Nothing can turn strong copy into a 97-pound weakling faster than a flawed review process. The result is severely handicapped marketing efforts and, alas, fewer sales.
How can you avoid this dire marketing situation?
By having a smart and consistent review process that preserves the selling power of your marketing communications. Following are 7 essential tips for reviewing and approving copy.
1. Review the copy from the customers’ perspective.
On the first pass, read the copy (all of it) without your red pen in hand or editing hat on. That’s how your customers or audience will read it. Now, what do you think? Does the concept work? Did the headline grab your attention? How was the tone? Does the copy flow? If you begin by editing the first sentence or sweating the details, you will do your clients or customers a disservice.
2. Don’t get hung up on grammar and usage.
If you think the copywriter broke a writing rule, 9 times out of 10 there was an excellent reason. Copywriters are sales people in print, so if we take liberty with the English language, it’s for effect. Plus, be aware that copywriters (and proofreaders) review and correct the copy before you see it. For example, I consider spelling, grammar, style issues, trademark usage, and more to ensure the quality control of every piece of copy I write.
3. Avoid copy by committee.
There’s that old joke that says if you want to kill an idea or project, start a committee. Copy by committee is no different. Conflicting and misguided comments put the copywriter and creative team in the awkward position of trying to please everyone except who matters most — the intended audience. One way around this is to circulate informational copies to people who would like to see the copy. They can make comments without being part of the formal approval process.
4. Minimize the rounds.
Provide complete feedback on the first round, forwarding all your comments, suggestions, and changes to the copywriter. That way the copywriter can consider everything when he or she rewrites the copy and you can shorten the review cycle. Copy is typically stronger when it’s created in three or fewer rounds.
5. Provide specific comments.
When you provide specific comments, the chances of succeeding on the rewrite improve dramatically. For example, instead of saying, “This isn’t strong enough,” say, “The tone needs to be more authoritative” or “These are additional benefits the copy should cover.” Often times putting your comments in writing will help you be more specific than if you just provide them orally.
6. Let the copywriter rewrite the copy.
Instead of trying to “write” the changes yourself to be incorporated, tell the copywriter your concerns and let him or her address them. The copy will benefit when the copywriter does the rewriting.
7. Judge the copy based upon your objectives.
In the end, the copy was written with particular objectives in mind: to build your brand, generate leads or sales, inform about your company, products, or services, and so on. Make sure the copy is technically accurate and factually correct. Then critique the copy based upon what you want it to accomplish, not on the number of superlatives, your competitor’s latest ad campaign, or how it compares to your previous brochure.
(c) 2005 Neil Sagebiel