Of all your
development options, one
of them – a well
chosen copywriter – increases
your site's utility while giving your entire team
a sustainable creative edge.
If you don't have the budget for three people where there wasn't
even one person before, the right copywriter will fit the bill.
When I wrote the following article in 1997, some Web developers
thought "writer" meant only "code writer." That soon changed. In fact, along with
a professional Web copywriter on the team, site producers often include an information architect and even
a search engine optimization content specialist.
But is that changing back? With the growth of social media, it seems everyone now considers themselves a writer.
Should you really be writing your website yourself, or entrusting it solely to a novice staffer? Probably not, for the
same reasons I detailed 20 years ago. As this page and my search engine
optimization article explain, all three functions can be well served by one
experienced Web-savvy copywriter, someone who sees your needs with fresh eyes and can help you avoid costly mistakes.
Sure, you can add new software and explore the latest bells and whistles. But as you do,
also consider the fundamental,
often longer-lasting advantages of adding something else —
— a professional copywriter, one with unique skills and qualities like these:
marketing & corporate communications experience
broad experience with consumers, businesspeople, and technical products.
That's not just me talking. That's advice from professional industry observers.
Of course your team probably already has writing capability . . .
some people write pretty
good copy while they also develop brilliant
marketing plans, elegant Web code or gorgeous
graphics. But, as various observers in Web Week [now called Internet World] have explained,
an experienced writer does more than just get the words out. We're
talking about more than fixing the spelling and shortening sentences here.
A writing specialist is specially suited to help organize the site,
seeing it as others see it and making it easy to use,
while developing distinctive, meaningful content, and keeping your team
from spinning its wheels.
I have the qualifications listed above, but I'm also a little biased on this subject. So
here's how those Web Week folks have described a writer's role on the ideal Web team:
What observers in Web Week had to
say about the ideal Web development team
Here's how Web Week summarized the views of HTML book guru Laura Lemay:
Web Week 6/17/96 (emphasis added to these)
"If Laura Lemay were to
assemble a web site's dream team, she would first
narrow the search down to four types of people: a writer with a journalism background,
a programmer, a designer, and a 'curious person' . . .  'Doing something flashy and
cool is less important than writing good content,' she said."
I agree, of course. After all, I was a reporter and a journalism graduate before becoming
a marketing communications copywriter. As you may know, many other copywriters (Leo Burnett
being a classic example) were journalists, too. We share the ability to
discover and distill reader-relevant information, prioritize it, and present
it in various interesting ways. Or, as Ms. Lemay pointed out, "You have to think
top-down, you have to focus on details and you have to come up with creative sidebars."
Gee -- that basically defines a Web site.
Another angle on this,
Web Week 7/8/96, quoting Charles L. Breuninger, DuPont
"The thought process you go through when you write something -- what's more
important, what's less important, how you structure things -- all that is stuff you've
got to do when you develop a Web site."
How about a technical writer?
Yes, a technical writer (someone who writes how-to user
manuals and such) is often a good choice for site development. And no, I'm not strictly a technical writer.
But I'm continually explaining the benefits and uses of technical products (and occasionally
providing on-line help). I offer much the same aptitude as a technical writer. And more.
Web Week 7/8/96, quoting consultant Ann Rockley
" 'A technical communicator's organizational skills are particularly important
to intranets.' . . .  Writers can help make sure the interface speaks the user's
I've said the same thing in my brochure for years. A site's language should be user-driven.
That's not always easy. In fact, sometimes it's even harder when the product's developers and its
users work for the same company.
Enter the freelance writer. And in my case, with my unusually broad background in many kinds
of communications for virtually all kinds of products, services and companies, I can quickly get up to speed as part
of the team.
To strengthen your capability, value versatility
A strong Web site is not simply a "brochure-on-a-screen,"
but writing for the Web does have a lot in common with
writing a capabilities brochure.
Or a long-copy ad. Or a sales letter. Or a catalog.
Or a roadside billboard. Although
some people think it's heresy to say so, traditional
copy elements are just as important on a New Media page.
For example, consider the importance of writing a
good "blurb" or a headline:
Web Week 6/17/96, Editor's Note "Scoundrel E-mail"
"Take the time to write a compelling subject line."
Robert Hertzberg was talking about e-mail, but his point applies wherever you have to
capture the reader's interest within moments.
We all know about the value of strong topline copy in
stimulating click-through. And the importance of clarity and imagination in
creating effective billboards, whether on the screen or beside a road.
Also, about a site that sells Java applets:
Web Week 7/8/96, quoting Donald DePalma, Sr. Software Analyst, Forrester Research
"Ultimately, unless the developer does a really good job of description, there aren't going to be
a lot of people anxious to run applets on their system."
Amen. A clear, compelling description helps whatever your
client sells -- because it
has to be seen and remembered amid both physical and mental clutter.
In addition, understanding other media helps fit
New Media successfully into the overall marketing mix.
Yeah, like nobody else can do all this?
Obviously, many Web developers are accomplishing these things now, sometimes without a
copy or content specialist on
their teams. I'm a confirmed team player, and -- as I've said -- I know
that the skills of many programmers, designers and
managers cover much of this ground.
But I can add flexibility and let you accomplish these things more easily. The advantages
of my contributions will also survive technological change, and they're relatively inexpensive to implement,
debug, enhance, evolve and maintain.
In addition, with my broad background covering marketing situations in a wide variety of product
and service industries, I can help you blend New Media creative with sound marketing concerns, for companies
of all sizes and personalities ... in your Web sites, your self-promotion, and your
Call or e-mail me now.
If I can help you describe, discover, digest, organize, translate, extend, or whatever,
please call 718-577-0005 or drop me a note. If you like, ask me
to review one of your sites or proposals at an economical rate.
And please continue to browse the rest of my site, to learn about other ways I can enhance the
capabilities of your team.