by Amanda Cleary Eastep
[Part 1 Communicating Clearly]
If you’re working with a freelance writer, especially on a fairly long-term basis (i.e. more than one project), you will both benefit from the constructive feedback you provide on content drafts.
Professional writers are accustomed to heavy editing, especially on first drafts for first-time clients. Constructive feedback doesn’t mean your freelance writer needs a smiley face sticker on the brochure copy she submitted. She also doesn’t need drafts sent back with so many red marks–ink or electronic–that the CSI team is called to investigate.
Constructive feedback can involve (in your choice of color):
Industry/company specific wording
Does your company use a specific style guide? Industry-specific wording? Provide your writer–especially one from outside the industry–with any resources that may be helpful. It’s also the writer’s responsibility to do her homework and learn through the editing process as well as by researching your company’s website and other industry-related definitions, language, and external communication guidelines.
Once a final version is approved, this becomes not only a portfolio piece for a writer but an excellent resource to refer to when working on other projects with the same company. The writer can use that wording in another piece, if applicable, knowing that it has already been vetted. This saves time on the editing and approval process and ensures consistency, from brochure copy to web content.
Whether further communication about edits is done through email or face-to-face conversations, polite and to-the-point always works for me. Professional courtesy may seem like a no-brainer, but I once saw a seasoned writer brought to tears by continual comments from an “editor” who harshly criticized rather than communicated. Red marks can leave “scars” on what otherwise should be a healthy and mutually beneficial working relationship.
This goes back to good communication.
How did I deal with our mutual red-penned critic? I wrapped up a pack of green pens for him. Granted, I had a solid and forthright relationship with this VP and had developed that by going directly to him and discussing the edits he made to my work. Open communication encouraged constructive feedback. I came to better understand the audience I was writing for since he had direct contact with them. And he came to better understand the choices I made as a writer.
I knew he would appreciate the joke as well as understand the unspoken request to slash more gently. The result?
Our writing team ended up seeing a lot of green.
But at least our drafts no longer looked like a crime scene…
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