4 Tips to Make Working with a Copywriter Betterby J.W. Abraham on 09/10/17
Is working with your copywriter giving you a headache?
You can't seem to get the results you want, and your relationship is stressful and tension-filled.
Or, are you thinking of hiring a copywriter for the first time and a little fearful of how to make it work?
Here are four crucial tips that may help to make working with a copywriter better.
You see, copywriting is a complicated profession. It may not be as simple and straightforward as you thought. What's more, those best practices you have heard about or have followed in working with writers and designers may not be best practices in all circumstances.
These tips are not everything, but they are four biggies that I have encountered in my own copywriting experience or have witnessed with my fellow copywriters.
Following these may help make working with your copywriter smoother. Maybe no longer will you cringe or have to take a deep breath before you talk with your copywriter or open that email he or she sent you.
Above all, it may help you get that power message that you really wanted, one that drives more customers to your business.
1. Take Advantage of All of the Skills Your Copywriter Offers
Here's what I fear is probably a common scenario.
A business needs a marketing project. He or she first hires a designer. Then after it is all designed the business turns to a copywriter at the last minute to write some filler copy in the area where the text is supposed to go.
Just write something that sounds good the business may say.
Now, copywriters generally like playing with words and how they sound. After all, they're writers.
Copywriters, however, have skills that go beyond just stringing words together.
Many copywriters are also quite adept at coming up with the right message and even entire advertising concepts. So, by only asking for words that sound good a business can be missing out on ideas that may make the marketing project or campaign a success.
What's more, by waiting to last minute to call on a copywriter like the above scenario it can be too late to even consider any ideas the copywriter may have. His or her ideas may require a different design entirely.
For example, the copywriter may suggest adding a sidebar, captions for the photos or to a bigger area for text to accommodate a different text presentation like subheads and bullets.
To tap into all the expertise of a copywriter you should bring in him or her right from the start. Actually, I have seen several experts in the field suggest that the marketing project should start with the copywriter, and the design should support the message. In many cases I agree. In fact, several times I have had a design partner ask me to write the message first.
At the very least, consider kicking off your project with both the designer and copywriter together. That way they can best plan out a strategy for the project and work in a more collaborative framework rather than a linear one of you to the designer to the copywriter. This allows ideas to be bounced back and forth between team members along the way, and that can often lead to better advertising pieces and campaigns.
2. Do All You Can to Help Your Copywriter Understand Your Product or Business
Wouldn't it be nice if your newly hired copywriter new everything about your business and product right from the start?
Unfortunately, that is not likely.
About the best you can hope for is to hire someone who specializes in your industry. And, for especially technical industries this may be a good idea. Then again, someone from outside the industry may provide a fresh new angle to your marketing, something that is different from your competitors.
For either type of copywriter, he or she is going to have questions.
Most copywriters will likely take upon themselves to do some research on their own, but still the best resource for information will be you.
So, what information will they need?
In short, most everything you have. Past promotions, technical information, customer reviews...and more.
To help guide you on what to provide your copywriter may be able to send you a questionnaire of some type to send you.
Still, he or she will often have questions. Rarely will you be able to just drop off or send the information to your copywriter and that will be that.
When your copywriter comes to you with questions don't look at these with dread or an annoyance. Look at them as an opportunity to help your copywriter to create better content or a better promotion. Such questions are a sign of the curiosity and diligence of your copywriter to dig deep into your product or business to find out what makes it different and what appeals most to your customers.
You may ask is all this information really needed if I only need a few words or line of copy. In general, the answer is yes...even then. The more information a copywriter can get, the more likely he or she can generate just the right message and say it just the right way.
Here's one more example to illustrate my point.
When I was teaching at a university (yes, I did that at one time) an experienced, award-winning professor said that a good teacher needs to know much more than just the amount taught in a classroom. I took that to heart. I think that is one of the reasons I won a few teaching awards myself.
That same lesson applies to advertising and copywriting.
3. Beware of Enforcing "Formal" Grammar Rules
Do you cringe or shake your head whenever you read a draft and it has sentences that end in prepositions and others that start with conjunctions?
That is what so many people were taught in school. You should never have a sentence end in words like "of" "with" or "to". You should also never start a sentence with "And" or "But".
These rules abide by what I call "formal" grammar rules.
For popular writing, breaking rules like this is ok. Just look at popular magazines, blogs, and advertising materials. You'll find they break the above two rules all the time.
You see, they are written to communicate and written in a more conversational tone. In these instances breaking such rules has been deemed ok for some time now.
Of course, that does not mean you can dismiss all grammar rules. Many are still vital to make sure the text is clear and says what was intended.
The bottom line here is when you get a draft that breaks some of those formal rules like mentioned above, take a moment before you correct it. Think about the tone. Is it right for your audience? Also think the context of the piece. Think about whether it reads well and gets the message across clearly and with the power that you want to express.
4. Be Tactful in Giving Negative Feedback
This may be the biggest and touchiest issue of all in dealing with copywriters.
Many copywriters and so-called creative professionals are often a sensitive bunch.
And, some of them do not take negative feedback easily.
I suspect it is because creatives identify with their projects more. Writers and designers may look at their words and designs as more as part of themselves. As a result, they may take their work more personally, so criticism of their work is sometimes received as a criticism of them too.
You may be thinking but I have to tell them what I do not like about a project. Yes, you do. And you are paying the bills, so you should.
The creatives should probably have thicker skin. My thought is that the experienced creatives probably are. Getting criticism is part of commercial creative work.
Still, being tactful in how you give negative feedback to a copywriter can be important if you want a good ongoing working relationship with him or her. It also may be important in helping to generate better work after you have provided the criticism.
Here are five tactics to consider in giving feedback to a copywriter.
1. If the copy is way different from what you expected, you may want to look first at the directions you provided. Did you communicate clearly what you wanted? If not, own up to it and tell the copywriter that you did not do so. Then, think of how you can clarify your project.
2. Before providing the criticisms first tell the copywriter what you liked about it. This is the old tactic of providing good news then the bad news. It can keep the copywriter from thinking the whole piece is bad, and then think you are saying the nice stuff at the end as an afterthought and not genuine.
3. Maybe format criticisms in the form of a question. This may soften the blow and give the copywriter opportunity to provide his or her own solution. It is a tactic I used often in reviewing copy and pages. You can say "What about saying it something like ...?" or "What about adding something about...?" or "What can we do here to add some punch?"
4. Be specific. Don't give general feedback like "I'm not sure, but it's not quite what I was looking for". This often drives copywriters and creatives nuts. Is it the tone of voice? Is there a message missing? Does it need to be punchier? Is something not clear? Is there some particular section that needs to be changed? Without some specifics it is very hard for the copywriter to make changes or rewrite it.
5. Try not to embarrass the writer in front of others. Give criticism in small groups or one on one or on the draft itself that only the copywriter sees. Most people hate to be embarrassed in front of others whether it is in front of other decision makers or peers. So just keep this in mind when you have those big pitch and layout meetings, or you have those big teleconferences.
6. Dig and ask questions about the piece. There may be a good reason why your copywriter wrote it a certain way. So, ask why. Give the copywriter a chance to defend his or her copy. The copywriter may have a better way than you expected. More than once, I defended my copy about some criticism and got my boss to see it my way.
Again, copywriting and marketing can be complicated. Many things are subjective. Still, consider the tips above. Together they can be boiled down to respecting every professional's, expertise, setting ups expectations for the project and the process, and making for a collaborative environment. If you do those things, you may be more likely to get a more effective marketing piece. Plus, you may be find the process far less stressful, and it may save you from all those headaches.