Wednesday, April 20, 2011


OFF THE RECORD:  Hiring a writer to handle your business communications isn't always a passive process.  If you've hired a great writer, you should feel comfortable enough to set her free to work her magic on your business communications.  Even still, you'll need to read the copy and provide appropriate feedback.  This can be tricky.

If you are not 100% satisfied with the work, don’t presume the writer didn’t take your project seriously.  The strong writer mulls over every single word she puts on the page. 

When you offer your feedback, forget comments like, “I don’t get it,” or “I don’t like it.”  This type of feedback is not specific enough to help the writer.  Instead provide feedback that steers the writer in the direction you need her to go.  How do you do that?

If you question the use of a word or phrase, ask yourself what you are reacting to.  Consider the following:

  • ·      Do the tone, style, and substance match your other promotional materials?  
  • ·      Is the writer misusing or not using a term specific to your industry?

If the tone, style and substance are off kilter:
  1. ·      Show the writer the Creative Brief generated during your most recent branding session.   (If you don’t have a Creative Brief, click here to read my previous blog post about the Creative Briefing process. When you’re done branding call the writer back to finish your copywriting.)
  2. ·      Show the writer other promotional materials that were the outgrowth of your branding session.

If key industry-specific terms are missing from the copy or misused within the copy, simply elucidate this to the writer.  Every industry has its own terms or way of using common terms that differs from other business sectors.  A strong writer will be able to “translate” industry language so that your materials will be easily understood by your primary audience.  You can help her by providing the information she needs to translate your industry’s lingo into lay terms.  

In my next post, I'll share my thoughts about who gets the final say in editing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A WRITER, Part 1: If You Don’t Have a Creative Brief

OFF THE RECORD:  The best copy is a natural outgrowth of a carefully crafted business or messaging strategy.  Before you begin working with a writer, make sure you clearly understand and can communicate your messaging strategy.  

You'll probably get the best results if you find a branding specialist whose values align with yours, and get busy developing your Creative Brief.  You could also consider the five strategic questions listed in my previous blog post, "How to Hire a Business Writer or Copywriter."

In the non-profit world, the term branding is sometimes considered crass.  NGOs and other 501(c )3s may refer to the same process as “Strategic Planning”.  Whatever you call it, defining the vision, mission, and method for your organization, as well as the primary audience for your communiqu├ęs is essential before you embark on any messaging campaign.

Read "Tips for Working with a Writer, Part 2" tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Hire a Business Writer or Copy Writer

OFF THE RECORD:  Hiring a writer is not as easy as it seems. 
Maybe you need help with web content, or brochure copy.  Perhaps you need a business proposal written, or a series of blog posts.  Recognizing that writing is not your forte is a great first step to getting clear, concise copy that meets your needs.  What else do you need to know?

  1. What tone of voice the writer should adopt
  2. What style of writing your piece needs
  3. Who will participate in the editing process
  4. Who gets final edit

If the writer was in on your branding process, you’re off to a great start.  The process will be easier, because the writer will already know what tone of voice and style to adopt.  She’s familiar with your business and the terms that are specific to it.
In this case, you’ll have minimal editing to do, and you can probably trust the writer to represent you and your concerns accurately and well, with minimal input from you.

If the writer was not in on your branding process, you need to bring her up to speed.  A savvy copywriter will know to ask the following questions, but if she doesn’t, then make sure to inform her:
  1. Who is your target audience
  2.    What you want them to know
  3.  Why they should care
  4.  What you want them to do
  5.  What misperceptions about your product, service or business you need to overcome with the material the writer will provide.

After that, simply present the assignment in clear terms.  

Communicating clearly with the writer from the outset will help each of you to give and get what you need from your collaboration. 

Later, I’ll share my tips for working with a writer.