Rachel Barker is a Copywriter and the Founder of Real Communication, a company helping business owners express their ideas in words. Rachel took some time to talk to The Industry Leaders about why she set up her company and how speaking in an authentic, conversational tone is the best way to grow your business.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Eleven years ago, while working as an in-house copywriter, I had a lightbulb moment.
I was writing a particularly boring report, which we knew nobody would read. Sure, it was factually correct. But it was overly formal and made little attempt to engage the reader—the classic 'professional' style.
And I thought, what if we stripped out the complicated jargon and sterile buzzwords? What if we simply sounded like real people – talking to real people?
That evening I set up my copywriting business, Real Communication. I work with people-led brands who want to grow their business through real relationships.
What kind of work does your role involve?
I help brands to connect with their audience through refreshingly human copy and content.
At Real Communication, I write for companies directly, working on everything from big website projects to product names and straplines.
I also run Real Words That Work, a specialist content service for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to reach more people online. It can be hard when you're so close and emotionally attached to your business to express your ideas in writing. I help them write sales pages, lead magnets and email sequences in a natural, non-salesy way.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Working with companies who genuinely make an effort to create content that their employees and clients can engage with.
I've been helping a big property firm over the last couple of years to rewrite all their policies and procedures so they're easy to read, while still being legally compliant. The result is that their employees understand and comply with the policies, and the company upholds its people-led values by creating a stronger connection with its team.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Every line in Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen song. It was released in 1999 when I was doing my A-Levels and about to leave high school (the first line even addresses 'the class of '99'), and – in that particularly self-absorbed way of an 18-year old – I felt like it was talking directly to me. I even wrote out all the lyrics and stuck them on my wall at uni!
The advice is all pretty clichéd now, but I still love the song. It reminds me of 1999, which was a brilliant year.
What, or who inspires you?
Every woman who has a strong vision for her future and works really hard – overcoming obstacles and juggling family responsibilities – to achieve it.
I struggle to plan for the long term, so I really admire those who can.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
Copywriters love creating and communicating, so there's no shortage of support and up-to-date advice to call on. I always have a podcast on the go, either about copywriting or digital marketing. I'm also in some really excellent online memberships with coaches and mentors who keep me on my toes.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
I've been fortunate to have had very few problematic clients. There's always the odd one who says, 'I can't explain what I want, but I'll know it when I see it.' But I've learnt to recognise when a red flag is being waved vigorously in my face and politely explain that we might not be the best fit.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Ooh. Well, first I'd pass all my amazing clients to my colleague Clare, who'd look after them brilliantly. I'd take my whole family on a 3-week holiday somewhere gorgeous and sunny, flying first class. I'd then be extremely indulgent, buy a villa in the south of France, and either an Aston Martin DB9 or a Ferrari Portofino.
Then I'd set up a charity helping vulnerable children in the UK. I volunteer for Baby Bank Network in Bristol, and there are far too many children on our doorstep who lack life's essentials – let alone the fun and encouragement they deserve.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Usually with more work – ha. I don't work between 3 and 8pm, so I can pick up my 7-year old son from school and hang out with him. He's brilliant company, and I feel really privileged that my role is flexible enough to do this while he's young. It usually means I need to do a bit more work in the evening, though.
A lot of my hobbies – playing netball, parkrun and going to football matches are still on hold during lockdown. I can't wait to get back to them.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
For writers – either at big brands or tiny micro-businesses - to not be scared of conversational copy. Marketing is all about relationships, and every relationship starts with a conversation.
Conversational copy isn't necessarily how you'd speak to your mum or your mate. It's simply a more eloquent version of how you'd talk to your reader if you met them face to face. Clear, respectful and naturally engaging. It's the best way to connect with any audience and, thus, grow your business.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr Seuss – I always buy it as a christening present. It encapsulates the whole emotional rollercoaster of life, and I'm usually in tears by the end, despite having read it hundreds of times.
If you're looking for something more grown-up, Cal Newport's Deep Work is fantastic. As a writer, the concept of deep work – where you can work fluidly without distractions – is something I'm always striving for. The main takeaway is probably 'stop dithering about on Facebook', but it's definitely worth a read.
How should people connect with you?
If you work for a people-led brand and would like to see how Real Words could transform your copy, I'd love to connect on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/rachelbarkerrealcommunication.
Or you can check out my website: realcommunication.co.uk.
If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner and need some support to write your own content, come and join my free Facebook community for loads of tips and inspiration: http://facebook.com/groups/thefutureisreal.
For a mixture of everything, come over to IG: instagram.com/real_copywriter.
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