Interview with Ryan Wallman, Wellmark

Interview with Ryan Wallman, Wellmark

Let it never be said that I’m not tenacious. I’ve been on this chap’s case about featuring in an interview on here since last October.

Ryan Wallman works at Wellmark as their Associate Creative Director and Head of Copy.

Wellmark is a Melbourne-based creative agency that specialises in healthcare; everything from pharmaceutical marketing through to consumer health campaigns.

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Is there anything in particular which keeps you working for the medical/health industry sector?

I got into this industry because my background was in healthcare – I originally trained in medicine and then worked as a doctor for about seven years before changing tack. I’d always loved writing, so healthcare writing seemed like a logical choice.

To be honest, if I was only doing technical medical writing, I probably wouldn’t have stayed for as long as I have. But I’m lucky in that my current role involves a mix of creative direction, copywriting and technical writing.

The other thing that keeps me in this sector is that the general quality of healthcare creative work has improved markedly in recent years. It’s no longer a ‘last resort’ for creatives, as evidenced by the movement of formidably talented people from the consumer side.

Not only that, but healthcare presents opportunities to work on brands that literally save lives and improve people’s quality of life. That’s a pretty powerful motivation to stay.

What really pisses you off about content marketing?

The term, for one thing! I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about this, but I just don’t think content marketing is a distinct discipline. For the most part, it’s just a new term for aspects of marketing that have been around for decades.

That aside, what really annoys me about content marketing is the notion that every business needs to crank out content for the sake of, well, cranking out content. Some content marketers seem to think that quantity trumps quality – to the point that the content itself almost becomes irrelevant. That’s just silly, in my opinion.

Can you give me an example of a campaign or some content which you really admired when you first saw it?

I’ll give you a healthcare example that blew me away recently, called ‘The Hardest Crossword’.

It was a crossword that ran in The New York Times but was based on the experience of an actual patient with Alzheimer’s disease. It was used to promote the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America:

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The agency behind this campaign is Area 23, who have pretty much become the gold-standard healthcare agency in recent years. They do some incredible work.

You spoke at the ProCopywriters conference last autumn. How did you find speaking to your UK-based peers?

It was great – and we’re definitely on the same wavelength. I think I have quite a ‘British’ sense of humour, so that helps!

Most of the copywriters I know are from the UK, in fact. I’ve met lots of them through Twitter, which has been fantastic. It’s a really supportive community.

Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who’s about to start their first copywriting role?

In a word, study!

I don’t mean you necessarily need to undertake formal study, but it’s vital that copywriters understand the principles of effective copywriting. There seems to be an increasingly pervasive view among copywriters – and marketers more generally – that education is not important. Trust me: it is.

So if you want to be a good copywriter, read A LOT. The fundamentals of copywriting have never really changed (despite what some people will tell you), so study the work of the great copywriters of the past. And just as importantly, read widely beyond that – fiction, non-fiction, whatever. Reading makes you a better writer.

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