You’ve reviewed the copywriter’s past work, had recommendations, received a reasonable quotation and decided that you want to work with him or her. What’s the best way of working with a marketing writer so that both of you are satisfied? Based on my 30+ years as a copywriter I’d like to offer some tips.
1) Understand that there’s a gap
You’ve spent years getting to know the technicalities and market appeal of your business niche. You talk to customers who have also spent years in the same field. Now you’re inviting a new person to help you pitch your advantages to these customers. It may take some time until the copywriter reaches your level of understanding. He or she will need help in closing the gap of understanding. So you need to be patient and realize that climbing the learning curve in any business cannot be done overnight and requires significant joint effort.
2) Prepare a good Brief
It’s a great help to your copywriter when you’re clear about your objectives and expectations. Prepare a briefing document that gives as much background information as possible – about your company, your philosophy, your projects and achievements, your key people and your target audiences. If you’re dealing with a website, give examples of other websites which you think are good and have the right approach. Include other materials such as presentations and articles about your company that can help to give a ‘top-down’ explanation to a newcomer.
3) Follow the process
Copywriting follows a process where each Draft of the copy moves closer to the final acceptable version. Normally three drafts should be sufficient to reach this state – where Draft 1 may be 50% correct, Draft 2 will probably be 80% correct and Draft 3 is 95-100% correct. If Draft 2 is still only 50% correct then some fundamental messages have not been properly understood and further guidance is required. It’s an error to suppose that after a detailed explanation and one draft, the final copy will emerge. You and your copywriter need to be synchronized on many things – the tone of voice used, the amount of details included, how many words will be included on a page, and other factors.
4) Be specific in your comments
The best way to progress is to make specific annotations and comments on the copy already sent. If you just say ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘it’s going in the wrong direction’ then it becomes difficult to understand what needs to be changed. Sometimes it’s worth focusing on a small text section with your copywriter and making sure that the text has the right approach and tone of voice before you both move to larger jobs.
5) Avoid having too many inputs
If many people are giving inputs to the copy as it develops, you’ll find it hard to reach an acceptable version since it will be tend to be amended all the time. It’s much better at the start to establish who will be reading and evaluating the copy in your organization and stick to this small team.
6) Don’t try to squeeze 600 words into a 300 word space
Many times I’ve had problems by getting a large body of text, cutting it down to fit an available space and then had revisions from my client that doubled the amount of words again with no consideration for the space limitations. So I cut down the text again and then saw it being expanded a further time. Frustration all around. Note that in the end, people prefer having shorter and more concise texts, with an option to get more details if they choose.
7) Stay faithful to your creative concept
In your Job Brief and the job definition that follows this, you’ll have stated what is your creative concept for the promotional piece that you wish to create. Your copywriter will be following this track. It’s important to keep faith with this creative direction and accept that not every technical detail can be mentioned. Much of what we read can be classified as a ‘me-too’ product with nothing to differentiate it from the rack of other products. If you cannot be different and memorable, why promote yourself?
Let me close by again mentioning the point with which I opening this posting. Copywriters are good communicators but not necessarily experts in your particular field. You should follow an evolutionary process with them, allowing enough time so that they can understand more about your business, embrace your values and vision, and work closely with you to give the marketing texts the most convincing expression.