Spider-Man can handle a lot — muggers, murderers and villains out for revenge. But sometimes tasks (like saving the world) are too big for any one superhero. That’s when he calls on his friends Ironman, Thor and Captain America to help get the job done. Because if one superhero is good, two, five or 10 superheroes are better.
The same goes for copywriting teams. (Yes, I do think copywriters are heroes. Just go with it, OK?) And I’m often asked how I go about selecting writers for a project. Being able to join forces with the right team members is key to slaying any project. Here’s what I look at when assembling any copywriting dream team.
I obviously don’t hire anybody who can’t write. So it’s not a matter of whether a person is a good writer or not. But what I need to consider is their voice. What type of content do they gravitate toward?
On the Active Voice team, we have a lot of experience in healthcare. Some of our writers are more inclined to write for consumers, while others are more natural writing physician content. Some of our writers have a more formal tone, while humor comes more easily to others. Almost all the writers I have worked with consistently over the years can adapt their voice to fit any client. But when we are ramping up for big projects, I want to find somebody who naturally fits the work. It’s best for the client and the writer.
If you are hiring for longer-term projects, you have the luxury of looking at other factors more closely than voice. But for short bursts of work, it helps to have writers who naturally slide into the role.
Comfort with the Subject
Many content writers have journalism backgrounds and even newspaper — hey, remember those? — experience. You know, like Clark Kent! (That one was too easy.) And journalists have an interest in learning new things. They know how to ask questions and do research. A very good writer will be able to find the right sources and ask the right questions to complete an assignment. So it’s not always necessary to find a writer who already knows your subject matter.
That being said, subject matter comfort level can be important in some cases, such as projects that need to lift off quickly and are short term. For long-term relationships, there is an opportunity to learn and grow, and develop expertise in the subject. But when I am building a team for urgency, I am eager to find people who have worked in the vertical. This past experience also puts our clients’ minds at ease.
The times when I feel it is most important to do this is when we will be interviewing subject matter experts. Part of knowing a subject is being familiar with the terminology, which helps when conversing with experts and getting them to give you the information you need.
Experience with the Medium
Most of our writers are adept at print, web, email, and audio and video scripts. But certainly, every writer has a preference and experience level with each. Some of the best magazine writers out there just aren’t as comfortable with social media copy. Not all scriptwriters want to write email marketing copy.
Again, a good writer can diversify. But as you build your team, you will start to see early on which writers excel in which areas. You might notice that The Hulk is the ideal choice for lifting cars when you need that, but he probably won’t be throwing Captain America’s shield with any accuracy anytime soon. The same goes for your writers. Depending on how much you enjoy working with them and how adaptable they seem to be, you can either maximize the talents they already have on specific projects or help them develop in the areas where they need more experience.
Ability to Manage Client Feedback
We anticipate client feedback with every project we do, even when we feel we’ve knocked it out of the park. Changes are inevitable with written content, and every project has different expectations for the way changes are handled. When building a content team, it’s helpful to have writers who understand the feedback process and their role in implementing changes or counseling our clients. (This is a skill set that often comes with time.)
Another thing you’ll want to do before contracting with a writer is find out what type of communicator they are. Just because someone can write doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily a good business or verbal communicator. Or maybe your styles just won’t mesh.
The writers on our team are clear and direct communicators. This is a style that works for us, but we know it doesn’t work for everyone. We prefer clear direction to start a job and clear feedback on how to modify it when necessary. I believe strongly that being direct and crystal clear are essential for success.
We have deliberately built our team with people who can communicate clearly about expectations in terms of timing and cost, too. We need to be able to raise a flag if we are not getting quality input in order to complete a project. Sometimes we don’t know the challenges that will present themselves until we are well into the work, but our team’s ability to communicate with one another and back to a project owner is a critical skill set.
Positive Attitude and Excitement
We love building new pieces of content. We get excited about strategizing email campaigns, nailing a new product website and killing it with copy for a fun infographic. We can’t wait to share our work with clients. No Deadpools here! We try to show our clients every day how much we love executing on their vision or helping them build a vision in the first place. I don’t bring someone into a project who isn’t eager to produce great work. And I don’t think anyone should.
As you assemble your team of superheroes, keep your eye on your goals, and remember that a team’s strength lies in diversity. We love Captain America and Thor, but without Black Widow and Hawkeye, the team just isn’t complete. So, focus on your mission and determine the superpowers you’ll need to succeed. Then, go out and suit up.