Step Away from the Keyboard

I’ve been looking back over various lists of copywriting tips published online over the past several years. They provide lots of good advice.

Write a great headline Gail Goodwin advised in Entrepreneur

Focus on “you,” not “we” Susan Gunelius wrote in 2009, also for Entrepreneur

Pick one message and one message only Kimberly McCall recommended in Inc.

Update old copy Duran Inci wrote, again in Inc.

Mind the word count Heidi LaFleche cautioned here on the Wordsmithie blog

All great copywriting tips. Believe them. Follow them. But here’s the unstated corollary:

Don’t write the copy yourself

Competent writers already know these techniques. I’ve written a few lists myself. We share them to help educate current and potential clients, not other writers. Ideally, you’ll understand what we’re trying to accomplish, how and why. Because even simple communication is a challenge. No list of tips will turn you into David Ogilvy.

Here are a few additional things to keep in mind as a client:

Give your writer time

Although we should always be competent, few of us are brilliant in a crunch. Copy improves with time and perspective. Start early, and let your copywriter work.

Develop a simpatico working relationship

Get to know your writer and how he or she works. Let your writer know you. The closer the understanding, the better the copy. We all work best with people we respect.

Admit when it’s not working

Writer-client relationships are like any other. Some are fabulous. Others, not so much. If you’re not clicking with your writer, ask your agency to assign another. We’ve learned not to take it personally. Every experienced writer has been replaced, and we’ve all replaced others. Conversely, we’ve all asked not to work with certain clients, too. It’s the nature of the business. It has much more to do with temperament and personality than talent or ability.

But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Good things can last. I had one client for nearly 20 years. Her company changed almost totally during that time, evolving into what neither of us could have imagined at the start. We continued working together smoothly and creatively until she left the industry. Now that was a beautiful relationship. May you find the same.

ABOUT Jim Leeke

Widely experienced in journalism, marketing communications and advertising, Jim has worked with top creative agencies to deliver print, Internet and interactive projects to Fortune 500 companies. His expertise ranges from technology and healthcare/pharmaceuticals to defense and veterans issues. Jim is also the author/editor of six books, writing extensively on the Civil War and baseball. In addition to his Wordsmithie role, Jim is Co-founder and Creative Director of Taillight Communications.