By Ryan Hayter
The Lunch Room (TLR): You don’t hear of too many brands having dedicated in-house copywriters. What exactly do you do?
JM: We now have three full-time copywriters and basically, if it’s got words on it, one of us wrote it.
Up front, a considerable amount of time goes into planning and strategy. We work with the division directors and marketing team to determine where products fit into the line and ensure we develop messages that convey what the engineers had in mind when they created the product. We even sit-in on line-planning sessions, talking about products that are still just a glimmer in an engineer’s eye. We’re all “users” too, so we can all offer feedback that helps shape the products we create.
On the other end of the spectrum, we crank-out a lot of web copy, instructions, packaging, etc. Being in-house, you get really familiar with a brand and you can do things intuitively that an outside writer might take two or three tries to nail, so there’s efficiency there.
TLR: Considering MSR and its sister brands release hundreds of products a year, how do you keep the copy fresh and maintain creativity?
JM: Staying active outdoors keeps it fresh. It’s critical to be out in the field using the products, thinking about what could be better or why one thing works and something else doesn’t, to fully understand and appreciate our customer’s needs and how the products we build benefit them. I climb, ski, ride and flyfish every chance I get.
I read as much as I can, too. Most writers would agree that it’s essential to read for inspiration. I’m a documentarian by nature so I mostly dive into non-fiction. I like books on contemporary sociology, biographies, essays; I am an avid fan of Orion and The New Yorker magazines and authors like Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond. Ed Abbey remains a hero of mine, too.
TLR: Have you always been a copywriter? How did you land this gig?
JM: After a few years of working retail after college, and then as a sales rep, it all just happened pretty organically.
I got a degree in biology. I think I was supposed to be the next Jacques Cousteau or Jane Goodall, but everyone kept telling me I was a good writer. (I hope that’s true!) In a previous gig as a tech rep for an outdoor company, I heard that same thing again and they brought me in-house to handle copywriting, PR and sponsorship. I‘ve evolved into an outdoor industry lifer of sorts, adding photography to the list of my primary vocations along the way.
TLR: In today’s business environment, seven years is a long time to stay in a job. What do you like about the company?
JM: It’s a cool culture and we have good people here. It’s a collection of outdoor enthusiasts who’ve been lucky enough to make a living at it. Their jobs are an extension of their passions. The job is constantly changing too. Seven years ago I was mostly writing ads and product copy. These days, we’re writing and directing video work, writing more editorial stuff for blogs and I still get to go out and shoot occasionally. Creatively, that’s pretty satisfying and the variety is good.
TLR: Any advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in the industry?
JM: Even though we’re part of a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s still grassroots on many levels. It’s not uncommon to start in customer service or retail, become a sales rep for a while then move into new roles within an organization. The industry is young-at-heart and still offers opportunities to learn new skill sets on the job and advance your career over time. That’s not to say it’s a party every day. The industry is maturing and outdoor brands in general are getting more savvy so good business skills always help, but passion will always take you far.
You can check out Jim’s photography at www.vertizonphoto.com