Let’s talk about that project that’s been sitting on your to-do list. It could be updating the company website, planning a content marketing campaign or writing a thank-you letter to the team. You could always write the copy yourself. You know the brief and besides, it’s not like writing is rocket science or even graphic design – both of which would obviously require a professional. That kind of thinking is why so many communications arrive late, lack focus or fail to provide an intelligible message.
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider hiring a professional writer for your next communications project.
I’ve got my thinking cap on now.
Critics get a bad rap. “It’s easy to criticize.” “Everyone’s a critic!” Or that old refrain – “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That may be true in many areas of life, but it is not the right approach to getting good results from a creative team.
The creative process requires criticism. Writers, designers and other creative people cannot work in a vacuum – actually, we can, but the results will not likely be on strategy. No matter how much they complain about the idiots in accounts or on the client side, creative people of every ilk need direction to make sure their work is on the money. In the agency world, this is called input, feedback or simply, direction.
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to provide constructive criticism. Tom Fishburne aka the Marketoonist‘s cartoon series about bad critics is bang on. During my years in the agency world, as well as a few on the client side, I have personally experienced almost every version of these comic approaches to creative criticism.
In a nutshell, here are a few helpful do’s and don’ts to make sure your input is heard and understood:
I am a writer. Ever since I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve used it to put my thoughts on paper. From telling stories to selling widgets — you name it, I’ve written it.
As a writer who has honed her skills on just about every form of the art, I didn’t expect to learn much about the craft of writing from blogging. I was wrong. Since starting a personal blog in January 2013, my writing has improved immensely. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Blogging is a form of writing that requires a specific focus and edge. It is not enough to have something to say: sharing useful information with your audience is necessary but far from sufficient. You also need to share your personal point of view. Even if you are an expert in a particular field or niche, you need to get your point across in a voice that is uniquely yours.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the fact that storytelling is making headlines:
Harness the power of storytelling!
How to use story to improve customer buy-in!
Top storytelling techniques to build your business!
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered: why is it suddenly okay to tell stories?
As a child, storytelling was frowned upon – unless it happened in the library, where you sat in strict silence, listening to an adult read a book. Or when you wrote a story as an assignment for English class. Telling stories was quite another matter.
“Somebody’s been telling tales out of school!” I remember being told when I ratted out one of my siblings. Being a tell-tale was not cool. Also heard: “That’s a tall tale if I ever heard one.” “Somebody has an active imagination!” (Not necessarily a good thing, judging by the looks exchanged between adults). The message? It was a short step from telling stories to perjury, prison and life as a hardened criminal.
So when did storytelling become acceptable? As an advertising copywriter back in the 1980s, any attempt to bring story to copy was tough. Long copy had gone out with David Ogilvy. Splashy art direction with short headlines ruled the day. As far as the marketers were concerned, the product was the hero of any ad; in retail it was often the price point itself. The consumer was the target market, the audience, and if he got involved at all he was often portrayed as the chump.
We all do it: say ‘leverage’ when we mean use, talk about ‘granularity’ instead of detail, refer to deliverables, low-hanging fruit, moving targets, key learnings. But what about the more serious culprits? Where we use euphemisms like ‘headcount’ for people, ‘change management’ to suggest restructuring – which is not to say downsizing, efficiencies, or heaven forbid, job cuts.
It can be tough to avoid using buzzwords and jargon in the world of corporate communication. Part of our job in PR is getting tough messages out on behalf of our bosses and clients. And after all, a good catch phrase or a cliché can get an idea across faster than trying to invent something new. Can’t it? read more
One rule I try to live and work by is: ‘Always deliver on your promises.’ The bottom line is if you can’t deliver, don’t promise. This policy may not always win friends and influence people but it will definitely not make enemies or leave disappointed clients grumbling behind your back.
The same thing goes for effective communication. ‘Tis better to under promise and over deliver. Sound obvious? This can be a tough sell when it comes to marketing messages. I find people often all too willing to believe their own B.S. But if your product isn’t really going to change society, transform lives, or even amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, as Bogey said to Bacall in Casablanca, there’s little point in promising it will.
That’s even truer when it comes to creating content that delivers. My current bugbear is the post with the killer headline, designed to draw you in according to tried-and-true copywriting techniques:
You often hear the expression in French, “Le cordonnier est toujours le plus mal chaussé.” The English translation, while not often used, is “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Meaning that those who do something for a living often neglect their own needs.
I decided not to be an example of this when starting my own business. Creating and building a brand was top priority. How else would I be able to sell myself as a copywriter who believes that identity – and thus brand – is the driving force behind all communication?
It’s still early days and my brand development is a work-in-progress but I’ve managed to lay the foundations of a solid professional identity.
Here is my approach to building a brand, summarized in 5 key questions: read more