Copywriting Woes
October 7, 2009 7:44 AM   Subscribe

The A-B-C's of corporate collateral writing: I'm a graphic designer. How do I communicate to my client that willy-nilly editing procedures, and last minute proof-stage rewrites inevitably makes projects run to the last minute? Is there a "standard" procedure for writing/editing?

The scenario: Small Company A takes a haphazard approach to writing key copy for brochures and material - a "design it first, then we'll re-do it again and again" methodology. This consistently makes projects run to the very last second, and incurs all kinds of rush charges from printers etc. Plus, it tends to result in disjointed copy.

Small Company B knows how to write/edit. They write copy, circulate, edit, THEN provide it for insertion into the design. The only edits that tend to occur are typos and layout.

How do I turn Company A's approach into Company B's?
posted by ecorrocio to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you want to change the culture of Company A to that of Company B.

Changing a company's culture is famously hard to do, even for the top guy, much less for a graphic designer.

The best bet, if the situation is unbearable, is to move on.
posted by dfriedman at 8:01 AM on October 7, 2009

Charge them more for re-work?
posted by bunny hugger at 8:02 AM on October 7, 2009

Response by poster: Let me re-state: I'm looking for something I can use to direct them, gently, toward better practices. Situation not unbearable... I like 'em. But I'd like to have some ammo when I go to them and say "hey guys, we could save a lot of time and money if...". ~e
posted by ecorrocio at 8:25 AM on October 7, 2009

Show them spreadsheet data that tracks all their extra costs. This approach will be more effective if you can show them a comparison between two similar projects; one for which Company A paid X and something similar for which Company B paid X minus some PITA charges.

A caveat: I work for Company A and I've been fighting this kind of poor planning since 1998. Because I'm in the art department, they tell me not to worry my pretty head about such things.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 9:06 AM on October 7, 2009

As long as you get compensated for your time, and there is no implication that it is *you* who is making jobs run to the last minute, this is none of your business.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:44 AM on October 7, 2009

This is pretty much par for the course with small businesses. I have a company A for a client. With them, the re-writes come from every sales person and anyone with the word "manager" in their title. Their former CEO couldn't even read proposed copy unless it was first put in-place in a fully designed layout. Which, of course, encouraged him to be both copywriter and art-director. And, his inability to evaluate raw copy became the company culture. Now, no-one there can evaluate copy without it bing in a full layout. It's crazy.

I recently completed what should have been a fairly straight-forward project...a tri-fold brochure and two sell-sheets. Except, they forgot that they needed them for a big trade show 4-weeks out. And, of course, once work began, I was hit with on-the-fly edits, copy changes, and micro-managing art-direction (by sales staff) practically every day until the project ended. I was making edits up to the drop-dead day the project was supposed to go to press.

You just learn to deal with these people. Their methods (or lack thereof) are institutionalized. The best I can do with them is give them my best shot with my initial concept and first revision. After that, I'm just better-off giving them exactly what they want. It save a lot of headaches. And, they're happy with the results, because it's exactly what they wanted. The big downside is that, rarely, is anything I do for them of portfolio quality. There's no way I'd show the stuff. But, their checks clear. And, in this economy, and where I live, that's about all I can expect.

You need to closely document the projects so, if they every complain about costs, you can show them exactly where those excess costs are coming from. They won't like it when they see they are the ones responsible, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:12 AM on October 7, 2009

Something that worked with one client I had was to give them a process chart at the start of the project. Keep it to one very simple page, make it a flowchart if they're visual people. A bit like:

Step 1: you provide content (Start date)
Step 2: I make the product and return it to you for review (+ 2 weeks)
Step 3: you give me a list of any corrections/edits (+ 1 week)
Step 4: I make those suggested changes and return to you for approval (+ 1 week)
Step 5: you give written approval (+ 1 week)
Step 6: I send product to printers/upload it/whatever (Final date = start date plus 5 weeks).

It's more so that you can introduce them to the concept that there is only one or two sets of revisions allowed, it's not an indefinite process. When they try to get more changes in, which they will absolutely try to do, you say "OK, I'll just revise that final date then" and if they let that pass, send them something in writing to make the new final date official. Constantly mention your chart, like "Ok, thanks for sending that content over. I'll get onto Step 2 of our process and have the stuff back to you next week". You have to treat them like a naughty toddler - be firm, keep repeating the rules, follow up on your promises and let them know that you expect them to behave themselves.

You can't change a company culture, but you can educate them about what your company culture is. Even if you become that supplier who they talk about like "Oh, that ecorrocio, he's cranky about deadlines but he does good work", that's a win.
posted by harriet vane at 8:21 AM on October 8, 2009

« Older Where to send the little sister/new bride in...   |   Reuniting with a headmaster for an expensive... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.