The pre-writing process.

Posted: 10th Sep 2013

Before you put pen to paper....

With every new project comes a whole new attitude. Some projects make you want to jump right in and get busy, while others take a little longer to get flowing. Regardless of your enthusiasm, I would rarely recommend getting stuck in straight off the bat. We all know the importance of research and planning but there's always more you can do to make sure that your scheduled writing slot goes swimmingly.

Demand a brief.

Yep, it seems like an obvious thing to say but I've lost count of the amount of times I have had to tell clients that I need one, as well as the designer. A brief isn't just an outline of what is needed or expected, it can be a real indicator of the scope and planning your client has done. For copy to be as effective and engaging as possible it has to be relevant, don't start creating copy for an audience that you presume your client has established already.

Do your own research.

Don't take anyone else's word for it, always conduct your own research. A bit of background is a good starting point but research performs more than one function. Yes you will come across ideas as you go, but hints at tone, keywords and existing thoughts are far more useful to me at this stage. Everyone interacts with information differently so undertake your own research your own way.

Create a schedule.

Again, it may seem a tad obvious but scheduling is about more than deadlines and drafts. Figure out how you are going to create and work with your copy. There's no point spending days on research only to be left with a day to draft. Limiting yourself can be effective in focusing your energy towards ideas that aren't fleeting. Round up each section of your schedule with key points or milestones so you can easily get yourself on the right track if you wobble.

A proposal for your eyes only.

Some may see it as a waste of time but I always create a proposal of sorts, whether for me, the client or both. It's pretty much a summary of the money makers. It consists of a project overview, tone of voice run down, key themes / ethos as well as a proposed structure. Not only does it set my mind straight but it makes sure all parties are on the same page.

Drafting is a whole other kettle of fish but if you put in the man hours at these stages, your copy will take shape quicker and be of a better quality. Actual copywriting can takes up but a fraction of your time so get the pre-writing practices down before embarking on the content climb.

Better feedback = Better copy.

Posted: 26th Sep 2013

How to give a copywriter feedback.

I like criticism, I love collaboration, I need feedback. No first draft is perfect, every copywriter needs the client’s input to get the best results possible. Copywriters can have a pretty hefty To Do list when it comes to getting down to a project. Research, tone, style, messaging, appeal and pleasing the client are only a few of my boxes to tick.

As far as I’m concerned, the more feedback the better. Some clients worry about commenting too much others not enough, but here is a few pointers to help give your copywriter the best feedback you can.

Be detailed, be specific.

I need to know what’s good and what’s bad. ‘Reword’ does not help me improve my copy so be sure to highlight words or phrases, explaining what works about them or what really doesn’t. Ideally I would favour the humble phone call. By all means add notes galore to my doc but if there’s a tricky comment to get across then get verbal, it’s so much easier to rectify.

Share ideas or suggestions.

Have you seen an example of the type of copy you’d like? Why do you like this particular piece? It’s important that both parties keep an open mind. Trust in each other’s vision, expertise and ability.

No drip feeding.

Feedback needs to be delivered in one batch. Dribbles of comments here and there is not acceptable. Good copy has a flow to it, a flow that can be disrupted by the slightest change. I like to read all the changes in their entirety and ask questions before starting a redraft.

One person only.

Select one person to communicate your feedback. Going through a list of comments all from different people is a sure fire way to make your copy worse, not better. If more than one person does comment, make sure they review the existing comments as they review the draft. Repetition is likely to confuse, not emphasise.

Ultimately every project and every client is different. Kick things off with a phone call and a brief, be detailed and precise in what you want to achieve and what you can deliver. Feedback is beneficial to the client and the copywriter so anything you can do to keep things clear, swift and easy will result in a better experience for all.