How we work: Pair writing

Inspired by the extreme programming movement, at Articulate we put two writers on every project in a process we call ‘pair writing‘. They do research interviews together, then one writes and the other edits, flipping back and forth until the copy is just so.

Pair writing at Articulate Marketing

Pair writing: the heart of our process

Editing is an essential part of good writing: behind every great writer there is a great editor.

Ego-less feedback is an important part of a writer’s development but on a more practical level, it is almost impossible to proofread your own copy immediately after you have written it. A second pair of eyes is actually a necessity.

There’s more. Pairing people on writing projects provides other benefits:

  • Resilience. We can still hit deadlines if one person is sick because there are two people who know what’s going on.
  • Higher quality. Two brains are better than one – that’s why they put two pilots in the cockpit.
  • Shared practices.  We harmonise our working practices and share experience.
  • Training and development. Pairing a new writer with an experienced one is good mentoring.
  • Nobody is more important than the work. Everybody writes. Everybody edits. The boss gets feedback from the most junior intern and vice versa. This is our culture.
  • It’s more fun. Writing can be a lonely business. Sharing the work means you have shared experience of it.
  • Good for fact checking and sourcing. Having two people on every interview, both taking notes, means you have better coverage of what people said and better notes. This helps with getting quotes and attribution right.

Ground rules

There are some formal and some unspoken ground rules to the process:

  • Be gentle. We give feedback, not criticism.
  • Positive feedback is essential. Writers respond well to praise (who doesn’t?) so we highlight things we like and we give lots of positive feedback.
  • Change control. We use Word’s change control feature so that everyone can see what’s changed. This is a useful learning tool for new writers. For blog posts, at least in WordPress, we use the brilliant EditFlow plugin.
  • Style standardisation. We have a company style guide that covers a lot of routine questions like ‘do we use single or double quotation marks’. This is important for consistency.
  • Subediting vs. editing.  Often, an editor will make changes to the text directly. Mostly this is subediting – just light changes for style, concision or emphasis – along with proofreading. Sometimes, they will make broader changes to the structure or content of an article but this is rarer. More often, if something needs reworking or isn’t clear, we use comments to give the writer some idea of what we think is going wrong and some suggestions for improvement.
  • Version numbers. We add v1, v2, v3 and so on to the end of the file name so we can track versions. For complex pieces,  v1 is just a list of points, data and sources, v2 is a ‘shitty first draft’ and v3 is the first editable version. (And if you’re wondering, the highest we’ve gone is v22 but that was a piece that was being reviewed by HP, Microsoft and Intel’s legal departments so we had a lot of feedback to process!)
  • We take turns. Only one person works on a document at any given time and there’s a formal handover in Basecamp from one writer to another. (Committee editing in Google Apps is the opposite of this approach. If it works for you, great. But for us, it’s incredibly frustrating because there’s no ownership, accountability or versioning.)

We’re great admirers of Pivotal Labs. For them, pair programming is part of their marketing as well as being at the heart of what they do. We believe that pair writing plays the same role for us here at Articulate.

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D’oh, the vanity: 5 marketing metrics you need to stop measuring now

In a classic episode of South Park, Gnomes steal underpants as part of a business scheme that they hope will be hugely profitable. However, when the boys confront the gnomes, it’s clear that the scheme is missing a vital component: there’s no connection between the activity of stealing underpants and the longed-for profit.

It’s the same way with vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics may sound good when you say them in a conference room or include them in a quarterly report, but they don’t say anything about how your campaigns are translating into increased profit for the company.

Here are five popular vanity metrics that aren’t telling you much about the success of your marketing efforts. Beware!

1. Email open rate

When someone opens an email on their phone or other device, it doesn’t mean that they read it. It also won’t tell you if they took interest in your content. You can’t even rely totally on tracking opens, for example if users don’t have to download the tracking pixel.

Instead, focus on metrics that tell the reach and effect of your email marketing campaigns:

  • Click-through rates tell you how effective your email content is and what content you should send next.
  • Effectiveness. Measure end results that matter and see which media, including email, contributed to achieve them. You can also change your calls-to-action and links, essentially your content to be more effective.
  • Bounce rates let you know if your emails are being filtered as spam or if your contact list is outdated.
  • Unsubscribe rates. This is a crude but useful yardstick for emails that bore or turn off your potential readers and customers.

Bounce and click-through rates are valuable because you can take action to improve them. You can see cause and effect. A change in open rates could be arbitrary. And arbitrary is not how you want to run a campaign.

2. Email subscribers

Another email address added to your contact lists is exciting, but increasing your number of subscribers is meaningless if eighty out of those two hundred email addresses are outdated. An outdated list causes emails to bounce or go unviewed. It skews your perception of your reach.

The solution? Smaller, segmented lists. Different customers have different needs and motives so they need content in their inbox that speaks to them. Downsize your list to only valid email addresses and then segment those lists by networks or buyer personas.

Doing this will improve the accuracy of your email metrics. When it comes to email, shoot for measurable quality over quantity.

3. Social media followers

Having more followers doesn’t hurt your business, but your revenue doesn’t grow with your Facebook page likes. Most importantly, if any marketing firm’s only promise to you is to increase your Twitter followers, know that they can do little for you. For example, you can buy followers with competitions, games and promotions, but they might not be good prospects. Again, it’s about quality and relevance, not quantity.

Social media is a tool you can use to build trust in your brand. The number of followers may offer you the benefit of social proof, but building trust in your brand matters most when those individuals have a need for or interest in what your business does.


Engagement on your social media platforms and blog posts lets you know that people like your content. But whether it’s three comments or one hundred, the number of comments a post receives on social media has little bearing on your marketing goals or the company’s bottom line. Indeed, many leading bloggers, including Seth Godin, have disabled commenting altogether. (On the other hand, we love them – please tell us what *you* think!)

Instead, track who takes interest in your posts. Look at who shares them and who visits them. Social media is for delighting customers. You want your content to speak to those marketing qualified leads and aim for repeat customers. Measure your success by who is paying attention, not how much attention you’re getting.

5. Page views

Page views only become important when there is evidence that you are engaging those visitors. This is why having a call to action on each page of your blog and website is so important.

On a more basic level, tracking unique visitors as well as recency, frequency and number of pages per visitor will give you a better insight into how people are engaging with your site than page views or, even worse, ‘hits’.

When people click on your calls to action and submit a form to receive an offer, you have evidence that they were engaged in your content, but also that they are interested in you as a company-not just what you write about.

Vanity vs. action

5 marketing metrics you need to stop measuring now

Standalone numbers like those above are vanity metrics because they are easy to see and easy to count. But relying on these vanity metrics means you are failing to monitor the metrics that help you convert visitors to leads and leads into customers. You have to dig a little deeper.

Metrics need to be actionable and measurable. You must be able to act on what that number tells you and measure improvement and setbacks. If you are going to base your success on a figure, the figure has to be connected to the company’s success.

Finding the right marketing metrics

To get actionable metrics, you have to track and combine data from your website, social media, blog and even your company’s contacts. This might sound like you have to spend time you don’t have on data entry and report creation: but this isn’t so with the right tools.

Inbound marketing tools automatically track and compile data and create customised reports on marketing analytics that reveal the metrics, which relate to real customers and increased profits.

Stop looking at meaningless metrics. Look to metrics that will tell you where to take the company’s marketing next.

(Hat tip to David Goehring and Wikipedia for the images)


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The end of the hard sell: content marketing for salespeople

Used car salesman – content marketing guide for salesman

People hate being sold to. And the fact that there is a thriving market of products and software designed to sidestep and block ads shows just how ineffective traditional methods are.

But that doesn’t means selling is dead. It’s just changed.

Rebirth of a salesman

Nearly 60 percent of the traditional sales process has gone out of the window, according to research by Google and CEB. Customers are not waiting for companies to tell them what they need to know; they’re doing the legwork and seeking out the information themselves online, stealing the sales department’s thunder.

But it’s not all doom and gloom and death of a salesman. It’s just about shifting from the hasty hard sell to the intelligent long game by investing in a solid content marketing strategy.

Content marketing, far from its ‘arts and crafts’ image, is the next generation of selling.

Trust me, I’m a content marketer

Content marketing is about consistently creating high quality, engaging, educational content that resonates with your personas, so you not only outflank your competition by positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry, but you also take control of your customers’ research and evaluation process.

You attract more traffic and build trust between you and your audience, which is crucial. After all, when’s the last time you bought something from someone you didn’t trust?

Quality, not quantity

This means spending the time to give your audience content that they want to read/listen to/watch free before asking them to buy.

But you can’t crank the reel too quick – you’ll lose them and they won’t come back. If a visitor downloads their first eBook or white paper, don’t immediately bombard them with emails about how they should contact your sales department and what products of yours they should buy; suggest another piece of useful content.

It’s about nurturing the relationship before and after the sale to build trust, delight your customers and encourage repeat business, so consistent, high-quality content that maps to each stage of the sales cycle – awareness, evaluation, purchase, post-purchase – is key.

This isn’t a one-off sale; it’s a long-term relationship.

Compound interest with content marketing

And it’s a long-term relationship that pays dividends.

While not necessarily cheaper, content marketing is fully measurable so you can constantly sharpen your tactics as you go on, focussing on the stuff that works and giving you more control over your sales and marketing spend.

But, more than that, it has a cumulative effect that makes it more cost effective over time.

A study by Kapost and Eloqua, for example, found that content marketing delivered over three times more leads than paid search over 36 months, the cost-per-lead being $111.11 for paid search and $32.25 for content marketing.

Once you’ve created the content it’s yours and it’s there forever, which gives you a back catalogue of useful content for your audience to read and share and a growing keyword footprint that boosts your search rankings. You’ll get a steady trickle of sales-ready leads rather than a flurry of unsuspecting strangers.

Create great content and you’ll be patching up the leaky funnel and nurturing a more receptive audience that’s ready to talk, making your sales process much smoother and more successful.

Image source:

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The best way to pitch a content marketing plan to your boss

Man pitching a baseball – how to pitch your content marketing plan to your boss

‘Content marketing’s just touchy feely nonsense. How does it make me money?’

Sound familiar?

Whether you’re contending with a view like this or you have a slightly more receptive boss, you need to make a solid business case for your content marketing plan and use the pitch to show how it will grow your business. The ‘everyone else is doing it’ defence won’t fly.

Sure, content marketing is not as showy and in-your-face as traditional marketing techniques; it’s not about immediate wins and it does take planning and hard work, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most cost-effective method to boost traffic, drive conversions and increase sales. You just need to prove it.

The top business benefits of content marketing

Start with the general benefits of content marketing:

  • It all adds up. Anything outbound can do, inbound can do better, and there are a host of stats to back it up. For example, inbound marketing costs 61 percent less per lead than traditional outbound techniques. And, per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately three times as many leads as conventional marketing.
  • The long game. The beauty of content marketing is that once you’ve created the content, you own it. So, while you might not reap the benefits immediately, you’re building a repository of high quality, persona-driven content that will boost your SEO and continue to attract visitors and convert leads long after publishing. You can also repurpose any of your own content, turning a series of blog posts into an eBook or tweeting little snippets of older content, to further extend its shelf life.
  • Thinking ahead. Over time, content marketing helps you position your company as a thought leader and industry expert. By creating a wealth of interesting, useful content, you earn a position of trust with your customer and can become a respected influence in their research and evaluation process (meaning they’re more likely to do business with you).
  • Tuning in. Unlike traditional marketing techniques, the ROI and success of content marketing can be quantified. By tracking visitor behaviour and sign up and conversion rates, you can assess the impact of each channel and piece of content you use. Analysing your marketing efforts and using A/B testing to improve them, allows you to fine tine your marketing strategy so you’re not blowing effort and money on costly dead ends. Ultimately, content marketing gives you much more control over your spending.

Building a sound content marketing plan

Next, you need to weave these general business benefits into a content marketing plan that will help you reach your particular business goals.

Start by asking yourself the following questions: What are your goals? Who are you targeting? And what do you hope the content will drive them to do?

This means looking at the current performance of your company’s marketing to identify the weaknesses content marketing could address. You may want to reduce the cost per lead or better target a particular segment of your market.

You need to pinpoint your audience with some buyer personas to understand who your content will need to resonate with and how.

With these goals and personas in hand, you can start to brainstorm content ideas and map out a rough editorial calendar, focusing on keywords and pain points that will not only attract your ideal customers but also prompt them to travel further down your sales funnel.

You should use the calendar to layout how much and what sort of content you’ll be publishing week to week, establish where the responsibility lies – what percentage will you create in house and how much will you outsource to freelancers and agencies – and ensure that you’re mapping content to your sales funnel. You might have lots of content to attract visitors to your website, but what about the more in-depth content to nudge leads and close deals?

Armed with the tangible benefits of content marketing and a solid content marketing plan, you’re not only ready to show your boss how content marketing will work for your business, but you’re also ready to hit the ground running when your boss gives you the go ahead.

Hat tip to Ed Schipul for the photo

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Understanding the dangers of short-termism in marketing

short-termism in marketing: short term or long term sign

Most of us have likely heard of short-termism in terms of markets, investments and even as one of the causes of the recent economic crisis.

For a long time, business leaders have been focused on delivering immediate profits to shareholders without thinking about the long-term impacts of their actions.

Unfortunately, short-termism has become an ‘entrenched feature’ of British business, according to a recent report for the Labour Party: it has become so pervasive that it now influences the way most departments act within businesses – even those not directly connected to accounting or investment.

Short-termism in marketing

Marketing is a prime example of where short-termism – a focus on quarterly budgets and monthly lead conversion – rules even at the risk of long-term costs.

The problem is that the narrow focus of short-termism does not maximise profits by thoroughly tapping customer loyalty and satisfaction opportunities, but instead leads to customer churn, which destroys loyalty and strengthens competitors while raising customer acquisition and maintenance costs and lowering profitability. – The Marketing Century

Trust takes time to build

The aim of marketing shouldn’t be to make a quick sell; rather it’s about establishing yourselves as trusted advisors. You want potential customers to come to rely on you for advice and answers so that when they come to search for the product or service you sell, you are the obvious choice (and continue to be so as they upgrade or grow).

‘When customers can share their experiences electronically with millions, customer trust becomes a business necessity—and a divining rod for any company‘s long-term success,’ argue Peppers and Rogers in their recent battle-cry against short-termism, Rules to Break and Laws to Follow.

Thinking purely about getting in enough leads to convert this quarter means you are focusing too much on those customers near the bottom of the sales funnel and ignoring all those potential folks that could be filling up the top of the funnel. Of course, ignoring them means each quarter it will become harder to fulfil those conversion quotas as you’ve built up no real base to nurture them from.

Relationships have to be maintained

Short-termism in marketing also tends to mean you are focused on luring customers in and pay no attention to them once they’ve signed on the dotted line. In fact, it is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, meaning if you were to look ahead a little you’d see that today’s customer could be tomorrow’s repeat customer, or upgrade opportunity. That’s when you’ll realise they’re worth paying attention to.

Delighting customers with relevant educational material and targeted advice means investing in copy and collateral that may not bring a return for a few quarters, maybe even a year or two, but when it does come, that return could be a lot higher than any short-term customer acquisition tactic’s return.

Content marketing combats short-termism

‘The grandees of marketing, people like George Day, Philip Kotler and Ted Levitt taught companies how marketing must create value for customers before it can create value for shareholders five decades ago,’ says Graham Hill.

The increasingly popular practice of content-driven inbound marketing brings the focus back to value for the customer and potential customer. Content isn’t created with products or features in mind, but education, advice and a genuine interest in making your buyer personas‘ lives easier, more productive and more profitable.

It’s about relationships, trust and loyalty.

Gradually broaden your horizons

Switching from short- to long-term thinking in your marketing strategies won’t be easy. Most likely it will be a gradual process of building up collateral and starting to track your leads and customers over the entirety of their research and buying journey. It will also require a stronger, more collaborative relationship with sales and developing reports that detail return on investment on a longer (but ultimately more profitable) timescale.

Take comfort though: it might sound hard, but overcoming short-termism in marketing is worth it. As addiction specialist Chris Johnstone says:

Addiction is a pathological attachment to something attractive in the short term, but destructive over time. Recovery is about looking where we’re going and choosing a path that can last.

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Articulate is looking for a marketing intern

Five guys in suits and one guy standing on his hands in jeans

Articulate Marketing is looking for a paid marketing intern. We promise rapid development of your writing and research skills, lots of mentoring and the possibility of a full-time job.

Previous interns have joined us as permanent employees, returned to their studies or moved on to editorial positions at other companies. What will you make of the opportunity?

We’re offering

  • Initially, three months’ real-world experience.
  • Responsibility for real client work.
  • Regular mentoring.
  • A chance to work with big-name clients such as Microsoft and LinkedIn.
  • Great experience and a great reference for your CV.
  • The possibility to apply for a permanent position.
  • A stipend of £1,000 a month.

Typical assignments

  • Writing case studies, white papers, emails or web copy.
  • Social media marketing.
  • Writing articles for company and client blogs.
  • Marketing plans for various projects.

What we are looking for

  • Fluent written and spoken English.
  • Good writing skills. Perhaps you already write a blog, worked in student journalism or you’ve written a thesis.
  • Tech-minded – you’ll feel at home with social media, comfortable with computers and curious about tech, although you don’t necessarily need to be a geek.
  • Analytical skills – you can assess the reliability of different sources, dig out useful information and draw interesting conclusions.
  • A strong interest in marketing or writing as a career choice.
  • Personal attributes including attention to detail, self-organisation, curiosity and quick thinking; evidenced by a track record of academic success.
  • (But a degree in marketing itself isn’t necessary. Previous interns have studied history, architecture, English and mathematics.)

What you should know

  • Articulate is a small, entrepreneurial company so this is an informal programme that will suit a rugged individualist rather than a corporate clone wannabe.
  • We expect you to work (very) hard but this isn’t an office job. You will be working remotely – at home, if you like. This requires a high level of maturity and self-motivation.
  • It would be helpful, but not mandatory, if you were able to come to London from time to time for meetings.

How to apply

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How to use social media to delight customers

Use social media to delight customers: delighted baby

Loyalty exists when an existing customer chooses to do business with you even when a cheaper, more convenient or even higher quality option is on offer from another company. – Simon Sinek

There are plenty of cute cats, and indecipherable hashtag campaigns out there, but not all social media is white noise. Channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all rich sources of customer information and provide brilliant communication tools for supporting and delighting customers.

In other words, social media is a serious business asset for building and maintaining customer loyalty.

So why delight?

Consider the following:

  • It is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one
  • 89 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service
  • Only seven percent of consumers report experiencing customer service that exceeded their expectation

Delighting your customers means you continue to benefit from the investment you made in obtaining them in the first place as they renew licences, upgrade and cross-buy from you.

You also benefit from free media as happy customers turn into promoters.  92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing. Delighting customers to such an extent that they undertake word-of-mouth marketing on your behalf provides you with the kind of marketing that money cannot buy.

Building trust and love

There are several specific ways you can use social media to delight customers, which we’ll get to shortly, but first it’s important to understand the spirit in which you undertake these activities.

More than what you do, delighting customers is about how you make how you make customers feel.

Hubspot highlights communication and education as core ideals for delighting customers:

Personal is better than impersonal

Teaching is better than neglecting

While the benefits are good for business, delighting customers shouldn’t come from a purely mercenary place. The idea is to build lasting, trusting relationships by being personable and likeable, or even better loveable, as both a brand and as individual members of the company.

Pick your place, tailor your tone

The first thing to consider when delighting is your buyer personas. You need to know where your customers are likely to be, and what sorts of conversations and questions they are having.

It’s important to pick the right place for different strategies of delighting people. Facebook is great if you have lots of followers already interacting with you on your page. However, if you are only just building your community, achieving personal interactions might be easier on Twitter where people can respond quickly and easily and find topics with hashtags and mentions.

You also want to consider your style of interaction. LinkedIn is professional and business focussed making it ideal for industry-insider tips, whereas Instagram is better if you’re looking to post pictures of your office Christmas party and develop a personable brand.

Eight ways to use social media to delight customers

  1. Responsive customer service. Twitter and Facebook in particular have become the first port of call for many customers when they have a complaint or problem. Be sure to monitor any social media accounts you have for customer service queries and respond as fast as you are able. Ideally, you should include your operating times and ideal response times in your profile in order to manage customer expectations.
  2. Proactive problem-solving. Use social media listening tools to watch out for comments or concerns around your brand, product or even general area of expertise. Customers won’t always mention you directly in a post, and may not even be expecting anyone to solve their problem – so if you can spot their issue and jump in before they even realise you can help, you’ll be creating a very happy customer.
  3. Listen and learn. ‘Stalk a little bit,’ as DigitalRoots suggests. Social listening can also be useful for doing a little bit of research into the frustrations, needs and interests of your customers to help you tailor your delighting actions better.
  4. Share in their success. Promote your customers and celebrate their success. Respond to positive mentions of your company, and help your customers to expand their reach through your social media channels. After all, their stories are likely to resonate with similar buyer personas who may be earlier in the sales cycle and still deciding whether or not to become a customer.
    Hubspot customer-tweet
  5. Disseminate custom content. Inbound marketing isn’t just about getting people into and through about the sales funnel: it’s also about keeping them coming back even once they’ve made that initial purchase. Create content like webinars, training guides and how-to blog posts that help customers get the most from their purchase.
  6. Go above and beyond. Delighting customers can often mean surprising them. Aim to exceed expectations and offer more than the minimum. How you do this depends on your business and your customers, but WestJet offers a great example.
    Lost toy tweet from WestJet
  7. Own up and update. You might curse social media for its always-on, instant reaction culture, but when it comes to problems, it can actually work in your favour. Owning up to mistakes or technical issues straight away and keeping customers regularly updated as you solve the issue helps to minimise criticism and upset. 37Signals is a great example of this – just look at the comments below their update about a recent DDoS attack.
  8. Solicit feedback. Ask questions and find out from the people who are actually using  your product or service how it can be improved. And be sure you intend to respond and react to that feedback and show you respect your customers’ opinions.

Social media is one tool among many

Finally, remember that while social media is an incredibly useful and versatile tool, it’s not the only one at your disposal for delighting customers.

Be sure to pick up the phone now and then, or, even better, send a hand written note. Above all, find out how your customers want to be loved and delighted and do just that.

(Hat tip to Nadia Hatoum for the photo)


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Are you an entrepreneur or a manager? Take our 30-second test!

entrepreneur and manager stereotypes

A couple of years ago, I asked if you were a Looney Tunes person or a Disney person.

(Clue: Disney people like rhyme, Looney Tunes people like rhythm.)

More recently I asked if you were a geek or a creative (how or why?).

This got me thinking about the difference between managers and entrepreneurs.

Both alike in dignity, as the saying goes, but with very different outlooks on life. Which one are you? 

Instructions: tick all the boxes that apply to you and then compare the total number of ticks in each column.

Manager Entrepreneur
Wants to be somebody Wants to do something
PC Mac
Excel PowerPoint
Consistency Spontaneity
Competitive Innovative
Orchestra conductor Jazz pianist
Brains Guts
Metrics Results
Status anxiety Cash flow anxiety
Tries to impress the boss Tries to impress VCs
Reads The Economist Reads Fast Company
Studies Machiavelli Studies John Boyd
Evolution Revolution
Process Context
Starbucks Monmouth
Engineering Architecture
Writes reports Writes blog posts
Classification Prioritisation
Golf lessons Flying lessons
Welch Branson
Motivational Inspiring
96 hour week 96 hour week

Did we miss anything? How do you tell the difference? Which one are you?

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Deadlines don’t replace planning: how to get your copy on time

Man looking at watch for deadline with whip in hand

Handing over your content creation to an agency and hoping something good crawls out of the morass of the copywriter’s mind can be scary, as Clare has said before, but with the right approach and the right copywriting partner, letting go needn’t mean losing control.

Setting a deadline

As much as copywriters love to hate deadlines, we thrive off them.

A realistic and definite deadline helps us plan what needs to be done and when we can do it. Being vague about the deadline suggests that you haven’t got a clear objective and plan for the content, so when you really do need the work, it’ll be a messy rush job.

Just setting a deadline, however, is not enough.

Contacting your writer at the eleventh hour and expecting ‘In Search of Lost Time‘ by Sunday will leave you with nothing but limp, tardy copy.

Writers are human – we can only do so much each day. And writing isn’t just ‘writing’; copywriters need time to plan, think and edit.

Also, if you’re asking for more copy, it will take longer. A couple of 200-word emails won’t take long, but if you’re looking for an in-depth 3,500-word ebook you need to allow time for more research and editing.

So, while word counts and deadlines make us move faster, good planning is the key to quality, timely copy.

Hatching a plan

This means a good brief. The better the brief, the better the copy and the faster the turnaround.

You need to be clear about what you want, when you want it and how you want it. It also helps having style guidelines and buyer personas to guide the messaging and tone of the content.

You can draw this up yourself before you engage the copywriter but ideally, you want to involve the writer in your planning process as early as possible so everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet from the get-go.

The more involved in your thinking we are the more effective we’ll be. There’ll be no nasty surprises and we’ll know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Any resources or collateral you have also smooths things along, particularly if you want the copy to touch on specific products and services. Product brochures, internal sales sheets, slide decks and previous examples are all useful fodder for the writer.

Giving great feedback

The final step is deciding and agreeing on who has responsibility for edits and the final sign off.

Ideally this should be the job of one person – editing by committee tends to suck the life right out of copy – but if it does need to be reviewed by multiple people, you need to collate the feedback yourself before you send it to the writer. If we get feedback in dribs and drabs, we don’t know which feedback has priority and the content gets strung out, being pulled in too many different directions.

Your feedback should give praise where it’s due but be direct and specific in its criticism. Just rewriting the copy yourself or saying, ‘We don’t like this bit. Please change,’ doesn’t help the writer to do a better job next time.

Getting to know you

Of course, the best way of consistently getting good copy on time, short of whip cracks and death threats, is to pick and stick with an agency that you trust and get on with.

You might be able to get cheaper copy elsewhere, but with it comes risk and unpredictability.

Building a lasting relationship with copywriters who understand and deliver what you want allows you to feel out one another’s idiosyncrasies and styles, making the planning–writing–feedback process that little bit faster and more fluid.

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