Avoiding Copywriting By Committee

We hear the phrase ‘Everyone’s a critic’ a lot in the creative disciplines. Sometimes this feels very true, especially in larger companies with longer approval processes. But it’s important to be able to distance yourself from the creative work and understand what was required. After all, others may have been able to do the work, but for whatever reason, they didn’t. Which means whoever did was commissioned for a reason, namely because they have the required skills and experience to carry out the task.

The main problems come when the creator hasn’t been briefed properly – sometimes the briefers don’t fully know what they want, or maybe they don’t understand the brand as well as they could. In fact, it’s often the case that the creator knows more about what is needed than the briefer. Which is also fine – in some cases that’s where they add more value.

But a proper brief is crucial. Briefing templates can be used, which ensure briefers think about the right things when the brief is being put together. Not just ‘I want an email about how good our product is’, for example, but who the target reader is, what I want them to do, how I want them to feel… and so on. The communication might be part of a campaign, in which case it’s useful to think about how the reader has come to this communication and where they could go after it (for more on this, see my article ‘How your customers ‘navigate’ your brand content’).

In larger companies, people further away from marketing may create briefs and they often appreciate guidelines and templates to help them (see also my article on Writing Style Guides). In some cases, a ‘debrief’ conversation might clarify things, making sure the briefer and creator are on the same page.

OK, so you put together a kick-ass brief and the creator knows what you want. But does the approver?

Often there are people outside of the briefing loop that need to comment or approve. It’s important that they know what they are looking at and its context. If possible, it may be worth explaining to them just what you want them to comment on – for example maybe a product manager should check the veracity of the text, and not worry about the brand.

Of course, this depends on the set up of the company, and the brand itself. Although you can’t stop the ‘not created here’ syndrome from cropping up, at least a proper (perhaps pre-agreed) briefing and supporting guidelines can remove some potential queries. Maybe then everyone will see just what the goal of the work was and how it fits with the brand, and not worry about the minutiae.

If there are still big issues, then you will have to look at the process and all the supporting documents. It might be that the brand has moved on, for example. But, rest assured, if you lose control of the writing and approving process, you will end up with something lacklustre at best. At worst, the communication you have worked so hard to perfect could be off-brand and even confusing, making it detrimental to your goals.

How do you brief copy? I’d love to hear from you.

About the author: Waynne Meek

Waynne is passionate about all things content, especially how copy merges with other elements to make compelling communication. A recognised career of 20 years spanning various media has given him a useful insight into the way copy works across brands. Armed with this experience, he has delivered and managed effective copy solutions, from award-winning internal magazines to compelling brand and product messaging. Find out more about him on LinkedIn –, or on

This article was first published by Waynne Meek