Writing to deadline: how planning helps us complete your copy on time

Posted by Toby Knott Picture of Toby Knott on 13 May 2014
Marketing copywriter specialising in writing about technology, marketing, branding, strategy and thought leadership for Articulate Marketing.
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Man looking at watch for deadline with whip in handHanding 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 outsourcing your copywriting can save you the time (and hassle) of understanding how to start your own B2B blog. 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. They teach us how to start a blog and finish it without getting distracted.

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 to deadline 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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