Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do We Know Where You Stand?

When you produce copy for a living, you become well-accustomed to revising.

But, even after 30 years in the field, I'm still vexed by the few clients who want one rewrite after another.

Sometimes, they're clients who work at one or two removes from the organizations I'm writing about.  Ad agencies.  PR firms.  Design studios.  Consultants.  

But just as often, the clients work inside the organizations.  Hell, sometimes they run the organizations.

The reason for the rewrites is always the same.  They don't know where the organization stands.

They don't "get" the organization's brand.  Or the brand keeps changing day by day.  Or (the same thing) there is no brand.

In the 1980s, I worked at an ad agency.  We had a client (an obscure federal agency) named the President's Commission on Executive Exchange.  It was a dream to work for.

About four times a year, on the client's behalf I had to "ghostwrite" short speeches and letters for then-President Ronald Reagan.

Naturally, I was pretty nervous the first time round about writing copy for the Commander in Chief. 

But every first draft I ever submitted sailed right through.

Did I have deep expertise in "executive exchange?"  No.  

Did I have a White House insider's viewpoint?  No. 

Did I embrace the President's policies?  No. 

Did I know Ronald Reagan?  Never met the man.

It was all very simple.  I knew where he stood

In fact, we all did.

My question to those clients who want so many rewrites: Do we know where you stand?
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