Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a new copywriter.
It can be the start of a beautiful relationship. You feed the copywriter with interesting, tightly written copy briefs and he or she responds with beautifully crafted words that sell the hell out of your stuff. You teach the copywriter how to do new tricks with your corporate style guide and that first web page comes in bang on tone. Delighted, you fuss over the copywriter, and back come some even better bonus ideas you hadn’t asked for but really, really appreciate.
However as time passes, the first flush of enthusiasm fades. The writing starts to seem stale. It’s like your copywriter just won’t do what he or she is told. Perhaps you bought a bad copywriter? Maybe you weren’t strict enough when you were doing the training? Frustrated, you think it’s time for a change. Maybe a guinea pig would be more rewarding?
It’s time to stop torturing this pet metaphor now. But like pets, copywriters – and, indeed, other types of creative people for hire – are simple creatures. It doesn’t take much to keep them happy. Here are three basic steps to guarantee excellent copy and a fruitful relationship.
- Be clear and firm about what you want. Want good copy? Give a good brief. There are templates around, which provide structure and make it easier. But good briefing is not necessarily about answering all the right questions. What matters is clarity. Some of our best briefs have been from senior people with intimate knowledge of whatever it is they are selling, and an infectious enthusiasm for it. Ad agencies go to great lengths to write super-tight briefs that leave no room for ambiguity.
- Praise. If you like what your copywriter did, say so. It’s hard to underestimate how motivating this is. Anyone in the commercial creative industries who says they don’t care whether or not people like their work is lying. Just look at all the fuss around the Oscars, or closer to Earth, the D&AD awards. Positive feedback is a guarantee that the next piece of work will be at least as good as the last, and probably better. If the feedback’s not good, making it constructive rather than combative (or worse, just ‘meh’) will help get things back on track.
- Reward. Life would be less complicated and much cheaper if copywriters were happy with a just a Scooby Snack at the end of each job. But they want to get paid, and alongside no feedback, no money – or uncertainty about its arrival – is the top way to demotivate a copywriter.
Of course, the relationship runs both ways. Good copywriters know that their clients are pretty straightforward people too. They rapidly learn that it’s easy to end up in the commercial equivalent of Battersea Dogs’ Home (Stop it! Ed.) if they don’t follow a few basic principles as well.
So coming next: Caring for your client.