Great copy comes out of good quality conversations with my clients.
We talk about their business, what it does, and what it does better than anyone else. We talk about their target audience and what matters to them. We talk about tone and structure and how the copy will be used. I talk briefly about the essential differences between, say, web content and an event script because they’re… well, they’re different. For a start, event audiences have often had quite a lot to drink by page 10.
I love my work and I love working with great clients, and those relationships have developed because of my approach and my clients’ enthusiasm for the process of good written communication. I have a good track record of hitting my mark quickly and producing what’s required. Rarely though, as with everything in life, things don’t go as smoothly as we’d hoped.
Here’s what I’ve learned, through many years’ experience, about what makes a good copywriting project.
It’s important to listen very carefully to your client. There’s usually more listening required than writing.
Every writer can’t write everything. I’m not a specialist technical writer, and I can’t write academic papers on pioneering neuroscience for delivery to The Royal Society. I can make complex subjects easy to understand for a lay audience. In this respect I have written about the game of bridge, deep space telescopes, towed array sonar on submarines, social health and wellbeing, digital access management for the higher education sector, and perhaps less challenging: anti-static bubblewrap for the removals industry. I can also sub-edit pretty much anything.
Every writer has a style, and it will find its way into everything they write, to a greater or lesser degree. It’s important for clients to like their writer’s style to begin with, or it will come up again and again throughout the project, and the writer won’t be able to remove it it any more than he or she will be able to grow an extra limb.
Copywriters are not mediators. If a dozen intelligent people have all had a go at defining the corporate message and failed to agree, a copywriter is unlikely to save the day. Ten drafts down the line, this, if nothing else, will be clear to everyone, and the writer will be badly bruised. I’m not claiming absolution here. Good commercial writers will help you develop your narrative and all of its important touchpoints; that is absolutely part of their role and responsibility. But for this to happen, it’s necessary for clients to be quite clear – and agreed within the organisation – about who they are, what they do, what matters to their customers and how the product or service meets a need.
My best clients know what they want to say, and to whom. They make a big contribution to my writing. I work hard to make an equally big contribution to the success of their organisation. I love working with clients who understand and enjoy this process.