Why your agency shouldn’t write everything in-house

Have you found the right balance between in-house and freelance copywriting skills?

In my experience, every design agency sees the relationship between words and design slightly differently. That includes the role copywriting plays in your process; at what stage it’s considered; and who actually writes it.

Perhaps you outsource all your copywriting needs. Or you might handle some of it, but bring in specialists for particular projects. Some agencies have fully fledged in-house departments to take care of it all.

Whatever your set-up, copy is most powerful and effective when it’s baked into the design process from the start – not bolted on as an afterthought. It should be a collaborative, two-way relationship.

That’s particularly true when working with an external consultant. If you’re not on the same page, you risk wasting time and money. But get it right, and both you and your clients will benefit from a totally fresh perspective.

So what does this look like in practice?

Two years ago, I left my full-time role as a design journalist and editor to become a freelance consultant. It wasn’t a snap decision: I’d spent the best part of a year considering how my editorial background could best complement different types of agency model.

Part of this was translating journalistic skills into compelling copywriting and brand storytelling. But while freelance copywriters are plentiful, it’s a lot rarer to find someone with an in-depth understanding of the design industry, and how the creative process works.

I’ve spent years interviewing designers to get to the heart of how they work, and find the most interesting way to tell the stories behind their projects. I’ve scanned more agency press releases than I care to remember, and reviewed thousands of entries to the Brand Impact Awards.

Presenting the Brand Impact Awards in 2018. Image credit: Future

All this has taught me that it’s not just your clients that need great copywriting. It should play a big role in your agency’s internal operations too – because that’s what sells your creative approach to the next client.

Read more: Why your design agency needs a content strategy

Why work with an external consultant to do this? As one client said to me recently, it’s all too easy to get ‘snow-blind’ when you’re too close to things.

I know what’s unique – and crucially, what isn’t – about what your agency does, and can help you develop a content strategy that tells that story in a convincing way. And if it works for you, it’ll work for your clients too.


Does your agency need a fresh perspective?

Why your design agency needs a ghostwriter

Full of strong opinions, but short on time to articulate them?

At its best, design is a thoughtful, considered profession as much driven by bold ideas as aesthetics. And as a cursory dip into ‘design Twitter’ will attest, there’s no shortage of opinions in this business.

But be honest. How often do those opinions become part of a joined-up, effective content strategy for your agency to win new clients?

Read more: Why your design agency needs a content strategy

Whether selling a bold solution to a wary client or crafting a brand strategy to win over sceptical consumers, designers are in the persuasion game. But current client demands come first. Getting thoughts down on paper in a coherent way takes time to do properly. And you need to do it properly.

It’s no use forcing out opinions for the sake of it. If it’s not your authentic standpoint, what’s the point? You need to find an engaging, relevant angle that sheds light on how you work, how you think, what makes you unique.

If all this sounds familiar, but you struggle to prioritise getting it done, I can help you articulate a client-winning thought-leadership strategy – including persuasive content that’s ghostwritten in your agency’s voice.

My editorial background helps me get to the heart of your story quickly, and craft a convincing narrative pitched at your target reader. And whether it’s a one-off piece on a particular theme, or a big-picture content strategy that runs for months, it begins with an in-depth, face-to-face chat.

This is a great opportunity not only to gauge what your opinions and attitudes are, but how you express them – from general style and mood to particular turns of phrase. Tone of voice is a crucial part of any branding toolkit for your clients, so why neglect your own?

Once we agree on an angle, tone and format, I’ll collaborate closely with you to get the content spot-on.

So what does this look like in practice?

I worked with the Red Setter team on a provocative thought-leadership article about ‘brand euthanasia’ for their client B&B Studio, to fuel its reputation for empowering disruptive, forward-thinking challenger brands.

Marmite: B&B’s example of a heritage brand that has stayed relevant. Image credit: City AM

In the firing line: lazy, slow-moving brands that have lost their relevance, but are kept on life-support by empty ‘brand refreshes’ and nostalgia.

Fuelled by expert insights and contentious opinions from B&B’s senior team – including bylined strategy director Lisa Desforges – the short, punchy ghostwritten article was placed by Red Setter in City AM’s opinion section.

Case study: B&B Studio on brand euthanasia

I also helped Studio Output produce a long-form piece to reflect its new strategic positioning: the agency helps brands to adapt and thrive in a connected world.

Following an in-depth briefing session with the senior team, I worked closely with ECD Rob Coke to express the agency’s sector-leading creative approach in written form – using three case studies to show it in action.

Case study: Studio Output’s strategic repositioning

Looking forward to 2020, I’m collaborating with three very different UK agencies on their longer-term strategic content plans, which will start rolling out in the coming months. More on that in due course.


Need help turning your in-house expertise into client-winning thought leadership?