5 Ways To Get The Best From Your Writers
As the principal of an agency I do a lot of writing for clients and I also manage writers. We write for many different types of clients; technology, consumer goods, finance, medical devices, biotech, pretty much the gamut of businesses you see in Silicon Valley. So I have both the writer’s and the client’s perspective, and I have learned that these processes produce the best output most consistently.
As with most creatives, I have had my share of good and bad clients. And I have produced and managed the production of my share of wonderful writing and writing that was…well…not so wonderful (as difficult as that may be to admit).
So in this new world of content marketing where words are gaining in value, it occurs to me that it might be valuable to share what I have learned when it comes to getting great output out of writers.
1. Give clear and comprehensive direction. This actually applies to any kind of creative. Clarity of direction and complete information at project initiation yields output that is much more likely to be high quality and on target. And you’ll get it faster, better, and with fewer revision cycles. Creatives flounder in lack of information and will fill the void with what they think you need or want, which may or may not be what you really need and want. Give clear and comprehensive from the very beginning; it makes for a much smoother experience for everyone.
2. Give them reasonable time. Remember that writing is not the same as typing. Anyone can type, but writing well is truly an art form. It takes thought and processing time, so allow your writers some breathing room. You’ll be much happier with the outcome (I promise). I have had clients be thrilled with my writing, but when they try to do it themselves they wonder why it didn’t come out so well. I can tell you; they didn’t take the time. For critical pieces (such as the opening lines of a website or brochure), a good writer might spend hours on getting it just right; non-writers seem uncomfortable doing that. Or they just don’t have the patience. There are always times when the deadline is short and writers have learned to deal with that. But if all your deadlines are short and you’re looking for high quality writing, it’s time to look at your process. If you’re producing a constant string of material, production schedules are invaluable.
3. Pick the right writers. OK, that seems obvious, but I have seen a lot of companies who haven’t managed to do that. So the next question is, “how?” First and foremost, read what they have written previously—but really read it, don’t just scan it—and see if they can write in the voice and tone your business needs. Another tip is: choose writers who love to read, and read all sorts of books. For writers, reading is like using the batting cage for baseball players. The best writers are also voracious readers—of just about everything. The best writer for you might not be the one most knowledgeable about your market space, but the one who can reach your audience because they read a wide variety of materials and are thus exposed to a wide variety of writing. That allows them to write flexibly and in various voices.
4. Value the words. Yes, they are just words and their intrinsic value is zero. But, they are also the mechanism that is going to communicate your message…or not. Getting just the right words in just the right places will accelerate the achievement of your goal, whether that’s signing up new customers, getting leads, or anything else. Just any words won’t do, but the right ones drive success.
5. Be honest and let the process work. If a writer turns in something to you that’s just way off base, be honest. Sometimes it’s just better to step back and start over. And remember, the production of any piece is going to be a process; there’ll be edits and rewrites and do-overs. But, if you’ve followed the first steps, you can be assured that, at the end of the process, you’ll have a piece that tells your story well and that you’re proud to be publishing.
I have found that when we follow these steps, the process is smoother, faster, and the results inevitably far superior.