Five ways not to treat copywriters.

In a world of dynamite PR movers and shakers it’s often painfully obvious that no one really knows what to do with copywriters. So we have to educate and inform, often while we’re finding out what’s going on ourselves. I see a lot of advice on how to work with them but very little on the things to avoid. So here’s some friendly advice:

  • Don’t tell us a piece of work “won’t take long”. Inexperienced copywriters will believe you – heck, it’s only 1000 words, how long could that take? – then 3 days later they’re still working on it because 1000 words really can take that long. Experienced copywriters will have the skills to ask the right questions and then tell you how long it will take. But don’t take that chance: just present the work and elicit from us how much time is involved.
  • Don’t let us get away without a copy brief. Generally copywriters will insist on one simply because it’s the best way to work, but occasionally we’ll be pressed for time, or you will, and we’ll both think we can just wing it. Sometimes this will work but more often than not, it won’t. If this happens ultimately it’s the copywriter to blame but you need to share in it too. Don’t put us under pressure to the extent that you obviate the copy brief.
  • Don’t use the work in progress to figure out what you want. It’s really annoying when we’re asked to write an authoritative thought-leadership piece which turns, by drafts, into a chirpy advertorial because you didn’t really know what you wanted in the first place. Tone of voice is not an insignificant matter: it can involve a total rewrite. Most changes will need a complete rethink. It’s at the copy brief stage that these issues should be addressed, not draft 8.
  • Don’t devalue us. We’re the ones who work with messaging, tone of voice and the balance of issues for clients day in, day out. If there’s doubt in your mind whether we’ve really produced what was needed then sometimes, give us the benefit of that doubt. You might be pleasantly surprised. The client might really like that quirky turn of phrase or personal insight.
  • Don’t ignore us. We’re not just here for writing. We can help you with almost any aspect of writing – grammar, spelling, phrasing – as well as further back in the process such as message development. We can also perform basic tricks for biscuits.

Don’t forget, this blog is called Friendly Ghost for a reason. I’m a copywriter who operates on the principle that when communication is good, you don’t see it. It’s only when it’s bad that communication becomes apparent. And I’m friendly really. All copywriters are friendly. We’re all Friendly Ghosts.

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