Justin Rubner

Posts Tagged ‘hiring a copywriter’

Can I Get Some A1 With That In-house Copy?

In business communications, copywriting on 09/10/2009 at 7:50 pm

You’ve spent thousands making your website look pretty…and “sophisticated.” You wanted that sophisticated look after all. End result–sure looks sophisticated.

But when it came to Web copy–the thing everybody sees first when trying to figure your company out–you’ve decided to “save some money and do it in-house.”

Your homepage has slick graphics, that’s for sure. Possibly Flash. When first-time readers go to your site, they do see a cool, sophisticated design.

What they do not see is sophisticated messaging.

They first try to decode what it is you do, then how you’re better, then why they should purchase what you’re selling. (They, secretly, want to be inspired.)

The copy they read is professional-sounding and it’s not horrible. It’s just written by a non professional writer.

After reading, they know what you do…but they have to work (pretty hard) at it. They see you wrote you were better…but they don’t believe it. They read your call to action to contact a salesperson…but haven’t been convinced why they should purchase what you’re selling.

They’re certainly not inspired.

Having good design but bad copy is worse than A1 sauce on bad food.

Good design + bad copy = A1 sauce on bad food.

The homepage, midst the sophisticated Flash, has some vague message laden with keywords, like A1 sauce on a poor cut of meat.

So they go to the About section. It reads something like this:

“Company ABC is a leading nationwide provider of robust and scalable <insert mind-numbing acronyms here> that is second to none when it comes to customer service. Our myriad of <insert jargon here> services serve the (super-long boiling-the-ocean list) industries. Our company is led by industry leaders that (sic) know…”

Off to the News section. One press release only. From five months ago. It talks about some award and tells nothing. Boilerplate reads like a Securities and Exchange Commission report.

No recent news. No whitepaper or case study either. Not even some good information, really, when you get down to it.

No real differentiation. No inspiration.

No sale.

In a previous post, I lament the fact that copywriters are too often brought in as simple implementers–at the 11th hour–when they should be the core part of all marketing, advertising and PR programs. In this post,  I lament the fact that some companies don’t bring them in at all.

The trenches are important. So is an aerial view.

The trenches are important. So is an aerial view.

I’m going to resist cliches like “The money you save in not hiring a professional copywriter will end up costing you more in the long-run.” Well, I really didn’t resist it. But here are other reasons why you should seriously consider hiring a professional:

  • Good writers aren’t stuck in the trenches of your company. As a result, they’ll have an aerial view of your value proposition…and will deliver messaging that connects to people not in the know.
  • Good writers are good at explaining complicated things to anyone…not just your systems architect or venture capitalist.
  • Good writers are adept at analogies and other forms of communications that get your point across in a simple way.
  • Good writers know it’s better to show than to tell. Better writers can actually do this.
  • Good writers, are, well, good writers. They know what words work and what don’t. Their copy flows.
  • Good writers–this should go without saying–don’t make grammatical mistakes. At least the ones 99 percent of readers care about.
  • Good writers, good business writers at least, know business. Make sure your writer is more than just a frustrated novelist.
  • Good writers make their living informing and inspiring.
  • Good writers deploy basic search engine optimization in their Web content.
  • Good writers have a designer’s eye. They work with your design team to make sure everything gels from both a content and an aesthetical point of view. They’ll also have graphics suggestions to go along with their brilliant copy.
  • Good writers spend a lot of time on subheads, bold text, bullets, short sentences, and other things that give readers’ eyes the break they deserve.
  • Good writers know that many times, less is more.

-Justin Rubner

A Good Copywriter is More than an Implementer

In business communications, copywriting on 08/05/2009 at 11:42 pm

How would you describe your copywriter?

  1. Some English major you bring in as an implementer at the last minute to make sure your messaging is basically grammatically correct.
  2. You don’t have one; everyone at your company pitches in on marketing and sales copy.
  3. Some junior person at your high-priced agency whom you’ve never seen.
  4. Someone in-house or outsourced who is part of your marketing team and spends at least 50 percent of his or her account time writing.

If you picked “1,” you’re not alone. I run into this attitude frequently. Someone has a message. They want to communicate that message, whether through press releases, Web copy, e-mail campaigns or whatever. They (think) they need someone to just “make it look pretty.”

losmanGoing down this road, however, is like owning a football team, hiring your coaches to devise an offensive plan, and hiring a quarterback on game day to execute this plan. I foresee a plethora of missed snaps, fumbles, botched hand-offs, and interceptions.

Too dramatic? Hardly. A good copywriter is more than a simple implementer. He or she needs to be completely in-tune to your products, services, markets, competition, story, challenges and goals to be the most informative and persuasive.

A good copywriter also will have ideas on how your message needs to be communicated…and disseminated.

If you picked “2,” you’re also not alone. Many small companies–especially in this economic climate–are trying to save money everywhere they can.

I would argue, however, that if you don’t have one person–in-house or outsourced–writing most of your high-level messaging, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. Your marketing manager is likely wearing many hats. He or she does not have time to craft all of the copy–or even spend the time on your copy that it needs. In addition, if everyone from your CIO to CEO are crafting external communications, what kind of centralized message do you really think you’re putting out?

And option 3? Well, this is also common. You spend tons of money on a PR or marketing agency. And then someone–quite often someone who has a great pen but very little business experience–is tasked at the 11th hour to implement the messaging that everyone else has come up with.

As you can imagine, I also hate this approach. Any agency worth its salt needs to have the copywriter present at your messaging and strategy meetings. Otherwise, there will be–repeat will be–a major disconnect in that implementation.

This approach can cost more hours on the back-end fixing problems. Would you rather spend money on a good product…or fixing a bad product?

Alas, for those of you who picked “4,” congrats! This is the way any company–from start-up to Fortune 500–should approach marketing.

If you don’t have the budget to pay a physical agency or someone in-house to concentrate on copywriting, there are alternatives: Independent contractors or virtual agencies you bring in on a project basis.

With both of these alternatives, you’re maximizing savings. And–usually–the quality of your marketing collateral. These are professionals who can make it on their own. They’re not trying to climb the corporate ladder. They enjoy writing and consulting.

They’re entrepreneurs.

They live and die with each client.

If you do have an in-house copywriter, or have a relationship with an agency or independent contractor, I recommend you “CC” your writer on any important issues going on at your company. The content he or she produces will be that much better as a result.

I also recommend you find a good writer early on in your marketing strategy phase.

Your writer ought to be a core part of your messaging machine. Not an afterthought.

-Justin

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