Keith Richards’ Guide to Writing Copy Like a Rock Star

By Chris Hislop // Published on Nov 19, 2013

To be completely transparent, this is a topic I’ve written for a “contributing” company in the past (several years ago). The content of this topic though is something I still swear by to this day. If you’re a writer in need of inspiration, or a creative type in need of inspiration, don’t look past Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. There’s a reason he’s still alive and touring to this day…

Mr. Richards has left creative marketing types with plenty of food for thought at the core of his outward musings. Let’s dissect a few of his thoughts from his memoir “Life,” and relate what he’s saying to copywriting and the art of creating appealing content.

“Everyone talks about rock these days; the problem is they forget about the roll.”

In a world saturated with content, how do you separate yourself from the pack? Everyone is creating copy (rock) that may or may not be making noise throughout the business world. The real trick of it is writing copy that resonates with your fan or client base. What’s making them move (roll)? People are not only looking to read your content – they’re also looking to engage with it. Where there is monotony there is boredom. People want to be surprised. They want to be moved. They want to be rattled to the core. And that in turn, initiates action. Where there is rock, there should inevitably be roll.

“If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.”

In a nutshell; know your industry. With that comes the history. Know where your industry has been. Know its roots. Trace it back to its very foundation. For Richards and rock and roll, it started with the blues. You can’t be successful or hold any legitimate weight in your area of expertise if you’re looking at it with tunnel vision. You have to be able to backtrack.

Everyone and their Grandma claims to be a marketer/have their own marketing agency. It’s along the same line of thought that has everyone declaring they’re a guitar player just because they plug in and pound on some effects pedals. Anyone can make a claim, but very few actually know what they’re doing and can back said claim. If you don’t know the history, you’re bound to sound like an idiot, and if you sound like an idiot, people aren’t going to take you seriously. If they don’t take your seriously, why would they want to conduct any degree of business with you? Know the roots. It’s only from there that you can really grow.

“You don’t find a style… a style finds you.”

In writing, you can’t force your voice or style. It’s an organic thing. You either have it, or you don’t. If it’s meant to be it will come to you. People can tell if you’re not being sincere, and if you’re coming across as fake – so be wary. You don’t want these terms to be associated with you or you won’t have anyone reading your content. If it’s not flowing, take a timeout. Forcing something is one of the primary factors in committing errors.

“Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it. You have to sweat over it and bug it to death.”

When it comes to writing, you need to have a plan. Before you sit down and start in on the task at hand you have to know where it’s headed. You have to have an end goal in mind. Know what your clients are looking for. Talk to your peers. Have your head in other departments and actively engage in what information they may have that you don’t. Get out and pound pavement. Information is everywhere, you just need to get out there and find it. Furthermore, you need to be able to boil it down to get to the good stuff – the stuff that your clients are going to take something away from. Know what your audience’s wants, needs, and concerns are.

Doing your research is the most time consuming and tiring part of the job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions even if it’s at the expense of a few laughs directed at you. It’s okay to bug people to get inside their head, because if you don’t, how will you really know? If you don’t have your facts straight, the project is derailed right out of the gate.

“Anything you throw yourself into, you better get yourself out of.”

As a writer you best have the means to backup what you’re putting out there. You have to be grounded in the subject matter and refuse to inject fluff, or passages that hold no merit, because chances are you will be called out on it. If you treat your audience like they don’t know any better, then you will be burned. Stick to what you know, and if you don’t know, you’d better be checking the facts. If you can’t get yourself out, people aren’t going to be subjecting themselves to coming in (and hiring you). Honesty is indeed the best policy.

“I have no idea what the audience makes of me.”

It’s important to be yourself and to take chances; test the waters. In attempting to separate yourself from the pack, you may need to try some techniques that may be off-the-cuff and non-traditional. This is what gets you noticed. This is where your true voice steps in and ultimately develops. By being different you’re offering your client something they can’t get anywhere else, and this is a commodity they’re going to get back in line for. You may have some instances where you fall flat on your face. But on the flipside, you could potentially be positioning an idea that will propel you to the next level. If they like the work you’re doing, you’ll know.

“To me, as long as we’ve known each other, I’ve always thought Mick’s (Jagger) most brilliant thing was that he could work in an area two foot square and give a very exciting performance.”

Make the most out of any opportunity you’ve been given. If you’re not going to make the effort given a tight situation, someone else will assuredly step in and make it happen in your absence, which will lose you clients and tarnish your reputation. Copywriting won’t always land you the most glamorous gigs, but it’s in these less than desirable settings that you let your creativity and professionalism shine thru. If you maximize the potential and go above and beyond that of the minimal space you were given at the outset, people will notice. Not only will they notice – they will also wonder what you can do with more and will be more apt to give you those opportunities as they arise.

“You’ve got the sun, you’ve got the moon, and you’ve got the Rolling Stones.”

In conclusion: Be confident. There are two things that are going to differentiate you from the rest of the writers out there competing for work. One is an exemplary skill-set. The other is confidence. Don’t be afraid to exude this confidence in the way you walk through life. Clients are going to hire you because you have an impressive portfolio and because you won’t back down from a challenge. If you balk, and come across as feeble – like you’re going to break if something doesn’t go exactly to plan – they’re going to hire the next writer in line. Stand tall, be loud, and be proud. Take it from Keef, for as far as he’s concerned, there isn’t anything on the planet that’s going to knock him down.

Are you looking to stick out in your respective industry? Boldwerks can help… As the name suggests, our copy is bold, placing you at the forefront of your client pool’s thoughts.

 

Tagged Under: Marketing + Obscure Fun
"It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. The question is: What are you industrious about?"
- Henry DavidThoreau