The Designer’ Notebook

The Elephant in the Room – Part 2


I wrote recently about the conundrum of content. As a designer, you’re paid to create the visuals the content goes into. As a client you pay designers for communications solutions (design is one part of this). It’s neither cost-effective or efficient to write content as a designer – designers know design and clients know stuff.

I’d like to offer some additional insight, but also tackle it from a different angle. I want to offer thoughts as a content manager (I wrote this site – about 60 pages over about four+ weeks, not to mention blogging and twitter). Let’s ignore the incessantly nagging designer whining for better copy from people who would rather be doing other things… let’s talk like one of You – the strong, the free, the client.

I want to offer thoughts as a content manager,  not as the incessantly nagging designer whining for better copy, but one of You – the strong, the free, the client.

I learned how hard it is to generate decent copy for your own marketing when I wrote this site, I had to generate the mental horsepower while paying the rent and actually working. I was bloody well exhausted.

I realized I am exactly like my own clients. I’m not a full-time writer (I’m ok, but my grammar bad is), I’m a designer who does stuff like build print outputs and cut HTML. Our clients do stuff like welding and driving trucks. My stuff is more important than my website, just as their stuff is more important than their marketing. At one point last fall, I even thought about hiring a real writer. Because I was utterly spent.

So what did I do? I worked through it. Technically the launch was fully a month late, if not more. But darn it all, it launched! I had to get into each product category, make decisions and do the work. It’s just that simple.

So really my advice to anyone working on any project related to marketing…

  • Respect the work. Give it it’s due diligence, then commit to a due date, otherwise the “crisis of the moment” will win.
  • Try to take it in chunks. Eat the elephant one bite a time.
  • Write summaries on each page and review, then write.
  • Rest, then review – a day or two off gives fresh eyes to problems you hadn’t noticed before.
  • Collaborate – share ideas with colleagues, get others involved, even writing on their own.
  • Revise – on the web, it can be revised in a moment. Write, revise, read, then revise again.
  • Enjoy the Dividends – the payoff is worth it.

Respect the work. Give it it’s due diligence, then commit to a due date, otherwise the “crisis of the moment” will win.

What about social media? We’ve been using twitter for a few months now, and have a facebook page. A lot of people have told me social media is too much work – “There is no time!”. The value of social media is certainly in the conversation, and therefore requires us all to partake in the conversations. I am committed to twitter at this point – it’s easy, and I get a constant flow of content from twitter relating to my industry and interests. I really enjoy Tweeting now.

Twitter and Facebook are this website’s number two and three referral sources after Google. I’d say that is a pretty good reason to commit a few minutes a day to posting a few gems of wisdom or links you feel are relevant. Social media to me, is about starting, joining in and having a bit of fun. Just start.

So now I am my own worst client. What advice do I have? What kernel of wisdom could I offer to the collective of knowledge and make the world a better place? Try this: Since putting in the effort, our site traffic is up, referrals are up, sales are up, and we are busier than we’ve been since the good ol’ boom years of ’07 and ’08.

Simply put – it is worth the effort. Just start. You might even have fun.

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