK’s most beautiful historic buildings. It’s only right they should share this brilliant work. They hired me to produce a client newsletter covering the highlights of their busy schedule in 2015 and 2016, including an introduction from the Managing Director.
The MD and I chatted on the phone to identify the Cliveden Conservation highlights he wanted to cover in his introduction to the newsletter. Then I wrote the copy in an appropriate tone.
What the client said: >
From the Managing Director
“I’m thrilled that, since our last newsletter in 2015, Cliveden Conservation has continued to consolidate its position in the conservation industry to become, increasingly, the number one choice for many interesting research, conservation and restoration projects…
…The increasing scale of the jobs that we take on demonstrates the maturity of the company, which has grown from a small statue conservation workshop to a major conservation organisation with teams based across three sites… …Our award-winning restoration of the Gothic Tower at Wimpole House is a perfect example of this development (read the full story here). It was fantastic to work with Donald Insall Associates on behalf of the National Trust and restore public access to this unique piece of architectural heritage… Cliveden Conservation not only works to restore what remains but to return what has been lost. Or, in the case of the final project I would like to mention, sold. Returning the statuary to the monumental gardens at Stowe is one such effort and a personal passion project. 2015 saw the start of a new phase of this restoration…”
Lewis Proudfoot, Stone Section Manager – Cliveden Conservation
We needed a newsletter to keep our clients, colleagues and fellow conservation industry members up to speed. Previously we’ve done it in-house, but with a heavy workload and tight timeframe we decided to outsource. Olly gathered stories from our three regional workshops on completed, upcoming and award-winning projects. He took the time to interview individuals and found the best angles for the stories.
He listened to the brief, understood our requirements and wrote in a friendly but authoritative tone, just right for our large, diverse readership. He made the deadline despite the challenges of liaising with multiple stakeholders. Olly hasan eye for detail and careful research. His copywriting services combine the rigour of a journalist with the adaptability of a commercial writer. Highly recommended.