Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to Work with a Copywriter

You have an idea, marketing project, website, commercial -- something you want to do to promote your product or service. You might even have retained the services of a graphic designer or art director but now need someone to put together the words. That's the copywriter.

Writing copy is more than just spitting out verbiage, though.  

Good copywriters are strong creative and messaging strategists who help you get the word out to the right audience in the right way (in the appropriate brand voice that reflects your company and target audience).  

Good copywriters work closely with art directors to develop a solid concept for an ad campaign or marketing piece so that from there, the design and the messaging flow well and  properly.  

Good copywriters listen to their clients, ask lots of questions, and turn in pieces that clients feel accurately sell whatever they are selling.

That's where you come in.

If you want a happy relationship with your creative team (this goes for your art director or graphic designer as well), here are some tips:

Collaborate closely. No one knows your business better than you do so don't keep your insights to yourself! Copywriters must be inquisitive in order to complete their assignments. They ask a lot of questions so they can get all the detail and background they need to work on your project successfully. Depending on the type of project, the writer might ask you to complete a questionnaire that provides the basis for a creative brief, which is the framework for the project.The copywriter will likely have to do some independent research to get more meat for the project's bones and might ask you for direction about reference sources. Don't keep it a secret -- we like sharing!

By the way, I beg of you, please do not spit all over or revise the work for no solid reason, especially if you have already approved a headline, creative direction, topic, layout, etc. Collaborate with the good of the work in mind; don’t change everything just because as the client you think you can or should. This sets up a terrible working relationship with a creative team. We want to develop a happy working relationship for the long term whenever possible and I'm sensing another blog post for the near future on this topic.

Communicate clearly. Copywriters, like nature, abhor a vacuum. This is not to say we don't enjoy working alone (and we love partnering with our artful counterparts) but we do not enjoy working without any feedback on the project. Guessing sucks and no one will be happy. Please let us know when we are going in the right direction or wrong one, if we've hit the right notes or missed your key selling points, and if we are correctly reflecting your "brand voice." If the writer is not open to your constructive input this could be a problem so make sure you are working with someone who understands and likes productive, constructive give-and-take. (See furtive plea above.)

Don't forget -- feel free to communicate praise for a job on target and well done!

Contract correctly. Make sure you have hired the right person for the job. No one is great at everything. Yes, many writers are equally at home writing for all media or for a broad variety of account types, both consumer-oriented and B2B. But there are differences you must look for and ask about. For instance:
  •  There are writers who love to do independent research and others who prefer client meetings or calls to mine the goodies before getting started. 
  • Some copywriters specialize in writing in one particular medium (print, broadcast, or digital/online) or particular type of project (such as articles/blogs, websites, print ads, or commercials). 
  • Others focus on specific vertical markets/specific industries (health care, financial services, consumer package goods, entertainment, lifestyle, hospitality). 
  • And some write solely for advertising or public relations while others happily bounce between the two different disciplines (and yes, they are different), such as I do.
I can recommend some excellent creative service providers to help bring your project to fruition so that together we can collaborate, communicate, and contract to promote your business. With open minds, good communication, and mutual respect, creatives and clients can do some great work together.

Oliver Standard Visible Writer photo by Virginia Hammer