Don’t Hire a Writer

By Todd Anthony, Founder, Head of Strategy

Many businesses, designers, and marketers often take a, “type goes here,” approach to their communications. And when they’re done with a project, it certainly does look done. Occasionally it can be seen as flawless. But the question is, “Is it persuasive?”

Usually not.

Most of the time they’ve grossly under-resourced, bumbled, or otherwise neglected half of the communication equation: the writing. Some might even argue that the writing is bigger than half of the equation because language is more closely tied to the human being’s cognitive decision-making process.

The problem: they’re hiring mere writers.

There are a lot of writers out there. Thousands of them. But the organization that wants to make an impact needs more than just a writer… words on a page…a benefit oriented sell message that fits a particular space. It’s not even enough to have a professional writer with a gift for the language. Not even close. What they really need is a rhetorician. A persuader. An idea person skilled at the art of persuasion. They need someone to move people…to persuade them…to captivate their imagination and compel them to act. They need a storyteller who knows how to use the language in all communication channels like a Samurai warrior wields a blade.

That doesn’t come with an English degree, by the way. Nor does it come with masters in journalism or creative writing. Programs like that lead people down different (though equally wonderful) paths. Cicero, the stoics, Bernbach and Goodby – the writer will know their names while the persuader will have spent countless hours studying their craft.

The writer will sit down and bang out some benefit-oriented copy for you, the persuader says, “Not so fast.” They will start by getting curious and researching. And after they’ve collected enough stats, quotes, opinions and impressions, they start to puzzle out what the underlying story is. Then they craft that story, boil it down to its essence, and generate powerful writing that supports the brand story in multiple channels, motivates people to buy, and captures a small, but highly valuable piece of cerebral real estate in the mind of your consumers that will pay dividends for years to come.

Your basic, standard-issue writer stops writing when their content feels good or clever. The persuader never stops nit picking, sculpting and reimagining their work until it seems undeniably compelling.

One might make the mistake of thinking that the writing matters less today than it once did. We’re more visual as a society. “Nobody reads,” I’m often told. If the common perception is to be believed, we all walk around blind to language somehow gaining all of our knowledge about the world around us through visual forms. This “word-a-phobia” is completely overblown – a modern day neurosis that will someday be revealed as such.

Skim though we do, we are still “word people” more than we are “picture people.” I’m not saying that the copy should always be driving the communications bus. Oftentimes a visually driven solution with a touch of copy can be a home run. But the copy – the 5% that ties it all together -is absolutely critical lest the home run becomes a foul ball.

When your brand has a way with words (not just visual design) it will be doubly or triply powerful. And ultimately it means exponentially more money to the bottom line. Yes, it really does make all the difference. When brands send out weak messages, all the money they spent on design, development and implementation makes but a whimper.

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