Now that we have entered the wonderful new world of content …

Rather than the empty old one where there was no content, here’s something on how to produce it

An hour ago I saw a question put up by someone in a forum who is a “content navigator”.

I have no idea what the fuck that is, but he asked: Do you approach your writing with a consistent method? I was relieved that he didn’t use that silly word “methodology”.

Others gave their views. Two said they write whenever they have something to say. You may (or may not) be interested in my slightly edited reply, which follows.

I am always looking for things to say.

Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favours only the prepared mind.”

This means constant research. Not just into subjects obviously connected with my likely subjects, but everything I come across on the internet, in the press and in my walks most days – usually about an hour long.

I believe the best writing comes from the putting together of thoughts, facts and ideas which are not always obviously connected, thus introducing an element of surprise. This element of surprise makes things stick in the mind.

The process described in James Webb Young’s “A Technique for Producing Ideas” works for me (and I imagine for everyone).

The book analyses the methods of great creative minds and shows how you can apply them. Like Claude Hopkins’ “Scientific Advertising” it is agreeably brief and remains highly relevant.

I rarely edit anything of any importance less than 8 times – or so one of my old secretaries told me – though I am much more slapdash with quick things like tweets.

I have now been making a living as a writer for 59 years, so for what it is worth the approach I have just described seems to work quite well.

On the matter of editing, I edited this 8 times.

If you are wondering about James Webb Young, he was a creative director at J. Walter Thompson in the early years of the last century – as important to the writing of advertising, I believe, as David Ogilvy.

After his agency career he retired and made a lot of money in mail order. You can see some of his work in “The Hundred Greatest Advertisements”.

Just as good and short as “A Technique for Producing Ideas” is “How to Become an Advertising Man” – a rather odd title as the best creative director his agency had besides him was Helen Resor.

Mind you, she had the advantage of being the boss’s wife.

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.

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