I recently read a blog by The Drum contributor Andrew Boulton, boldly entitled The Psychology of a Copywriter, which endeavoured to explore and explain what exactly makes a copywriter tick. The author conceded that everyone has their own quirks and foibles so the generalisation may not apply to all, but I think he may have been onto something when he described copywriters as being prone to “a crippling, obsessive, maddening perfectionism”.
While you may think it strange for me to embrace the labelling of myself and my fellow copywriters as “obsessive” and mad perfectionists, I actually think in this profession these traits are no bad thing. At Writers Inc., Acceleris’ own copywriting division, we deal with large-scale projects on a regular basis and these “perfectionist” traits provide a great foundation for managing complex projects. This got me thinking, what are the key ingredients to managing an editorial project?
I have a natural penchant for colour coding and anyone who has visited my house is quickly aware of my love of categorising just about anything, from books, to my ever growing collection of shoes… but a natural desire for organisation serves one well when in the thick of a project.
Admittedly, the concept of organisation is relative, but in a project of any size, having a clear process for collating emails, copy, amends, etc. is essential to ensure that things run smoothly and information is easily accessible at short notice; this has been particularly essential on our current project for corporate law firm Addleshaw Goddard (watch this space for more details!).
When you’re managing a large-scale project and liaising with multiple individuals for approvals and amends, being organised becomes even more vital, as it ensures that you can give informed progress reports whenever requested. It also helps you to keep track of, and resolve, any issues which may occur in the course of the project.
- Understanding the brief and beyond
This may seem simple (of course you need to understand what the brief asks for) but it goes further than that. In an editorial project, you need to understand the core values and motivations of the organisation in order to express those ideals through the copy you produce.
Whether you are writing copy for a car manual or a charity’s annual report, you are communicating that organisation’s values to the reader through the tone of the piece and the style of the language that you use. It is also equally important to understand the needs of the audience and ensure the tone of communication is properly targeted.
We recently completed a large editorial project for national maritime charity, The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, creating a book entitled Home from Sea to celebrate the Society’s 150th Anniversary, which required close attention to both the Society’s voice, as well as addressing the audience’s needs.
The literature or website that you produce may be the first interaction that a customer or a member of the public has with that organisation, which is why it is important that values are clearly understood and communicated.
I refer back to Andrew Boulton’s article here, as I feel he effectively captures the tone of a copywriter’s communications: “The very nature of the job is to be, not the loudest voice, but the most compelling.”
As a copywriter, you need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate editorial advice to your clients, ensuring that the editorial project is smooth sailing and the brief is met, messages are communicated and it is all completed in the most time and cost effective manner possible.
So while copywriters may be prone to “crippling, obsessive, maddening perfectionism”, we do make pretty good project managers!