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Working with an Agency Writer: 7 Tips You Should Know

When businesses are looking to launch a new website, they turn to agencies for many reasons—from developing content strategy and graphic design to formulating PPC campaigns and SEO plans. Near the top of that list is the need for quality writing. Since many companies don’t have in-house writers, agencies become a smart, affordable option.

But what should a client expect from an agency writer—and what does the writer expect from the client? 

When you hire an agency to do your website, here are 7 tips to keep in mind when working with the writer:

Before you can trust the writer, you need to trust the agency.

A good agency wants to have a good relationship with you. The agency sees you as an equal partner, an extension of your in-house marketing team–whether you have one or not. Unfortunately, some clients are uptight about working with an agency. They may not completely trust the agency or even try to compete with it. What you need to realize is that an agency is like a colleague who genuinely cares about your brand and wants to help you reach your marketing goals successfully.

You might think, “Since I am paying for this relationship, I’m the boss.” That’s true, but don’t treat the agency as servants or people to bark orders at. That power dynamic needs to disappear if you want a genuine, transparent, and effective working rapport. Remember that agency staff are real people, just like you and your employees. The sooner you remove the “us vs. them” barrier, the faster you’ll be able to scale.

Provide the writer with all the necessary information.

The more information an agency has about your business, the more fuel it will have towards your growth. Give the writer access to all the information and creative available. If you think you don’t have time to help the writer, you need to rethink your schedule. The adage “good inspiration depends on good information” is true.

Tell the writer what your customers are saying to you. No one knows your clientele like you do—and their pain points. Don’t hold back and think, “Let’s see how much the writer really knows.” This is not a tug-a-war. As with most things in life, you get back what you put in. Make your staff members and subject matter experts (SMEs) available for interviews or conversational questionnaires. Share your own insights and experiences. Writers value this wealth of acumen, which serves as great foundational support for your website content, including blogs, white papers, FAQs—even tweets.

Keep in mind that if you can help chop hours off the time the writer needs to complete tasks, you’ll give the agency more time in your monthly account to do other valuable things such as creating landing pages and developing premium content offers.

Don’t expect the writer to read your mind.

Sometimes the agency writer is an SME in your industry, which is a bonus. But even SMEs may not understand how your business works, including the management style and company culture—not to mention the types of customers you serve.

Yes, writers should understand the basics of your business, but that doesn’t mean they know exactly what you want to say. Just because someone is a chef doesn’t mean they know what kinds of food you like.

Expect a bit of hand-holding (and lots of question-asking!) upfront while the writer gets acquainted. As you set your content calendar, allow padding for edits, rewrites, and polishing in the beginning. It shouldn’t be long before the agency is creating quality content that resonates with your audience. The result also will mean that subsequent projects get completed faster and smoother.

Have a point person to direct the content flow.

Think about these questions: Who is going to provide the writer the information for web content? Who from your company will review the writing and make the necessary edits?

Appoint one person to oversee the process. You don’t want someone in your business to approve content one day and then someone else to change it the next.

Try to avoid seeking staff consensus on agency writing. Remember that writing is an art form, and you can waste time waiting for everyone to validate a sentence or two. If your company is extremely responsive, you may be able to bump up your timeline and get your project done even sooner than planned.

Feel free to offer criticism—constructively.

Don’t be afraid to say that you do not like an agency’s written content. A good agency welcomes constructive feedback and pushes itself to grow. And don’t hesitate to overcommunicate. It’s better for an agency to fully understand your concept and goals upfront than make a guess and have to correct it later (adding more time onto your project).

A caveat here is to have realistic expectations of the agency. Some clients expect the moon. This is usually because they don’t understand what an agency can reasonably achieve.

If you and the agency establish realistic goals and timelines early in the game, the dividend will be fewer problems and setbacks later.

Expect bumps along the way.

If a writer does not provide the depth, style, or quality of content you want or expect, don’t mark it immediately as a failure. Consider it as part of the creative process.

Conflicts and disagreements are not uncommon, as you know from your own experiences. Unfortunately, clients can and have dropped agencies for a single mistake. A good agency takes ownership of its mistakes and will do all it can to remedy them.

What’s important is to address any issues honestly and openly as soon as they come up instead of letting them simmer. That way, you can resolve problems quickly and retain the trust in the relationship.

Blaming your agency or treating them as a second-class citizen is a huge, missed opportunity to forge great connections and creative power—and to grow your business. Giving up too soon may be kicking yourself in the foot.

Understand what good writing is.

The agency writer is a professional who provides you with a fresh perspective. Be careful not to reject writing that might diverge from what you are more familiar with. Many times, an agency draft doesn’t have all the jargon and clichés of your trade–and that’s a good thing.

Here’s what an agency writer knows: Most of your web visitors are not reading the text word for word but scanning for keywords and specific details. They prefer shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs. They like sub-heads that help direct their eyes, and images that evoke their emotions. They live in a vastly changing world of sensory journalism and low attention spans, and your writer is simply doing everything possible to get your potential customer to connect with your brand and engage.

Good writing also is customer-focused, not company-focused. The writer wants to meet your consumers’ needs, not cater to your navel-gazing.

Write Here, Write Now!

The nice thing about a digital agency is that it sees your website as a living organism–ever evolving. That means you don’t have to wait until the writing is perfect before launching your site. If you don’t feel 100 percent committed to the content, launch anyway. Get out there. Start seeing how your web visitors interact with your site. Let the agency gather user data that will tell you what’s working and what’s not. Changes to the text can come later–and be made quickly.

The key is to keep the lines of communication open and to keep coming back, knowing that you are on your way to something new and wonderful.

If you’re the type of client who shares these values, click here to get in touch. We’re already excited about building a partnership that’ll take you to the next level.

Jim T.
About the Author
Jim grew up in Pittsburgh and has more than three decades of experience in the writing and communications fields. He has worked as both a newspaper and television reporter, and has held positions in marketing and public relations in the industries of government, healthcare, and technology. His hobbies include photography and gardening.
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