“Collaboration” is one of those warm and fuzzy words. But warm and fuzzy gives you fleas. Many a copywriter breaks out in a terrible itch when some sadistic soul throws the word “collaboration” into play.
I’m sure there are fields of work and life where collaboration produces beauty and success. In copywriting, however, it’s more likely to produce a rash. Collaboration is the herpes of copywriting.
So why exactly does collaboration suck?
1. It devalues our work as copywriters.
Few people can engineer a bridge, but anyone can write words. Though expertly written copy possesses carefully developed architecture with beams placed at just the right spot, emotional flourishes speaking to the heart, a full range of functional considerations taken into account, strategically hidden support and invisible guides directing human interaction, the layperson has little grasp of what goes into masterful copywriting and why each word is just so.
We use sounds like building blocks. We pay careful attention to sentence and paragraph length. We integrate complex variables of brand identity, target audiences, immediate objectives, stakeholder needs (and vanities), competitors’ communication styles and messages, and much more.
Your clients may think it’s fun to sit around a table and develop a slogan. Or write an ad. Or cobble together a press release. But that 90 minutes of creative freedom they experience misleads them into thinking properly strategized and composed copy is as simple as spitballing and tossing phrases on a page.
2. It designs camels.
Good copy requires a clarity of vision. Collaboration frankensteins disparate elements into a single monstrosity. The warm, feel-good process is often filled with compromise. You want to make everyone’s opinion valued. And the result: a positioning statement that only its mother and father would love.
3. It wastes time.
Ever been in one of these collaborative working sessions where the meeting ends, you’ve got a draft document, and now it’s deemed your personal job to “polish it up”?
Yeah, it would have been quicker and easier to write it yourself. You probably would have created something better on your own. Perhaps if you were sly, you were able to guide the collabo all along and you steered the group into composing a rough draft of what you would have done on your own (while letting them think it’s all their ideas).
No matter how the meeting panned out, more than likely it was a waste of your time.
Where does collaboration come in handy?
Herpes, I suppose, could create a stronger sense of intimacy between a couple. You know… shared experiences, the closeness of fluid bonding, and all those sex advice columnist buzzwords. I’d prefer a life without blistering sores, but sometimes you’ve just got to put up with the annoyances to enjoy a fruitful relationship.
Collaboration can help in securing client buy-in. Give them a role in the process and they’re more likely to embrace the final product and, if needed, sell it to their superiors or defend it when the Chairman of the Board wants to shoot it down because he wants a slogan that starts with the letter “K” since his wife’s name is Katherine.
As long as collaboration doesn’t take the leading role in the creative process, it can in fact bolster your work. Use collaborative sessions to mine insights from clients, stakeholders, colleagues and informed professionals such as external consultants the client has brought in.
Writers are solitary creatures. Many of us don’t do our best work in group settings. And group settings don’t produce the best copy. But if you’re faced with an unpleasant collaborative encounter, do your best to steer it to your advantage and the benefit of the final copy.
This post was written as part of a collaborative blogging project spearheaded by Ricky Ballboy, blog proprietor and scribe at apoplectic.me: ”the life of a bloke who had a stroke”. Unlike me, my fellow writers tended to sing collaboration’s praises. Read their words of wisdom in The Collaboration Project.