Every few weeks I receive an enquiry from someone considering taking a copywriting course with something called ‘The Institute of Copywriters’. The enquiry will usually ask simply whether I can recommend this course.
Now ‘The Institute of Copywriting’ is worthy of some scrutiny, not least as an exercise in copywriting! The use of the word ‘Institute’ suggests that this is some kind of ‘industry body’, and the ‘Institute’s’ website states that “The Institute is wholly financed by its members, from its courses and subscriptions, from lectures and published material.”
Note the use of the word ‘members’, if you will.
An innocent reader is thus very likely to feel they are entrusting their training to an association of copywriting peers and elders.
Innocent reader, beware!
Knowing for a fact that there is no such assembly of copywriting yeomen (not in the UK, at least), I wrote to the Institute of Copywriting to verify that they are, in fact, actually just a distance learning company, whose business is selling distance learning courses. To claim to have members, rather than customers or students, is again, I’d suggest, calculated to imbue the ‘Institute’ with some unwarranted gravitas.
Well, I’m pleased to say that the Institute of Copywriting was 100% honest and straightforward in its reply. “Yes”, its Customer Service Coordinator wrote, “You are quite right in your assumption.”
So. Not an industry body, but actually a company in Somerset, called The Learning Institute, selling distance learning courses. (The same company also sells ‘Diploma’ courses on ‘Garden Design’, ‘Personal Training’ and being an ‘Image Consultant’).
So then I asked about the Diploma and Accreditation which the Institute of Copywriters awards to those completing its course.
“Is this ratified by any UK organisation authorised for the issue of academic qualifications”, I enquired. “Or is this simply a qualification ‘of your own’?”
Again, with commendable clarity, the Institute confirmed that “The diploma is ours.”
So. Now I am able to offer an informed view on The Institute of Copywriting and its Copywriting Diploma course.
1) This isn’t an industry body. It’s a distance learning business. The Learning Institute (the company behind The Institute of Copywriting) is, however, properly accredited by the ODLQC, the UK body which monitors distance learning organisations.
2) The Diploma issued by the Institute has absolutely no academic or professional validity recognised by any UK authority licensed to regulate qualifications. Writing Dip C (Inst CW) after your name, as the Institute tells you you will be entitled to do, is about as meaningful as appending your starsign.
3) But…the ‘Institute of Copywriting’ course does offer what appears to be a reasonable introduction to copywriting, on a distance learning basis. There’s no knowing how good the ‘professional copywriters’ reviewing your assignments will be, but that’s pretty much the same in any educational situation. There appears to be a reasonable raft of course material (though some of it looks a bit like padding to me) but, in the end, the cost of the course seems quite modest.
Would I recommend it to you? Well…if you have some commercial experience of your own, particularly marketing experience, and have done some copywriting already, then maybe not. I suspect that you probably know enough to be going on with, and what you really need is more real experience. Having said that, you may find the Institute’s course’s exercises of some use as practice. On balance, I’d probably buy 2 or 3 good books and save my money.
If, however, you have no experience, and no marketing background, and the few hundred pounds charged for the course isn’t a big deal to you, then my guess is that you might find it a useful ‘first taste’ of copywriting, with at least some infrastructure to get you into the swing.
Just be aware, though, that you are buying books and distance learning tutoring. You are NOT buying a professional qualification, nor the learning of some august professional body of copywriters; which entity does not, as I have said, exist.