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Tait Ischia on copywriting and AI technology

Tait looks at the camera, smiling. They are wearing a blue checked shirt and are pictured in front of a brick wall and window.

Copywriter, content strategist and content experience designer Tait Ischia started his career writing radio, print and TV ads. Tait now plans and manages website projects for organisations with complex needs. He has worked with multinationals, small business, arts organisations, ad-agencies and more. Tait is the content director at Today, a human-centre design consultancy.

In his book Copywrong to Copywriter (illustrated by Jacob Zinman-Jeans) he shares actionable tips on how to improve copy (and writing in general).

Prior to his workshop with us this season all about Copywriting, Membership Officer Gabriella Munoz spoke with Tait about copywriting and AI technologies.

We hear a lot about copywriting and what it is, but how would you describe it?

Copywriting is writing to achieve an outcome. You know, you want to sell something. Or motivate someone to do something. Or change someone’s mind.

Copywriting attempts to use words to influence people to make a decision. People tend to think this means bamboozling people or writing in some woo-woo way. This is a wild distraction! It’s about having something unique to say, then being really clear in the way you say it. It’s not magic. It’s pretty simple, really.

Tell us about your book Copywrong to Copywriter. You’ve said before you wrote it for small businesses, but it looks like everyone who wants to write needs because it has tips on voice, structure, grammar, audience … The book is also a success story on its own.

I wrote the book seven years ago. I self-published it (thinking that maybe a few people would buy a copy). Fast forward seven years and it’s sold 5000 copies around the world.

A year ago, it got picked up by Scribe Publishing, here in Melbourne, and they’ve re-released it, with local releases in the UK and US. It’s the little book that just keeps on going!

Part of its appeal, I think, is its universality. People tell me it’s short and practical and breaks down some things they’ve traditionally found to be complex into simple concepts they can understand. In many ways it’s a guide to writing clearly and simply. Which is what I think copywriting is!

Seems there’s no such thing as writers’ block when it comes to copywriting. What would you tell someone who’s having issues with writers’ block? How could copywriting help them avoid the fear of the black page?

In my book, I stress the importance of developing a brief. It’s so important to really think hard about who your audience is, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. To think about what motivates them, what they care about and what they’re interested in. Then to think about what exactly you want to say that might convince them to care about your thing. Doing all this thinking up front helps a lot. It’s like you fill your head until you can’t fit anything else in, and bam, out it all comes.

I think too, with copywriting, a writer is punished for writing too much. It’s never about filling a page. It’s about saying one thing incredibly succinctly, and nothing else. It takes a lot of work to get there! If you’re struggling to get something down, just write as much as you can – whatever you can! Now leave the room. Then come back with an editor’s mindset and start editing. This switching between ‘divergent’ and ‘convergent’ mindsets really helps to shock your brain into crafting something good.

Copywriting has been in the media recently with some people claiming Chat GP spells the end of this and many other forms of human labour. What’s your take on artificial intelligence and how it changes, or challenges, the status quo of creative industries?

I think ChatGPT is only a good thing. I think any copywriter that is worried just needs to focus more on the strategy bit of what they do, and less on the writing bit.

I like the way you put the question though. The creative industries are so full of formulaic writing. You’d think it’d be the opposite! It’s interesting to me what ChatGPT can do easily that a copywriter was doing before – but also what it cannot do. There is so much more to a copywriter than just someone that writes words down on a page. Most copywriters I know have a bunch of other skills too!

Look, we have to be really honest here. ChatGPT (and language models like it) are going to put some copywriters out of a job, especially if you are churning out lots of product descriptions, bios, ‘about’ copy, etc. The one thing it cannot do is the deep strategic thinking that goes into successful copy.

What’s your best advice for someone who wants to become a freelance copywriter given the rise of AI technologies?

As a copywriter that spends about 5 per cent of my time writing and 95 per cent of my time thinking, I welcome our new AI overlord. ChatGPT helps me do my work 10x faster than I did it before. And my strategic work has only become more valuable for it.

I encourage anyone wanting to become a freelance copywriter in this climate to think deeply about how they can use AI to deliver more value to their clients. How can you produce 10x as much as you could before? If you went to a client and said ‘I’m using ChatGPT, which means I can produce 10x what another copywriter would produce, but for the same cost’ they would love it. It’s great!

Places are still available in Tait’s workshop Copywriting. Members of Writers Victoria receive up to 37% off the full price of all clinics, workshops, seminars and courses. Writers experiencing financial and social barriers to developing their skills are encouraged to apply to The Writers Victoria Fund for subsidised attendance at workshops and clinics.

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