Respecting the Art of Web Copywriting

Writing copy for marketing campaigns is modern day poetry when it’s done right. Great copy engages emotionally. It persuades, entices, entertains, and informs. And nowhere is there more copy, or more important copy, to be written than on a brand new website.

Yet copy is the most overlooked aspect of many design projects. Copywriters all too often don’t get the respect or credit they deserve. The truth is that, when done right, a website is a digital novel. It invokes great storytelling to communicate a specific brand message to an audience.

Most clients realize they need help crafting that message during the branding stage. They realize they need help with design, development, and marketing campaigns. However, too many tend to think that they can write their own website copy. Whether they’re a Fortune 100 or an emerging start up, they all assume they can and should own this.

They shouldn't.

The reason is simple. They don’t understand or respect the craft. They don’t have the skills to tell their story in writing.

Everyone thinks that their babies are smart and their dogs are cute. Everyone thinks they’re a good driver. But we know we can’t design. We know we can’t code. For some reason, though, everyone thinks they can write.

This attitude causes problems in a few key areas. First, even if a client has good copywriters on staff, they have the curse of knowledge. They can’t look at their products or services the way a customer or outsider can. It’s impossible. They’re too close. Too bought in. It’s the proverbial “not seeing the forest for the trees.” And they’re being paid to see the trees, which complicates and pollutes their point of view even more.

Furthermore, client delays in delivering website copy are the main reason website projects fall behind schedule. Most good agencies provide the digital strategy, UX, wireframes, and content strategy before jumping into design. But that’s where the trouble often starts.

The agency hands over a copy platform for the client to send back with copy according to the project schedule. Of course, it’s delayed. And worse, it’s usually really bad once it’s done.

Website copy is the equivalent of writing a book. Imagine asking a marketer to write a 250-500 page book in six weeks, while maintaining their current workload. Add to the mix the fact that most aren’t writers and don’t have the experience, focus, point of view, endurance, or creativity it takes to be an average writer, much less a good one.

So what often happens is pages get divided up among the client’s internal team, with each person taking a slightly different tone and approach with their assigned sections. The result is a jumbled mess that needs to be fixed by—you guessed it—copywriters.

Copy matters. Copywriting matters. Story is everything and should never be overlooked or taken for granted. We didn’t just build the beautiful new website to have a new site. We did it to communicate. To engage. To connect. And copy is the most important part of communicating.

Forsake copy as a craft at your own peril. And love your copywriters.

Written by Brian Easter on November 7, 2013

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Anna says:

Thank you for posting this. As a professional copywriter, I find it completely baffling that in all of the design world talk about "content-first design," the concept of hiring copywriters is almost completely left out. If designers truly want their projects to be "content-lead," then involving skilled content creators is absolutely essential. I'm thrilled to see that your team includes several copywriters - something I'm not seeing at many agencies.

Amy says:

It hurts us when we're left behind in all the planning! So strange that copywriters are so often treated like the last necessary evil to complete a project, if we're included in the project at all. In the past I've been expected to b.s. content on an entirely new web-based sales platform five minutes after I discovered the project existed and had been developing for months! Great copywriters are naturally curious and like to understand the nuances of our topics. Let us sit in on the planning stages of things we will be creating content for, even if it's just going to be headlines and taglines, etc. The more we understand the who, what, when, where, and why of your project, the easier it is for us to communicate YOUR message clearly and concisely.

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Brian Easter
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