Have you ever visited a car manufacturing plant? There are a variety of different assembly lines, such as the engine shop, the transaxle shop, the weld shop, the press shop, etc. Perhaps it’s where the engine is fitted or the sheet metal is crafted into a door. Regardless, all of these shops and products ultimately head to one place: final testing and quality control. Shouldn’t your marketing content endure a similar process?
Content is one of the only trades where quality control is often shrugged off. Yet, other industries have a system to ensure that the quality of their product will be the absolute best in a competitive market. There isn’t a single car manufacturer that installs brake panels and sends them off to the dealership hoping they work. Your content should be treated with the same quality assurance and attention before it reaches your readers.
We’ve all heard someone say it: editors are outdated. Writing is a dying art form. Print is becoming obsolete. Yet, in a rapid-fire Internet age where a story breaks and media companies are constantly cranking out new content to garner clicks, there’s still a considerable amount of content being generated, and with a plethora of embarrassing typos and grammatical mistakes. Though I’m mainly referring to those simple articles about celebrity break-ups, I’ve also noted an uptick of print and digital ad mistakes that have been approved by several pairs of eyes, and are still slapped on the side of a skyscraper with a typo regardless. Not only does this cost the company precious dollars in damage control and having to re-do these campaigns, it also costs the company their reputation, which is the ultimate price to pay and often difficult to rebuild once it’s dismembered.
Don’t get me wrong – we’re all human! As a writing and editing professional, even I’ve made a spelling, typing, or grammatical error (or, fine, maybe two) before. But, like Pokémon, you’ve got to try and catch them all! In addition, there’s a vast difference between accidentally hitting the “I” on your keyboard and sloppily swapping the spelling of “Columbia” (the university) and “Colombia” (the country). Here are some examples of brands that were careless with their words and tips on how to prevent their mistakes.
Tip #1: Don’t Rely on Spell Check
Spell check will fix everything, right? Not exactly – particularly in those instances where the word itself is spelled right but it’s not used correctly. Consumers have seen this time and time again with the misuse of “their” and “they’re” or “your” and “you're” in ad copy. Though these types of mistakes are disheartening, more severe cases of misuse (like those shown above) show a clear disregard for attention to detail. In turn, your consumers may begin to wonder if your negligence is reflected in the quality of your products. Does your merchandise also miss the mark? Read and re-read before you hit “print” or “send,” particularly if it’s a nationwide campaign or is going to be worn by somebody, especially a public figure.
Tip #2: Beware of Copy-Pasting
While copy-pasting may seem like a no-brainer time-saver, it actually causes more errors and leaves more work for you to fix. This is especially true when you’re creating content calendars or working within spreadsheets (or pasting a caption on Instagram). Although it’s tempting to copy-paste work or utilize a template from a previous project, you’re actually increasing the chances of even one slide accidentally making it into the final presentation. Can you imagine presenting a project about car insurance only to accidentally find a slide from your previous pitch deck about a cosmetic company? It will look both confusing and sloppy, and certainly won’t gain new business or make your current clients feel confident in your work. Begin fresh with new ideas on blank pages. If you must re-use a pitch deck for formatting, be sure to go through and thoroughly delete any pre-existing copy before you begin writing.
Tip #3: Revisit Your Copy Later
Once I’ve finished a piece of writing, I often tuck it away for at least ten minutes or more before posting it or sending it on. Of course, it isn’t always feasible to pause projects in the fast-paced industry of digital media and advertising, but if you’re ahead of schedule on your writing, it’s always best to come back and view it once more with a fresh set of eyes before sending it off. If I’m short on time, I’ll simply get up to grab a cup of water, and once I’m back at my computer, I’m able to reset and fix mistakes that I didn’t notice beforehand. This is important when one is setting out to write (or, probably more accurately, allowing their intern to write, in the case above) about the country they plan on running. This is also important for everyday use, such as when you’re writing an email to a client or even a friend.
Tip #4: Enlist a Colleague
You may be the most brilliant mind at your company, but you’re still human. You’re going to make mistakes, which is why it’s wonderful to be surrounded by colleagues and friends who’d be happy to take a look at your work. Think about it this way: you’d never send a save-the-date without having someone glance at it first, right? Maybe you send it to your mom or your fiancé or your sister, but somebody else sees that invite before it is sent to your entire address book, correct? Why would your work be any different? This is particularly true when you’re working in an agency. Though marketing managers and account directors are often busy, their goal is the same as your goal: to create the best product for your client. Therefore, if you don’t have a copy editor on staff, it’s necessary to ask them to look over your work and ensure that there are no accidental double words or spelling errors that will take away from the overall message.
Writing is only part of content marketing. Editing and ensuring that your copy is flawless will uphold credibility with your readers. If you’re a writer, don’t rely on your copy editor to salvage any mistakes that you may make. Treat each piece of writing with meticulous care and attention to detail and edit it as though you’re the final set of eyes (even though you shouldn’t be, as denoted in #4). If you’re a copy editor, know that you’re integral to the process and have an important task. If you’re a brand considering whether or not you need a copy professional, the answer is always “yes.” In the same way that car manufacturers rarely have a defect, just one minor flaw could potentially wreak havoc on your brand and consumer’s trust. Be sure to have the proper checks and balances in place for your business and your business’s content.
I look forward to reading your immaculate words. Happy writing and editing!