Writing about the future: white paper on technology in 2030

Modern Copy have been writing copy for Grant Thornton for over five years, creating published reports on fields as varied as property, logistics, healthcare, education and technology. Our latest copywriting commission from the global financial advisory and auditing company was a white paper on technology in 2030. This covered a conference in late November where several tech pioneers and futurologists presented the evidence for their own visions of the world in 2030: fascinating material to work with.

Download and read the report here: Grant Thornton white paper on technology in 2030

How to get information to readers in different streams

An infographic explaining eight key issues about digital magazine editions in the UK

Magvault.com infographic on digital magazines

We’ve been working for the last month or so with Magvault.com, the UK’s first (and so far, only) independent portal for digital magazines. Our content strategy has been multichannel, addressing the different issues that face the many users of digital magazines. That includes white papers for the commercial interests, press releases and PR decks for the journalists and this neat infographic for the online media. Channeling your data in a new way like this doesn’t change the message, but affects the outcome of your strategy. A fragmented readership can be an advantage in many ways, giving you a good opportunity to write for specific markets one at a time. Enjoy the infographic – you might even be one of the 24% of Britons reading it on a tablet…

Magvault.com white paper on digital magazines

A page from magvault.com

What Magvault looks like












Modern Copy have been assisting with content for the launch of Magvault.com, a new online portal for digital magazines. Owner Neil Morgan, who pioneered the use of networked data for Reuters back in the 1980s, is something of an Internet pioneer. The site makes it simpler, faster and cheaper to find your digital editions, and we think it’s great.

We came up with a comprehensive content strategy for launch, which is staggered over an 8-week phase and reaches out to consumers, industry insiders, journalists and bloggers in different ways.

One of our favourite pieces so far was this white paper on digital magazine discoverability – a major issue for many users of Newsstand and App Stores. Read the Magvault digital magazine article

Infographic design and structure

Infographic about stock market behavior











Modern Copy loves infographics. These deceptively simple devices manage to communicate a lot of complicated information. When you dissect one, you start to see the patterns emerge beneath. Good infographics always have a narrative. They tell a story, with an intro, beginning, middle and end. Sometimes, even a smart sign-off. They relate technical data in a way that only demands a few seconds of your time. They can be dipped into, or consumed as one, like a good magazine feature. The trend for the long, scrolling infographic like this one about stocks also demands that you physically engage with the graphic by moving up and down with your cursor.

This particular infographic explains how stock market investors are ruled by five psychological traits. These are often counterproductive, illogical and self-destructive. It’s a powerful message that affects everyone, and this infographic explains the horrifying fact that our economies are influenced by some very strange buying and selling indeed. It does it with solid facts and a sprinkling of humour, and of course a great story.

What’s the ideal length for a blog post?

We get to write copy for many different websites, and online marketing has become a world coloured by metrics and analysis. It’s also a great place to find people hawking solutions, even if the problem is non-existent. This blog post from one LinkedIn influencer came through to us at Modern Copy today. It’s a fantastic piece of information. The answer is exactly what we would hope to hear as writers: there’s no such thing as ideal length, it’s quality that matters.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithms confirms that it’s about good writing, not tricky SEO

Feature on Google Hummingbird from Daily Telegraph








Modern Copy are often asked by our digital copywriting clients whether SEO is for them. The answer, as many online copy specialists have told the world, used to be ‘It’s for you, and it’s twice as expensive as you were thinking.’ What most sensible people suspect is that SEO means very little without good content ideas, executed well. You can pay through the nose for expensive SEO consultants, but it’s a smoke and mirrors game that looks to be delivering diminishing returns.

Each incarnation of Google goes in the same direction, and that is towards promoting sites that have great copy, not technical SEO. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. But people who have leant on SEO as the core of their strategy, while executing the rest of their content badly, are going to see their artifically-lifted figures toppling.

Check out the latest Telegraph feature on Google Hummingbird and find out for yourself. Then check the comments. Look for the SEO experts – and see how happy they feel about it. That tells you the good news: having beautiful, well-planned content you can be proud of will be the only way your site can guarantee long-term success.


Making brand stories benefit the reader


Whether you’re writing lovely long-form advertising copy or a website page that explains your brand story, you should always make sure the story doesn’t overshadow the purpose: to make the user benefit in some way. It’s fantastic to hear that your bank is ancient, esteemed and rolling in dough, but so what? You’re still like the rest of them.

TSB, the unpacked and de-risked bank which was split from Lloyds and relaunched recently, have got it right.

They keep underlining the importance of history to their brand, and the values that the story is made from. But crucially, they make sure it connects to you. There’s a benefit here – your local economy is going to thrive thanks to TSB. Whether it actually does or not isn’t the point – the point is that TSB has detoxified itself and set itself apart from the villains we’ve come to know on the high street.

Check the adverts and the web copy and see how nicely it flows together, using very slightly different ways to say the same thing, but always keeping the narrative flow and tone gentle. When you next write copy, can your story turn into a benefit for everyone like this?



Three rules of good writing

Rules of good writing should help you with anything, from reports, presentations and website creation all the way through to naming and strategy. Finding the set of rules that work for you is essential.

An item came on the news today as I drove to work. British director Christopher Nolan took just 15 minutes to sell his Batman franchise idea to Warner Bros executives. Even though he’s an established figure, and a safe pair of hands, to take a profitable movie series like Batman and twist it to your own plans – it’s a lot to ask in just a quarter of an hour.

The Radio 4 segment quizzed Christopher Hauge, author of Sell your Story in 60 Seconds, and he underlined two ideas that are worth remembering when you’re writing anything.

1. Keep it simple

2. Use a narrative

It seems like it’s so easy, but is it really? How do you strip out what you don’t need and still keep a narrative fresh and interesting? That’s the skill, and it’s easier with practise. When you’re writing presentations, brand strategies, and especially web copy, you need to tell simple stories that can come alive. I’d add one last piece of advice to the list:

3. Be straight

That means honesty, being unpatronising – and being direct. People sniff out weakness when you break this rule – and that means they don’t trust what you’re saying.

Simple selling psychology

You can't help liking whoever was responsible for this...

 The best sales people have a toolkit of tactics that are proven by psychologists to work, even if they have no idea why. When writing copy, these tactics should always be kept in mind.


You may not be selling dishcloths door-to-door, but you’re trying to get people to spend their time and read more. Time is expensive, as is the effort it takes to investigate your claims and benefits. Here’s a brief explanation of what sales people already know – and you should remember.


Give and take

Often referred to as a sense of obligation, and seen perhaps most clearly in the ‘free’ gifts given away by mail order and charity mail shots: the most desperate I’ve seen was a cancer charity who posted a pair of slippers to my house, backed up by a quote from a cancer patient on the envelope that read “Help me mummy, I’m freezing cold”. While one good turn deserves another, subtlety is the key to make sure you’re not alienating the reader.


Be likeable

People want to help people they like. They want to know more about them, spend more time with them and be surrounded by the things that make good people tick. Celebrity culture makes this most obvious, and in itself such a phenomenon is just a form of sales. Manipulation of self-image is risky because people turn against their former heroes just as fast.  An honest tone and message gets you liked for longer.


Social validation

We all want to be like other people. We’re social animals who value our place in the order. Being told that doing X will maintain that place, because lots of other people have found it’s so, is a perfect message that contains a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be aware that this is generally workable only in a positive message: telling people not to do something because lots of people aren’t doing it can backfire tremendously – anti-drugs and underage sex campaigners can testify.



When someone tells you it’s the last, the final, unique, only, exclusive and one-off, they’re hooking into a psychological truth. We don’t want to miss a thing, especially if it’s likely to make us better people, more popular and a valued member of our crowd. Secret and clandestine concepts tap into the same idea – even if it’s illicit or condemned by our peers, it’s desperately attractive.


Foot in the door

It’s a rather confrontational phrase – I’d rather use ‘Start small’. The basic premise is that getting someone to agree to a small request makes them more likely to agree to a larger one later on. People want to be consistent – but there needs to be a healthy gap between requests for this to work without making people feel exploited.


Door in the face

It’s the reverse of having your foot in the door, but it appears to work in some situations. It’s also a preferred tactic for many professional negotiators: quite simply, start big. Very big. Unrealistically big. While you know you’ll be refused, the idea is that your smaller follow-up offer will look reasonable in comparison. It’s a crazy idea when you look at it, but in the words of psychologist Richard Gross “However it works, it works.”