How to Get Slam-Dunk Content From Your Copywriter Every Time.

by Lorraine Thompson

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As a business owner you know great content is key to winning your marketing game. You need strong copy that engages, builds relationships and sells.

That’s why you hired a copywriter. And not just a run-of-the-content-mill “provider.” Hopefully, you took time to find the right writer for your project—a skilled professional who will return your organization’s investment and then some.

Once you’ve selected a good writer, it’s tempting to think your work is done. You can kick back and rest assured your writing pro will come through with slam dunk copy, right?

Well, no.

Copywriters are team players.

Don’t get me wrong, a good copywriter will lighten your work load and ratchet up your marketing. But she doesn’t work alone. While crafting copy—like making a slam-dunk—is a solo performance, your writer needs support to set up the break.

Here’s how you can help.

11 tips that assure you game-changing content

For great content, partner with your copywriter to…

  1. Plan the plays. Provide your copywriter with complete information on your product line, services, competition and customers. Direct her to relevant URLs on your website, blog and other digital outposts. Give her existing marketing materials—direct mail, newsletters, collateral—and demographics. Point out what you like about your current materials—and what isn’t so great.
  2. Put your game plan in writing. Provide a creative brief or Assignment Sheet that explains the project. Be as detailed as possible about the project’s media, copy scope, page- and word-count, targeted audience, voice, tone, branding, taglines and conversion goal. Will the project involve interviewing experts? Do you need quotes to support the material? Does your company have a style guide? Spell it out now to avoid time-consuming—and costly—misunderstandings later. Don’t have time to create the brief? Ask your copywriter to do it for you—and pay her for the extra time.
  3. Introduce her to the rest of the team. The best marketing materials weave text and design: Copy supports—and is supported by—graphical interface, layout, fonts, formatting and navigation. So introduce your copywriter to your graphic designer, website developer, coder and search professional early in the game. You can’t expect action-driving marcom tools when copy gets slotted into the deck as an afterthought.
  4. Don’t ask her to score with 3 seconds left on the clock. Be realistic about deadlines. Every copywriter has war stories about crazed, time-crunched clients—“Can you write some pharmaceutical website copy for my client’s new product? I need it in two hours.” (A real request made of Yours Truly.) And don’t let your company’s delays become her headache.
  5. Get her take on the game. Marketing copywriters often bring special industry and media expertise to their projects: Your writer may understand your game—its challenges, competitive dynamics and strategies—almost as well as you do. So ask her opinion, get her feedback and listen if she offers suggestions.
  6. Apprise her of coaching from the sidelines. Do you want to see multiple heads before you let her run with the ball? Do you need to okay subheads and lede copy? Or are you happy letting her work directly from the creative brief with little input during the writing process? Make it clear at the beginning.
  7. Review her game as soon as possible. Once she delivers copy, look it over as soon as you can. As a freelancer she juggles multiple projects: Delayed edits cost her time and money, forcing her to revisit old drafts and research notes. My project agreements specify two sets of free revisions, provided edits are returned within two weeks of my copy delivery.
  8. Pinpoint what parts of her play need fine-tuning. Be specific about rewrites. Instead of saying, “The copy seems off-base,” tell her what sections don’t work and why. It helps to provide concrete suggestions for revisions.
  9. Don’t subject her to an all-team critique. Nothing kills killer copy like committee rewrites. Even the best content withers after subjection to red-penciled rewrites from your CEO, CMO, CMO’s assistant, the marketing intern, account manager, Legal, company web master, the FedEx guy who just walked by and your brother-in-law. (It happened to me. Not the FedEx guy, the brother-in-law.)
  10. Keep your end of the contract. To maintain a productive, pleasant and resentment-free relationship with your copywriter, please pay her on time. Think about it: You pay for your project’s web hosting, coding, printing, etc., without hesitation. But some clients seem to think timely creative payment is…optional.
  11. Play nice. Want your copywriter to be available when you need her—even when she’s booked with other projects? Like your working relationship to be hassle-free, creatively stimulating and fun? Want revisions handled quickly—and with a smile? Be polite. A little praise goes a long way to soften a pressing deadline or ego-crushing rewrite.

Your turn

If you’re reading this, very likely you work with copywriters. Did I leave anything out? Do you have any suggestions for getting slam-dunk copy from your copywriter?

Copywriting colleagues: Feel free to dive in!

Looking for slam-dunk copy? Disappointed in cookie cutter content mill copywriting? Contact me to discuss your copy project or content strategy.

Photo courtesy of SD Dirk

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chad Schomber October 20, 2010 at 8:04 am

Excellent post, Lorraine.

Many small business folks don’t always know what they want. A good writer will ask lots of questions to help define the creative direction for the current project and establish a path for future ones.

Copywriters October 20, 2010 at 9:07 am

A great post.

I would say ‘creating a highly detailed brief’ is the single best tip for obtaining content that meets your requirements

Lorraine Thompson October 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

@Chad: I agree with you. But in my experience, it’s not only small companies that don’t know what they want from marketing materials. A lot of big corporate marketing departments are fuzzy on the details copywriters need to write really targeted copy that moves people action.

@Copywriters: Absolutely. A few years ago I started creating my own creative briefs–I call them “Assignment Sheets”–to detail copy projects. I ask my clients to review, discuss and change this document before I start work. Once they sign off, I write to spec. Saves many misunderstandings! I factor the time I spend on the Assignment Sheet into my fee.

Paul Hassing October 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm

You TOTALLY nailed it, Lorraine. You win the series! Best regards, Paul the Australian Copywriter. :)

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