I was sitting with a new client the other day and we were discussing her copywriting needs. I asked her what she liked and didn't like about working with her other copywriters. One of her concerns was that she would get copy back that wasn't quite what she wanted. Either it didn't have the right tone or angle or it simply didn't fit into the space or design where it was to be placed. My response was straightforward. Before I write anything, I will always ask these three questions:
1. What is the piece?
Writing a blog is very different from crafting web copy which is different from doing a white paper. This is also where I define the length of the piece. Writing 500 words for a web site blurb that only has room for 40 words is a problem.
2. Who is the target audience?
Every piece I write has a specific person in mind. Is it a consumer or a business executive? Am I directing it to a student or a parent? Am I trying to reach the purchasing manager, the CEO, or a technology expert? If I don't know where the target is the chances are pretty good that I'll miss it.
3. What is the goal or desired outcome of the piece?
I need to know what each piece I write is trying to accomplish. Is it a blog post meant to educate or inform or am I trying to encourage someone to buy something? Am I establishing credibility as an authority in a particular field or am I trying to get someone to sign up for a free whitepaper?
Pretty obvious right? However it's amazing how many times those basic questions don't get asked. The inevitable result is 1) an unhappy customer who either has to rework the copy or send it back for revisions and 2) a frustrated writer who wonders why he or she didn't have the right information in the first place. Neither party is happy with the outcome.
Usually the second time around those three questions get answered and the piece is written appropriately and to the client's satisfaction. You can make the process a good deal more productive by getting it right the first time around.
How do you work with your writers? Are you getting the copy you need the first time?