Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seven Tips for Working with a Writer

My former Blades & Associates' boss, Barb Pruitt, knows how to get the best work out of a writer -- even if that writer is something of a creative diva. (Hmmm. Yes. Me.) Today, in honor of Barb's birthday, seven tips to help you wrangle writers:
  1. Be smart. When talking with you engages our brains, you get better copy. We stay amused, which helps us stay alert. And we generally write better when awake.

  2. Feed us information. Yes, many of us can pull copy out of thin air. We do it regularly. We prefer not to. Remember the old computer line: GIGO.

  3. Challenge us. Do not accept good when you know we can do great.

  4. Never assume we know what we're talking about. People tend to trust good writers. We're writers. We're not the ever-popular Subject Matter Experts. Check our facts. And for God's sake, if there are numbers involved, check the math.

  5. Start feedback with praise. We're like 2-year-olds. Except, "Good job!" won't cut it. We need more than that. Barb used to walk into my office, carrying my copy, and say, "Jan, this is brilliant! I laughed so hard I cried. It's totally off strategy and we can't use it, but it's brilliant! Now, let's talk about ..."

  6. Understand our priorities. This is especially important if you're trying to build a creative team. My priorities? My family comes first. My friends are family. And I don't work on Saturdays. When you understand what makes a writer tick, and respect that, we will go the extra mile for you. Always.

  7. Back us up. I was once in an agency meeting -- different agency, not Blades -- where I was so angry with an account person, all I could do was scrawl an obscenity over and over again on a piece of paper. I couldn't speak. The art director, Pat Stout, took over my portion of the meeting and presented my copy along with her design. I will write anything for Pat. (This is not a Barb example, but it could be. Barb always has my back.)

  8. Bonus tip: Let us go. When I decided to open my own company in 2002, Barb didn't try to keep me at the agency, even though she and I were a great team. Her encouragement helped make my entrepreneurial launch a success and her support continues to be a comforting mainstay. No wonder I love her, even if she is tall, blonde and gorgeous.

    Finally, a tip for short, brunette* writers who have to deal with tall, blonde, gorgeous bosses: Never, never, never stand next to them.

    *Fine. We all know this isn't my true hair color anymore. No need to rub it in.

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