“I want to discuss a new project with you,” your boss or client announces. “Let's schedule a phone appointment for 3:00
Chances are this will be one of the most important discussions you'll have about a new copywriting project. You'll learn what background materials are available, who to contact when you have questions, the scope of the project, and much more. So don't take this kind of meeting lightly. You'll need to listen closely and ask questions to ensure you get all the information you need to write the most effective copy possible.
Project briefings by phone or in person are common at ad agencies and at corporate marketing and PR departments. It's the customary way to kick things off to make sure everyone hits the ground running.
If you're new to the process, take good notes, ask questions, and don't be afraid to speak up if you don't understand something. There are no dumb questions at a project meeting. Everyone — especially the person in charge of the project — wants to make sure that everyone else is on the same page and thoroughly understands what's expected of them.
Another common way that copywriters research the product and target audience is through interviews. Just like an investigative reporter, you may have to, “stick a microphone” in front of your boss or client, a product expert, a salesperson, or even a customer, and ask questions.
Usually these interviews are conducted on the phone, but they can also be handled in person. Follow these tips:
Always make an appointment. Never just call and start asking questions. Schedule a day and time that is convenient for both of you. This gives you both an opportunity to prepare.
Do your research first. The contact will appreciate that you've done your homework and learned all you can about the product and the target audience before the interview.
Prepare a list of questions. This helps to ensure you get all the answers you need. (Use the Copywriting Information Worksheet featured earlier in this chapter.)
Take good notes. It's embarrassing if you have to call back and ask a question again just because you didn't write the answer down.
Ask if you can follow up. You may have questions later on. Ask the interviewee if he or she is available for follow-up questions. Some people prefer that this be handled by e-mail.
Use a tape recorder if you have one. When you record a phone conversation, always inform the other party. It's not just a courtesy. In some jurisdictions, it's the law.
Teleconferencing is popular to say the least. There is probably a teleconference unit on every boardroom table in America! As a copywriter, you will no doubt be invited to one of these group telephone meetings to discuss projects and brainstorm ideas. That's because it's so difficult these days for corporate managers, agency personnel, and others involved in a project to be in the same room at the same time. Virtual meetings have become the norm.
What is a teleconference?
It's simply a meeting held over the phone for three or more people. Typically, you're given a special dial-in phone number and access code, along with the date and time of the teleconference. Sometimes you're also provided with a special Web address where you can view visuals during the meeting and make notes on a virtual blackboard that everyone can see.
Here are some useful teleconference meeting tips:
As people introduce themselves, write down their names on a piece of paper. This will help you keep track of who's saying what during the discussions.
If you do lose track and need to know where a comment or piece of information came from, simply ask the speaker to identify himself again. For example: “Who said that? Was that you, John?”
If you're one of the first few people to “arrive” at the teleconference, it's normal to chat before the other participants call in. But be careful what you say! Avoid negative talk about people who haven't arrived on the call yet. They could be there already, quietly listening to every word you say!
Teleconferences can sometimes drag on, but stay tuned in. Don't do anything that is distracting, such as surfing the Internet, doodling, or working on other projects. You want to be able to give a good answer when you're called on for an opinion.
Ask if you can be added to the e-mail list of anyone who is taking notes. And take good notes yourself, too. Don't assume that you will automatically receive a summary of the call. You may not.
During a teleconference, or any type of project meeting for that matter, you might be put on the spot by someone asking you for some initial ideas: “Hey, Karen. What sort of headline do you think would work best in this ad?” Unless you're the kind of person who can come up with great ideas on the fly, it's best to say that you need time to absorb the information: “I'll get back to later.”