Cough, Sneeze, Delete: Three Ailments That Can Infect Experienced Writers

Even content wizards who take their vitamins come down with mysterious viruses from time to time. Here are three ailments that can turn experienced writers into ineffectual mooks – and how to cure them, whether you’re the writer or the client.

Idea Diarrhea

Experienced writers have such vast portfolios and, well, experience that they often respond to job queries with a creative onslaught of epic proportions. A simple email turns into a three-page pitch triple the length of the blog you initially requested. Unfortunately, your desire to cover every base makes it easy for your audience to become overwhelmed.

One Columbia University-led study staged at a grocery store in California’s Menlo Park found an interesting link between choice and decision-making. When customers were offered samples of 24 different flavors of jam, 60% of people stopped for a taste but only 3% made a purchase. When the sample offerings dropped to just 6 flavors, 40% of customers stopped for a tasted but a whopping 30% made a buy.

  • The Takeaway: Sometimes more isn’t better, it’s just more. Offering a slate of options may seem attractive at first, but it muddies the waters and makes it harder to convert.
  • For Clients: When you’re looking for content ideas, ask your writers smart questions and/or give them specific parameters to usher brainstorming in the right direction.
  • For Writers: Offering up too many options gives clients analysis paralysis. Take the lead by outlining a single concept you feel is best for the brand at hand.

Aspiration-itis

Becoming an experienced copywriter isn’t just about learning the difference between a colon and a semi-colon (one has a tail, right?) and master AP style. There are other skills we have to master, and the ability to recognize and harness the value of great research is one of them. Of course, there’s a flip side to shining up those Google powers; the greatest researcher in the world can’t write like a true authority on every topic.

While research can make your writing accurate, it doesn’t mean the resulting content will speak to your target audience. Take wine, for instance. Anyone can look up the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and come up with a pitch paragraph on the subject, but only someone with extensive real-world wine training knows why garden hose is an interesting quality in a mineral-laced white or how to describe the angularity of a wine in a way that gets shoppers right in their wallets.

  • The Takeaway: Not all writers can write about all things, and identifying the line (and knowing when to cross it) is essential for clients and writers alike.
  • For Clients: Depending on your niche and what type of content you need created, a generalist writer may work fine, or you may want to seek out an industry expert. Know how knowledgeable your audience is, how high-level or detailed you’d like the content to be, and how important it is that your readers see your brand as a leading authority.
  • For Writers: Just because you love a topic doesn’t mean you’re an expert. Just because you hung pictures in your living room once doesn’t mean you have your finger on the pulse of interior design. Know when your research skills can help a client, but also recognize when you lack the first-hand knowledge to do a topic justice.

Chronic Lack of (or Hyper) Personality

When you’re churning out content day after day, year after year, one of two things typically happens: You either develop a distinct voice that permeates your copy no matter who you’re writing for, or you learn to keep your style so neutral that it becomes challenging to make basic copy interesting. Sure, there are some experience copywriters who swap identities like they’re the next coming of Keyser Soze – you never know they’re behind the scenes pulling the strings – but that quality is more uncommon than you might expect.

  • The Takeaway: All great brands have a solid identity, and that includes a consistent, interesting brand voice. Experienced writers can’t always match that voice, but it’s imperative to find one who can.
  • For Clients: Part of putting together a content strategy is identifying your brand voice to help preserve your authenticity. Your writer should be able to honor that voice just as nimbly as they integrate keywords and turn bullet lists into witty prose. For that to happen, though, you need to have a brand style guide and provide that guide to writers.
  • For Writers: Having your own voice is awesome, sometimes that’s even a major selling point, but remember that there’s a difference between selling your own style and selling your client as an authority. Adapt when necessary, but also be clear about how flexible your own style is, know your limits, and always ask your client if they have a brand persona handy.

Working with an experienced writer is the best way to catapult your brand out of the shadows and into the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean you can take a completely hands-off approach to writer management. Continuing education and open communication is important for writers and clients alike, so stay on your toes, demand greatness, and keep your brain fluids to yourself.

 

Alana L writes content that helps brands separate themselves from the sad sack pack of sameness littering the professional landscape. Want to blend in? You’ve come to the wrong lady. Want to dominate your competitors, make loads of cash, and thrill your customers from the end of their adorable noses down to their exciteable little toeses? Alana’s your gal.


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