Menu  ☰

Every design, web or comms project has its own challenges. Maybe it’s a woolly brief or unrealistic client expectations. Impossible timings or squeezed budgets. A technology conundrum or a personality clash. Or, God forbid, all of these things.

If you’ve been around the block, you’ll know these challenges come with the territory and are relatively straightforward to fix. Refine the brief, manage expectations, adjust timings, re-negotiate budgets, rewrite code, massage an ego (or God forbid, all of the above).

But if the problem’s with the copy, things tend to go downhill – and quickly. In fact, it is a truth universally acknowledged between agency and client that getting the words right is a major pain in the butt. Why so? Well, more often than not it’s usually because people don’t think about it early enough in the process.

And let’s be honest, few other things on a screen or page have quite so much ruinous power as crappy words. Which is an even bigger shame if you’ve spent a lot of money analysing the customer journey, developing the proposition, making the UX seamless and the design beautiful.

But in the same way the words can act like an errant toddler in the room destroying everything around them, they’re also one of the easiest, quickest and, dare we say, least expensive things to fix (on screen, at least).

Head ’em off at the pass

With a bit of foresight and planning, here are five things you can do (before the writing starts proper) to stop the content derailing your project down the line:

  1. Scrutinise the brief. Does it mention copy or content? If not, it should do. And if it does, check it makes sense with everyone and ties in with the overall project and comms objectives.
  2. Assign responsibility. Who’s in charge of content on the agency and client side? How does it fit into the overall timings and project milestones? This includes choosing the right writer (based on experience and credentials).
  3. Agree on the stages and processes early on. Do you need to audit your content? How will you go about gathering, writing, updating, editing and amending it? And what about final review and sign-off?
  4. Get a constructive critique. Ask an experienced writer to evaluate existing content – most will, for free. Then assess any subsequent drafts against this.
  5. Set client expectations. Ask a writer to do a few sample pages (with rationale) to show direction of travel and tone of voice. That way, every single piece of content will be consistent in style and tone. Get client sign-off before going any further.

Of course, there’s no guarantee these five tips will bring you success, but at the very least, they’ll get agency and client thinking along the same lines. And that can only be a good thing.

Leave a comment