Good writing doesn’t just happen

Everything’s in place. A distinctive tone of voice. Killer key messages. A top-notch team of writers. But there’s a snag. (Maybe even several.)

It happens. Especially in the early days of changing your tone of voice. So if you’ve just seen a piece of writing in the wild that sounds nothing like your new voice – or you’ve talked another writer down from the ledge after their umpteenth round of amends – it’s time to get serious.

And when we say serious, we mean really serious.

Because what you need is a process overhaul.

Now, a process overhaul might sound as boring as a brown ring binder

But it’s a little publicised fact that good writing, the kind that makes people sit up and keep reading, lives and dies by its process. Because behind every brilliant, blog, customer letter, brochure or case study there’s a rock-solid process, cheering it on.

With the right process, words flow from the first draft to final sign off

Picture it. Someone in your content team ends a briefing call knowing exactly what to write about. They pen a brilliant piece and fire it off for approval. The experts collate their feedback. They stick to the designated number of amends. The final version is uploaded, printed or produced. People read it, like it and share it.

But with the wrong process, writing stutters and jerks along the production line

Each round of changes takes it further from the brief. The amends never end. And the finished piece sounds inconsistent and watered down.

Never fear. We’ve run our fair share of writing projects over the years, and we’ve picked up some tricks along the way. Here’s how you can turn your writing process from stalling into plain sailing.

1. Break the curse of knowledge with your brief

To write a killer brief you need to break the curse of knowledge. Why? Because when you’re an expert in a subject, it’s all too easy to forget that everyone else isn’t. So when you’re briefing, you’re more likely to skim over important points, or go in too much detail, or use complicated language – because to you, it’s all obvious.

The trick is to include info on a need-to-know basis. Explain who the writing is for, what they need to hear, and how you want them to feel. Include the essential details. And leave it there.

2. Agree a process – and stick to it

This one’s a biggie. If you don’t set some boundaries at the outset, you can find yourself in an endless loop of feedback and changes after the first draft. Decide early on who’s going to give feedback, how many round of amends you’re going to do, and who’s giving the final sign-off. It’ll save you a lot of heartache later on.

3. Train everyone that gets a say in how you sound

Speaking of whoever’s signing off, it’s crucial that you bring them up to speed with your new tone as soon as possible. Otherwise, when a piece of content in the new voice lands on their desk it’ll just look plain wrong to their eyes. Sign them up for training, send them a one pager, run a webinar – however you do it, just be sure to bring them along on the journey.

It’s always worth getting your bigwigs on side with your new tone, too. Authority bias means we tend to listen more to people further up the food chain. So if you can turn senior leaders into fans, they can influence other teams across the business on your behalf.

So there you have it. Our three big tips for getting your writing through the tangles of internal red tape.

But if you find you’re still hitting snags, give us a bell. We have plenty of tricks up our sleeve – from doing internal reviews before we send anything to a client to producing skeleton plans before we even write a word. So whether you need to write better briefing documents or get stricter with your stakeholders, we can help you find the creases in your process and iron them out.

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