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How to Effectively Collaborate with Your Copywriters

By Cedric Jackson, November 21, 2017
How to Effectively Collaborate with Your Copywriters

Today, I want to address one of my enduring “soapbox topics” as it relates to copywriting: communication. Now, when I say, “soapbox,” I know the kinds of images that word invokes. Don't worry, this is not going to be a pages-long rant, just a conversation between an experienced copywriter (and custom writing service owner), his potential clients, and any outside interested observers who have had a hard time getting the best work out of their writers.

I'm not going to use this forum to play, “pin the blame on the client,” either. Communication is a two-way concept, and there are things that can be done on both sides of this equation to ensure an even, steady, stress-free workflow. For that reason, I'm going to make a few suggestions from both the writer's and the client's unique points of view.

Why and Where Communication Breaks Down

There are a number of reasons why good copywriting projects sometimes go bad. Like I mentioned, there is a degree of blame on both sides of the table when it happens.

From the client's perspective, a major complaint that I hear all the time is that the writer failed to take on the voice or persona of the brand in the copy. All right, fair enough. Here is what I have personally observed in relation to this:

As the client, ask yourself: “What have I done to educate the writer about my business, my customers, and the things that motivate my average reader to pay closer attention to my brand message?”

Sadly, most clients don't take the time to give their writers a thorough tour of their business and brand, yet they expect the writer to write from the perspective of an insider. It just never works out that way, especially if the details in your brief are spotty and incomplete.

Ensuring Successful Collaboration

So, what, as a client, can you do to make sure you and your writer are always on the same page (pun intended)? For starters, you should have your own in-house creative brief that outlines in detail what your goals and objectives are in content creation. That brief should include your company history and any noteworthy facts that could be selling points in the copy. The brief should also include a copy of your ideal avatar/buyer persona.

Knowing what your brand is all about and knowing to whom the message in the copy is going to be directed puts the information the writer needs directly into his or her hands. So, why do things still go south sometimes? Writers, it's your turn to sit in the hot seat now.

The writer has the duty and responsibility to read and understand everything in the brief. If he or she does not understand something, it is his or her duty to bring it up and seek clarification before writing anything. The client always knows if the writer hasn't read the brief. How? Mostly, the confession takes the form of obvious mistakes in things like formatting, the delivery of information, accurate details and specific details, etc.

Most copywriters have a very fast-paced lifestyle – the money is good, but they need to take on a large number of jobs to keep their checkbooks balanced. A writer under pressure can, at times, cut corners that lead to rookie mistakes. They skim when they should read. They zero in on details they think are important but neglect the ones the client wants prioritized.

As the client, you can curtail some of this by refraining from presenting bricks of text in your creative brief. Be concise, be thorough, but keep it simple at the same time. Bullet lists and bold type can help bring the most important bits to the forefront and help minimize the number of instances of revision requests over obvious errors. If your writer keeps getting it wrong and you know you've done an adequate job of explaining all your objectives, it's time to find a new writer.

If, however, your writer keeps coming back to you with specific questions and you respond with vague or nebulous answers, don't expect copy that reads like it came from your own head. The writer is trying to get you to let them a little further inside the mind of your brand. If you don't, you cannot expect copy that adequately reflects your brand message. Period.

Oh, and if you find yourself constantly firing your copywriters or having them quit on you, that's a cue to look over your brief and reassess how you are communicating your objectives to your writers. One instance of bad collaboration is probably the writer. Five instances? Houston, we have a problem – and it's probably not with your writers.

A Few Parting Tips

To summarize this message, I want to offer some advice to both clients and writers so that everyone has a productive and smooth collaboration experience.

To Clients:

Be thorough in your briefs. This refers to both your main creative brief and those you develop for each piece or project. You won't need a separate brief for every blog post if they follow a specific style and format and deliver the same basic messages consistently.

Be available for collaboration. There is nothing more frustrating for a writer than to have to sit on a project for days waiting just to get your attention about a specific detail. Once you hire a writer, respond to messages immediately. If you don't, please do not complain to your writer or agent if work is delivered late or if your project is being slowed down by needless revisions.

Admit it when you mess up. If you fail to provide key details and they get left out, or if you suddenly decide to shift the focus of a piece that has already been briefed, do not expect your writer to revise or rewrite for free. Revisions are your right when the writer drops the ball, not when you do.

To Writers:

Understand the project. If you have questions, ask. Never assume.

Deliver your work on time. This is the biggest and most relevant sticking point with clients, and it affects the amount of time they are willing to spend on collaboration. Take on an amount of work you can realistically handle. If you can't meet a deadline, don't take the job.

Read the brief. Please, I beg you, read the client briefs thoroughly and don't start writing until you do. Worried about the amount of time it will take? You need to consider all the parts of the writing process when developing your rates. Allocate time for research and collaboration, not just writing. Writing the piece is the last in a number of important steps.

Since it looks like this piece is already in overtime, I'll leave you with this last simple thought: Copywriting is always a collaborative effort. Collaborate well, and good copy will be the result. Collaborate poorly, and that, too, will be reflected in the finished product.


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