Confession time: working with writers can be a mysterious process, particularly if it’s not something you do often.
How do you find a writer? What’s the best way to brief them? How do you give them clear, useful feedback?
We tackled these questions (and more) in our latest Better Words webinar.
You can watch the session below. Or read on for our advice on how to build happy, productive partnerships with your writers.
- Finding the right writer
Bring your writer in early
Well, we would say that, wouldn’t we?
Occasionally, writers are seen as applying the final gloss to a project — making it appear clearer and more compelling. Even with little notice, a writer can quickly make a big difference to your project.
Well, if they can do that with minimal notice, imagine what they could do with more? Remember: changing the words you use to describe something inevitably changes the meaning. The sooner you bring a writer in, the more they can help shape that meaning.
Trust their experience
“I need someone who specialises in direct marketing emails for the organic beauty sector.”
Lots of ads for writers start like this. But unless you’re working in an area like medical writing, it’s often not essential for your writer to be a sector expert.
If they can write equally well about chocolate pots and pension pots, they can probably do the same for you. After all, you don’t really need sector expertise – you’ve got that yourself. You’re hiring the expertise and experience you don’t have: copywriting.
2. Briefing your writer
Be as specific as you can
Words are slippery. Be as specific as you can about your messages (what you want to say), and your tone (how you want to sound).
Avoid abstract directions like, ‘We want to sound human’ or ‘We want to sound like Apple’. They’re open to multiple interpretations, and might send your writer off in the wrong direction.
Share examples of what you like (and what you don’t)
Examples give your writer a clearer idea of the sort of thing you want. Plus, they give you something to help measure the resulting copy by.
Take examples from wherever you can — whether it’s an ad, a tweet, an email, a speech. If it features language, it’s useful to a writer.
3. Giving feedback
Don’t be shy
Even the world’s greatest writer is unlikely to hit the bullseye first time round. Responding to feedback is an essential part of a writer’s job, so be as honest and open as possible.
The important thing is to make that feedback useful — and to give your writer the best chance to meet your brief.
Focus on the language
When you read your writer’s first response to your brief, you’ll have a gut reaction as to how close they’ve got.
But you might struggle to put into words. Which risks confusing your writer, and leaving you further away from what you want.
Tell your writer about that gut reaction. And then focus on the words and phrases that do (and don’t) work at the moment. (They should be able to help with some sensible questions.)
Consolidate your feedback
“We need to share it with Marketing, Comms, HR, Legal, Product…”
If you work in a big organisation, you might need feedback from different people. The chances of 100% consensus are… not high.
A good writer can help resolve the contradictions and disagreements. But before the next round gets underway, they need a clear, consolidated direction.
Join us for our next Better Words webinar
Sign up for free on Eventbrite (links below). Here’s what’s coming up.
Thursday 7 May, 1pm BST