Ryan is a writer by trade. Rider and runner by choice. He’s currently a Sr Writer with VML after stints at Cerner, MMGY, and Garmin. If you’re the Twitter type, he only posts the good stuff you won’t find elsewhere.
You know how some people cleverly list the Internet as their residence? You’re the only person I know personally where that actually just makes sense. Please, please explain how you Internet.
Ha. I consume a hazardous amount of online content. My only tip for sorting it all out: Swim Upstream. That is – find the direct source of content that interests you and follow it vs. relying on the Buzzfeeds and Mashables of the world to discover it for you. Oh, and learn to love reddit.
C’mon that should’ve taken you a half hour to answer. What other sources, services, or habits can you share?
Fair enough. Actually, it’s probably more about the sources and services I don’t use. Being a bit selective with what I do/don’t consume helps me focus and frees me from distractions. Examples: I don’t have Facebook installed on my phone and rarely visit the site. I’ve never seen an episode of Mad Men or Game of Thrones. In fact, I probably watch less than an hour of TV in a given week. Also – I rarely visit sites related purely to advertising. I figure if the work is featured on those sites, it’s already been done. I do, however, read quite a few tech sites. TechCrunch and Techmeme both offer good at-a-glance content. For news, Circa, Re/code, and Quartz are pretty great. For interesting content, both Quora and kottke continue to be an amazing sources of information and inspiration. I think the biggest thing, though, is venturing off the beaten path. You can assume everyone is reading the bigger/popular sites so I tend to skip ‘em. My thinking: If the content is good enough, it’ll find you anyway.
And this is how you stay sharp or just entertained?
For me, it’s an ever-changing content stream that I’m constantly pouring over. Fortunately, I view it as a get-to-do activity vs. a have-to-do activity. If not, I would’ve gone insane years ago.
How is writing different than when you started?
I don’t know if writing as a whole has changed. An idea still needs to get distilled – regardless of the medium. If anything has changed, it’s the number of places that need content today.
Do you think most brands dilute their message by trying to be too many places or that’s just the way it has to be now?
Well, I don’t know if a message is diluted as long as it’s targeted – right people/right place/right time sorta thing. But if you’re just repurposing the same content and dumping it across all your social channels, you’re doing it wrong. If I see the same link to your blog post on your Facebook page and Twitter page, then I know that you put the effort into the blog and the other two platforms are basically your newswire. So, I’ll follow the blog and forget the rest. I think the brands that truly ‘get it’ know that people go to different platforms for different reasons and tailor the content as such.
What separates a good writer from a great writer?
I have no idea but I’m guessing it starts at around $20,000 and probably comes with access to a loosely monitored expense account.
I’ve always thought a copywriter that sucks at Twitter isn’t a copywriter worth hiring. Would you agree or do you have a better way to make an irrational snap judgement?
Based purely on the constraints, Twitter probably provides a decent gauge of talent. But there’s a lot more going on than just a character limits and formatting so I’m not so sure that it’s a definitive representation of ability.
What do you like most about your current role?
It’s a new challenge every day. ← seems like something stripped from a generic brochure on ‘Copywriting as a Career’, but it’s true in this case.
What’s your most recent epiphany?
I use to think that the stuff that I’m obsessing over today wouldn’t matter one bit in 6 months. Recently, though, I’ve shortened the timeline to a month.
I know what you mean. The ability to unlearn is almost as important as learning.
Exactly. Even at the most basic element, letting go is tremendously important. Especially in digital. Now, so much of what we do is shaped by algorithms that are constantly being tweaked and updated. If I spent too much time obsessing over it, I’d probably forget how to drive or dress myself. Fortunately, I only have to focus on the content.
What’s the biggest lesson you had to learn the hard way?
That the best idea doesn’t always win.
But how do you give it a fighting chance?
First, you have to absolute believe in it. But even that’s not enough. So my biggest salvation is knowing that an idea can get passed on but doesn’t mean it’s dead. You have to look for the opportunities to bring it to life in other ways. Maybe it’s a tweak. Maybe it’s with another client. Maybe it’s on your own.
What does it mean to be a copywriter and/or ad guy in Kansas City?
I think it means that at some point, you’ll have worked with everyone in the city in some way/shape/form. Currently, I’m probably 33% there. It also means you’re part of an ever-evolving pool of talent that continually performs well on the national and global level.