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A Good Writer’s Best Work is the Work You Don’t See

June 19th, 2016



It’s common sentiment that agencies don’t know they need a good senior level copywriter … until they have one. After a month, they wonder how they ever survived without him or her.

Using the RFP process as an example, once a good writer is in the fold, the finished product isn’t necessarily all that different from what was done before. What is starkly different is the road to that completed work.

From the moment the brief is kicked off, the team scurries to bring something great to the table from their respective department – like insights, conversations with the client, competitive analysis. The writer begins by listening to everyone talk … sometimes all at once. The good writer is listening for those nuggets that mean something or can be built upon. Once the most talkative in the crew are finished, it’s his job to come back to the next meeting with those thought-starters organized on paper. He knows this isn’t anything close to what will be in the final deck. But before this road trip can get going, everyone needs to be sitting in the same car. That starts with the rough write-up that some will pick apart, one makes fun of that one typo, and another thinks the team isn’t there yet. The good writer fixes those couple mistakes, acknowledges that yes, the team can come up with even more great ideas – but instead of pulling the car over and ripping up the map; the good writer remains confident. After more brainstorming, he comes back with an even stronger and buttoned up write-up, plus a write-up that summarizes the new idea from yesterday. The good writer has a strong name or handle that encapsulates the ideas. Everyone sees and feels the potential, as now these two directions have become THE two ideas. Now it’s time to really get to work, by blowing the two ideas up and weaving a story that does more than make sense and answer the brief – it has passion. The good writer constantly tinkers with the story, keeping up with every conversation and useful nugget of information, subtly adding it in, making it stronger each day.

Through the coming days, the good writer undoubtedly will face a number of challenges that has the potential to take the project all the way back to the very first meeting. For example, an outsider with weight swoops in and isn’t feeling where the team is headed. The good writer finds a way to ensure the outsider is fully informed on how and why the team has ended up where they are. Some of these battles he can’t win. A “win” for the good writer is when he can include the outsider’s perspective in a way that doesn’t implode the team’s progress.

While the good writer plugs away, he’s also awaiting slides and pieces from other team members. As these trickle in, it’s his job to make sure they feel connected to the rest of the project, avoiding the dreaded “Frankenstein deck.” Some of these pieces the good writer will receive with an hour to go before it’s due – so what. The good writer makes it work, retaining the storyline and passion.

As artwork for the project is completed, the good writer ensures the words on each piece makes sense. Finally, the good writer proofs his own work. But before it goes out the door, he finds someone else to proof it, too. After all, he’s been living inside of this thing for two weeks.

The final deck is sent off, and everyone resumes their normal lives. The good writer goes back to bringing those same principles and passion for storytelling to every project. If the team wins the project, the good writer executes and continues guiding the project and storyline. After months go by, few remember those initial meetings where the current storyline was taken from concept to deck, from sell to sold, and now to today’s reality. The good writer may or may not have come up with the best ideas. But what he definitely did was to ensure the best idea, or ideas, shined.

Before the good writer, the agency more than likely pieced together projects like this with contributions from three, maybe five different individuals. The ideas and tactics would be tinkered with until the final second, as the team hoped everything made sense in that monstrous deck.

And that’s what I mean about the a good writer’s best work being the work you don’t see. The final pieces in his portfolio may look great – but the good writer always has an amazing story to go along with that beautiful work, that when told to the right audience, outshines that final product.

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