…And so we continue our interview series. A valuable part of the Eight Arms team, Chris helps us to see things in a different way and uncover the unexpected within each project. It’s usually him asking the awkward questions, but this time it’s our turn, so here we go…
1. How would you best describe what you do?
I suppose I help people put ideas into words. Often my clients know roughly what they want to say but aren’t sure of the best way to say it. I work with them to figure out what makes them tick, why they do what they do and what makes them different. Then we put together a way of communicating that’s right for them, the project and their audience. It’s challenging but a lot of fun!
2. What experiences have led you down this career path?
Even as a kid I was fascinated by words and stories. At school I loved English and didn’t really care about anything else! I was an English teacher for about 8 years, then went part-time to do more writing. I work for a small festival, Fieldview, so writing the programme, press releases and articles for that was my first taste of copywriting. Then things just grew from there. I’m also a spoken word poet, so spend a lot of my time putting words in the right order…
3. We’re obviously used to having your around Eight Arms HQ, but, when you’re not collaborating here, what’s your preferred creative environment?
I often work at my friend’s creative co-working space in Hackney (Lunar HQ). It’s really relaxed and there are always interesting, motivated people around, which helps keep me focused. I also like to work in cafes and watch the world go by. There’s something about working out and about – you never know who you might meet or what you might see, which could spark an idea. I have an old leather chair at home, which is where I head if I’m working late (or really early).
4. Tell us about creative block. Is this something that you ever experience and what are your tips to overcome it?
I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this recently! I do experience creative block but I also know that if I sat around waiting for inspiration I’d be miserable and probably out of a job! For me, the best way to beat it is to just keep trying to write. So, day after day, that’s what I do – in the mornings when I know I’m most productive. I try give myself the best chance of coming up with something worthwhile. Even if what I create in those moments isn’t fantastic, I find that these ideas can later spark something exciting if I come back to them with fresh eyes. I like to think that no effort is wasted.
5. Words (and image) are an important part of storytelling. How do you find the best way to communicate an idea that is in an industry you have little experience in?
I love learning about industries I have no clue about! Sometimes, the less I know at the beginning, the easier it is to tell the story because it gives me license to ask really simple (often stupid) questions. Being able to convey complicated ideas and processes in a simple way is a big part of my job. Coming to it from outside puts me in the same position as the audience, so makes communicating with them a little simpler.
6. In our industry we hear a lot of ‘buzz’ words and phrases – we’re all guilty of it. Are there any in particular that make you cringe?
Haha! I can’t think of any disasters right now but jargon is definitely the arch enemy of any writer. Oh, I spent time in an office fairly recently where everyone kept talking about ‘synergy’ and emphasising it with a strange ‘interlocking fingers’ gesture… That was weird.
7. With online presence being such an important consideration for businesses, what are your thoughts on writing content for web? How does it balance with the emotive aspect brands want to communicate to their audience?
Great question. Ultimately, I think the answer lies in our reading habits on the web. People use the net to gather information and have very little patience for anything which slows this process. Our attention spans are decreasing, so the challenge for people like me is to condense as much meaning as possible into short, easily accessible parts. Developing a brand style or emotive impact is the final layer. It usually comes from creating a ‘feeling’ or vibe across a whole site or page, as opposed to a singular article, section or paragraph.
8. And most importantly, what TV, book, film or other character do you most relate to and why?
I’d love to say Sherlock Holmes but as my friends would probably point out, he’s an incredibly organised, super-competent genius, meaning we actually have very little in common…