Friday 19 June 2009

An eleven-point checklist for better creative work

Whether you’re doing creative work, or overseeing it or judging work that’s been presented to you, these tips will help you decide if it’s as good as it could be.

What’s the budget?
It’s no use coming up with mega-budget ideas if there isn’t a mega-budget. And no, it’s not usually worth presenting the ideas to the client in the hope that they’re so impressed they find an extra £50K to spend. Come up with something creative within the budget. Sure, it’s a tighter brief but, as the saying goes, give me the freedom of tight briefs.

What's the objective?
Gather names? Provide qualified leads? Build sales? Get approval orders? Gather information? Obviously, different objectives need different solutions. But you’d be surprised (or perhaps you wouldn’t) how often creatives launch into flights of fancy without first thinking to themselves, ‘What are we actually trying to achieve here?’

When is it wanted?
In other words, never, ever miss a deadline. If it’s too short, ask for more time. But not too much. Having twice the amount of time doesn’t usually make the ideas twice as good. Ideally, you need not quite enough time to do the job. It gets the adrenaline going.

Who are your prospects?
Think about the person who’s going to be reading your ad, your brochure, your email, your website, your newsletter. What do they like or dislike? What are their hopes or fears? What do they need? What will make their life easier? What motivates them? Get a picture in your head of just one person and sell to that person.

What’s the benefit?
It’s what your prospect is most interested in. So get it right upfront. Is it better, cheaper, faster, bigger, smaller, newer, more advanced than the competition? Has it got unique benefits no other product or service can offer – a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? Then say it and show it in the most dramatic, eyectaching and innovative way you can.

What’s the offer?
Next to the benefit, this is the most important part of the communication. What are you giving the prospect? A free gift? Money off? A free trial? Free membership? The first chance to buy? A special bonus? Highlight the offer. It’s what’s going to make people act now!

Have you thought of everything?
In other words, have you worked up every single idea – good and bad? If you have the germ of an idea, but don’t know if it’s any good or just rubbish, work it up and then forget it and move on to the next idea. Don’t labour over it. You need to get the bad ideas out of your head to let the good ones come through.

The same with copy. If you’re faced with a blank screen, just start typing. In the middle, at the end, anywhere and you’ll soon get into a flow. Then cut it down to the right length. It’s always easier to make long copy short than the opposite.

Are you being precise?
Give exact details of savings, specifications and benefits. If you save £49.99, say it. Not £50. If it has ten features, explain them all and the benefits each one brings. If it’s new and improved, say why. If it has a great spec, pick out each term and say what it means. It’s the old Feature/Benefit thing, explained elsewhere in this blog.

Is your copy easy to read?
Does it have short words, short sentences of no more than 16 words and short paragraphs? Does it flow well? Can you read through to the end without stumbling on any phrases or having to stop and try to work out the meaning? Carrying words always help. Try using words and phrases like, And, Moreover, Indeed, What’s more, This is why, In fact, In addition, and so on.

Do people understand?
Never assume that what is obvious to you is obvious to everyone. That’s why you should show your work to people not connected with the job. They might spot something you’ve missed. And even though it’s your precious baby and it’s going to win you awards, be prepared to change it, if the opinions are valid. Not just, ‘I don’t like that colour’.
Have you answered the brief?
Throughout the whole process you must always refer back to the brief. At the start, when you’re trying to get a handle on the job – the product, the benefits, the offer, the target market, and most important of all, the objectives.

When you’re halfway through the job, or perhaps gone off in the wrong direction, check the brief. And when you’ve finished, check again, and if you’ve answered the brief, go and tell the suits to sell it hard. Better still, go to the client and sell it hard yourself.

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