Finding a good writer can be tough. By good writer, I mean one who is clear, consistent and can get people thinking about your message.
But for every talented wordsmith there are about a dozen hacks who need to brush up on his or her craft. Like everything, there’s a learning curve. How big that curve is depends on the writer’s ability and openness to learning, which leads us to the first writer you should avoid: The Know-It-All.
This kind of fella or lady is tough because they know it all, so direction is often perceived as an affront while outright criticism may be cause for day-long brooding or complaining sessions.
This writer may have some great potential. They probably wowed you with either a clever cover letter or a decent work history. Maybe they were editor-in-chief of their college paper… and now they’re your corporate copywriter.
The problem is usually lack of experience coupled with bravado. In a couple years, if they’ve gotten some much-needed mentoring and softened to the idea of considering feedback from more seasoned pros, they may become talented writers. But right now, they’re delivering copy littered with run-on sentences, unclear ideas and pretentious SAT vocab words. Not ideal at all.
These are people who express their creativity through writing. They may find it tough to separate their own work from their “job” work, i.e. what you pay them to write. After all, writing is writing, right? Wrong! The poet may actually compose an entire company newsletter in rhyme. This isn’t a joke, I’ve seen it done.
They may look at your used tire sale as an opportunity to wax philosophical about driving. So instead of getting an effective ad that your customers can actually understand, you might end up with:
Abscond from your hovel this weekend and indulge in the glorious weather, but don’t do it on those bare tires… which portend a fate worse than running out of petrol. Treat yourself to a new set of black-as-raven car shoes, the kind that will transport you safely into a new adventure.
Wait… what?! Why is Mike’s Tire Center talking about hovels and ravens?
The biggest problem with the poet is not that they can’t write, it’s that they might not be satisfied writing without expressing their true selves. If you try to change them, you might end up with a better writer but a considerably less happy employee.
Clever, concise humor goes a long way in copy. As long as it’s appropriate and well-timed, a funny line or turn-of-phrase can add that hook that keeps people reading… or, even better, remembering your name.
However, good comedy is not easy to write. If you need proof, just head down to your local comedy club on amateur night.
Hiring someone that fancies himself a comedian can be dodgy if they don’t know where to draw the line. You could end up with someone who doesn’t understand the difference between humor and insults.
Or a writer who hasn’t met a pun she didn’t like. Like the poet, the comedian may use his or her copywriting job as a way to let their inner joker shine. This is where you must explain it’s not the time nor the place… keep those one-liners at home, buddy.
Even major brands have made errors in comedic judgment, spending millions on an ad only to pull it because they offended their audience.
That line between edgy and rude is a thin one, a copywriter with good instincts knows how to walk it.
Peep these ads that missed the mark and ended up insulting their audience: