For many firms, copywriting is either a bottleneck or a weak link, holding up projects or making a half-baked contribution to an otherwise solid marketing campaign. In some unfortunate cases, copywriting does both. The consequences of poor corporate copywriting are significant:
- Inaccurate copy undermines credibility
- Inwardly focused copy undermines brand affinity
- Incoherent copy undermines lead generation
Here are a few tips for bringing copywriting up to the same standards you apply to every other aspect of your business.
1. Pick Your Writer Right
Would you have a plumber landscape your yard? Then don't have a sales manager write your brochure. Business writing is a craft; it takes more than a good vocabulary and typing skills to create copy that informs, persuades, explains, instructs, describes or motivates. Besides having formal training, your writer should have at least a few "clips" your team can use to evaluate his/her ability.
Another key consideration is matching a writer's strengths to your needs. An industrial B2B firm may need a technical writer, whereas a B2C e-commerce firm may need a writer skilled in search engine optimization and sales-oriented writing. Web copywriters need to understand the basics of web typography and style; print writers need to understand the basics of print typography and graphic design.
2. Equip Your Writer Right
Whether you use an in-house writer or an outsource, set up your writers for success. Depending on the assignment, your writer will need either a basic understanding or deep knowledge of your business and industry. Your writer will need to know the assignment's purpose, the audience, the key points to be discussed and the hoped-for response from the reader.
The best process for accomplishing all of this is to give the writer a creative brief for each assignment. It will not only save the writer time, but also streamline the entire process and ensure that your communications stay on message.
3. Edit Your Writer Right
Behind every great writer is a great editor. If your business aspires to greatness -- then it only makes sense to have a great editing team in place to support your marketing and communications activity. Editing has three levels.
Substantive editing reviews the document in terms of logical coherence, factual accuracy and sufficiency of supporting data. Copyediting reviews the document in terms of clarity, style and consistency. Proofreading reviews the document in terms of punctuation and grammar.
Copyediting and proofreading can be outsourced, since they don't require an intimate knowledge of your business; in fact, not having intimate knowledge could be an advantage. Substantive editing, however, often requires a deep understanding of both your business and business writing generally.
Can One Size Writer Fit All?
One of the biggest writing challenges for a business is the diversity of assignments. Can one writer handle press releases, sales brochures, technical white papers, pay-per-click landing pages and video scripts? Ultimately, the only way to assess staffing needs is to first create an editorial calendar that lays out every piece of content your firm intends to create over the next quarter or year. This in itself is a big topic, and one I plan to cover in an upcoming post in this series.