April 11 2014

A Handy Guide to Working with an Agency Writer

When it comes to a website redesign, it’s easy to get people excited about fresh design, cool functionality and the eye-catching elements of the new site. And, hey, don’t you also get really excited about new words?! … Uh, hello?

It’s OK. I don’t take it personally. Often, clients aren’t sure how to manage content creation for their website when they start talking with ZAG Interactive. They just know that they need to strengthen their content and optimize it for search engines, and then they realize their marketing department of one or two people is too overwhelmed to do it alone. New websites require a tremendous amount of content when architected using SEO best practices, not to mention finding room for the typical client’s array of products and services. Migrating existing content won’t work. It’s often stale, inaccurate and not SEO-friendly. Would you build a new house and install used carpeting? I didn’t think so.

That’s where ZAG’s copywriting department comes in. Outsourcing content creation to ZAG is a good strategy to keep all parts of your website development project moving together. Whenever I write for a new client, these are some guidelines we follow and points we discuss as I develop content for the website:

  1. Establish your positioning. What separates you from your competition? What makes your brand different? Communicating (or creating, in some cases) a unique selling proposition is key to the messaging on your website. Without a clear vision, your content is nondescript and lacks punch. A skilled writer can conceptualize a creative theme to pay off your overriding marketing objective on your new website. We will help you properly position your brand/product/service with words that sell your personality to your audience.
  2. Determine what information you want to keep from your old site. ZAG conducts an audit of your existing site as part of the redesign to get a handle on all the pages that you’re using today. Which ones are still relevant? Which ones can be deleted? Making these decisions will keep the writing component of your project focused and on budget because your copywriter won’t be investing time and effort in writing pages that you won’t use on your new site. In many cases, a client’s old site contains the nuts-and-bolts information that describes products and services accurately, but the messaging needs to be shaped and recast to achieve desired results.
  3. Define your tone of voice. Another critical step prior to writing any content, your company needs to figure out how you want to speak to your audience. Do you want to be known as trustworthy? Friendly? Funky? Straight-forward? Your tone will carry throughout all messaging on your new website, and it should be part of your other marketing efforts for continuity and effectiveness. Be honest about your company’s image and how your tone reflects it. You won’t be able to sustain something that isn’t natural, and your audience will know when you’re trying to force it.
  4. Consider words as visuals. What you say and how you say it are vital, but so is the way your content appears. Bullet-point lists. Balanced headlines and sub-heads. Short paragraphs. There are many ways to present information in more readable pieces that grab your audience’s attention and keep them engaged so they can find what they’re looking for and take action. Frequently, one of the main complaints new clients have with their old content is that it’s too lengthy for anyone to read through entirely and just sits there as a gray blob. Content needs to be lively and noticeable, both in how it reads and how it looks. And your messages must state clearly what action you want your audience to take next; otherwise, your content isn't working hard enough for you.
  5. Sample some content. Following the meeting to discuss tone, request test pages from your copywriter to ensure you’re comfortable with the tone you chose, your copywriter’s execution of that tone and the content’s presentation. Checking up on the content at this early stage will keep your copywriter from going too far down a path that doesn’t fit your objectives. You don’t want to realize your content’s tone is off the mark after your copywriter has written 50 pages.  
  6. Keep communication lines open. Writing is a subjective medium. People don’t always agree on what makes for impactful messaging, and that’s OK. The experienced writer at the other end of your project is a professional, so trust that person’s judgment. But your opinion is valuable, too, and the two of you can work together to achieve your shared, ultimate goal: getting the right message out to your audience. Sometimes this process is similar to making sausage. People don’t want to know what goes into it. They just want to enjoy the finished product.
  7. Involve everyone who has a vested interest.  Key stakeholders should be part of the content-creation process from the earliest stages. These people include anyone who oversees specific products and those who lead marketing efforts for your company. Your compliance team/legal department also will need to be involved, depending on the size and nature of your business. Keeping all interested parties engaged ensures that specific products and services are being addressed appropriately. You don’t want a situation where a department is left out of the conversation and then speaks up late in the process with requests for new pages or a new section on the website. This type of change late in the game will affect your project timeline and launch date.
  8. Identify a single point of contact. The content-creation process goes a lot smoother when you assign one person the task of collecting all feedback and suggested edits from your team and communicating them to your writer. This ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and also streamlines the editing portion of the process to avoid edits that contradict each other and edits that trickle in from various people. Better to incorporate all edits at once and approve the content to keep things moving along.

When your website is ready for a facelift, remember to pay careful attention to your content. ZAG’s copywriting department is ready to help you revamp your site’s content to achieve your online marketing goals and give your brand a fresh voice. Contact us today and let’s discuss how we can improve your online messaging.

  • Content
  • Copywriting

posted by
Douglas Malan
Douglas Malan
Senior Writer

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.