You can’t write copy by committee

Doubtless you’ve heard the expression, ‘why buy a dog and bark yourself’? Well there’s a dangerous trend sweeping in from digital land that means people are buying dogs and barking, licking, howling and probably biting the postman’s leg themselves, rather than letting Fido do it.

It’s called collaboration. And whilst it’s a marvellous thing in certain circumstances to get the input of everyone in the team, in copywriting it most certainly isn’t. You simply can’t write effective, powerful, persuasive (or even clear) copy by a committee of non-experts.

The advent of clever apps like Google Docs has allowed the democratisation of the creative process to the point where the junior trainee has as much opportunity (and right) to input their opinion/changes to copy as the Marketing Director.

This is all very loving and sharing and, naturally, it’s great for team spirit and bonding. But when everyone’s input is deemed to be of equal value, you’re on the road to disaster.

I’ve been learning my craft for 30 years. I’ve been trained by pros, read the books, studied the masters, created and run some seriously successful big bucks campaigns whilst working in serious organisations. I’ve trained more copywriters than I care to remember. I’m very good at what I do. Sorry to sound big-headed, but I am massively experienced at creating highly effective communications.

So when a client puts my work onto a Google Doc and asks the world and his wife to put their fourpence worth in, he’s essentially suggesting that everyone’s opinion is as valid as mine. This is clearly nonsense.

More importantly, it’s a total waste of the money he’s spending on my services.

Imagine if other industries conducted themselves like this…

“OK, everyone, I’m just about to do a heart transplant on this chap so if anyone in the hospital would like to comment on which arteries to snip and what tools to use, fire away. Cheers.”

“Right, I’m going to replace the ERG valve on this Golf. Anyone like to chip in on which bolts and nuts I should undo first?”

These are silly examples, of course. But I hope they help explain what I’m trying to say.

There are experts, there are people on their way to becoming experts, and there are people who have no clue. The opinions of these three groups are not equally valid.

On this topic, I heartily recommend The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols.



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