Writers are the heart of any content strategy. Even predominantly video based or podcast based delivery platforms need a healthy dose of the written word to ready things for the web.
And, as with any other people you employ, writers need to be kept motivated and positive to produce their best work. If you’re reading this as a writer yourself, you know what it’s like to face a new project bristling with excitement, versus seeing it with such dread you want to procrastinate more than Douglas Adams.
Whichever side of the conversation you fall on, be it a writer or one employing them, there are key strategies to keep in mind that guarantee the cup of inspiration never runs dry. Here are five of our favourites.
The age old discussion over writer’s block has likely been part of humankind’s creative struggles since the age of hieroglyphics. Creativity is often experienced as a series of sharp ideas and brilliant flashes that all too quickly escape.
Good writers know how to train their creative side to respond to them, so as to ensure that when they’re called on to put words to the page, everything flows as it should. Many experts believe this comes from an almost “you are what you eat” mentality, except the diet in question here is the creativity you consume. If you consistently experience media that’s uplifting and broadening your mind, your creativity will flourish as a result of it, and therefore you’ll have a far broader range of ideas to draw from.
A big part of how to get the best from a writer is to ensure there’s a clear vision for the content to be produced. It tidies up a lot of errors and backtracking later if work is right first time, and writer’s appreciate having a decent brief that covers all the bases and informs their approach.
However, the last thing you need is to have a to-the-letter brief accidentally constrict the process. Whether it’s in your brief, your project overview or even in a casual telephone conversation with your writer, make sure you instil a feeling of freedom. For writers to give their best, they need to feel like they’re able to add a dash of their own individuality to what they produce (the best ones will do this while also fitting with style guides and tone of voice). That feeds into the idea of inspiration and creative control we just touched on.
There’ll be times you need to dish out constructive criticism, and that can be a touchy issue. Some writers may well take this more personally than others, so the trick is to make sure that you first draw on the positive aspects of what’s already been produced. Once you’ve said what’s good, your critiques can focus on what can be improved to achieve your goals for the writing.
Don’t forget that feedback is an invitation for both sides of the dialogue to improve. While even the best copywriters know there’s always room for improvement, there may similarly be improvement to be had in the transparency of the brief or the clearness of the piece’s intent.
Likewise, when writers do well it’s good to give them feedback accordingly. It’s more than a pat on the head, because it fires them up in the knowledge that they’ve hit the target dead centre, and will help ensure fewer errors occur in the future and the vision continues to be refined.
Ask any writer, whether it be a travel copywriter on an insurance copywriter who’s been in the game for a while, and they’ll tell you of countless occasions when a client has asked them for a given piece and they’ve produced it, without any clue as to its purpose or greater direction.
While organisations have their right to discretion and secrecy, a writer who’s clued in on the bigger picture will be able to produce more thorough and targeted content. Let them know if the work is part of a larger project, providing examples of good content that’s already been produced, or which direction you want the project to head in. You’ve worked hard on your ambition, so share it to include and motivate those you’ll be working alongside you in making it a reality.
You need to be realistic about how long writing will take, so you don’t push your writers too hard and risk creative burnout. This is because allowing ample time for writing processes lets both creativity and vigour recharge. With a little bit of forward planning, you can create a delivery schedule that doesn’t pack everything in at the last minute, putting less pressure on writers to deliver quickly.
Effective communication is a smart idea from the offset – ask each of your writers how long it’ll take them to produce writing of different lengths. There’s not always one rule, as different writers will work most effectively at different paces, and a writer who produces excellent work but takes a little longer than others can save you editing time in the long run. Also, allow time for the research and other, unseen elements that go around writing that take up time as well, like uploading or converting files and sourcing images or implementing SEO techniques, if relevant.