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How Many Cooks in Your Copywriting Kitchen?

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Having worked as a copywriter for the past 20 years, I’ve been in a slew of different team environments. Recently, I’ve been ruminating on the profound differences I’ve experienced being on a team where they rely almost completely on my expertise vs. an often more senior team with diverse disciplines where most everyone has opinions and concerns around copy. I’m sure this would apply to other areas, such as design, but I’ll speak from my own copywriting experience.

In the former scenario, I often find the lack of interaction with the team can be detrimental. While certainly, I am the copy expert and rightly so, at a certain level copywriting is a collaborative endeavor. It has to be. Rarely am I telling my own story. So, while I will steep myself in your company culture and vision, while I will research your brand and your market, I am still creating someone else’s messaging, someone else’s story. And that person has to be involved, they have to get their hands dirty. If they don’t, there will invariably be a missing piece or two.

In the latter scenario, I will say that the copy certain benefits from the years of expertise being used to shape it. There is a certain honing that in the ideal team dynamic will create a better product. But like anything with a little art in it, usually the further you get from the original creation, the less impactful the words are. There is something about the force of something in its first forming that is hard to duplicate after multiple revisions. In those situations where I see that happening, I will usually recommend taking a fresh stab at it, combining the input from all sources, to create something new and equally powerful. Sometimes, one of the toughest things for non-copywriters to realize is that you can’t say everything in the topmost message. In every industry I’ve worked for, it’s important to meet your audience with ideas concisely stated. You can have a complex message; it just can’t be communicated in a verbose or laundry-list style.

At the end of the day, regardless of team experience and level of involvement, the most critical piece to align on can be the creative brief. Because when things get bogged down, you can always look back at the brief and point out why certain things support the brand the project’s goals, while others don’t. And then if the copywriter is worth her salt,  she’ll make that happen in the most impactful way possible.

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