Is the Copy Approval Process Sapping Your Soul?


By Kathy Swayze

September 16, 2020

The strongest desire is neither love nor hate. It is one person’s need to change another person’s copy.” – Gilbert Cranberg, Columbia Journalism Review

I’ve noticed a trend in direct mail schedules over the past couple of years—earlier and earlier initial due dates for copy.

I’m glad we’re carving out more time for creativity to blossom through creative meetings, in-depth research and idea percolation. But sometimes, we’re leaving more time in our schedules because we simply have unclear or poor copy review processes.

Here are five tips to help keep your sanity and ensure you always bring quality copy to the table:

  • Limit the number of cooks in the kitchen. In most cases, there are way too many people reviewing copy. Determine who is essential to the review process and eliminate the others. When different departments review copy, they are looking at it from their own perspective, needs and goals.
  • Don’t allow writing by committee. When you circulate copy, provide specific instructions for feedback. For example, “I’m excited to share this copy for our test acquisition package for your feedback. As you review, please do not ‘rewrite.’ Instead, add comments about factual errors or messaging concerns. These comments will be shared with the writer to incorporate into the letter while ensuring it maintains a single, cohesive voice.”
  • Pick up the phone. Some things are too difficult to convey over email. If you find yourself writing comments that are longer than 75 words, it’s time to talk to your writer directly.
  • Just say no. Many of the people who have to “sign off” on your copy are not fundraisers or marketers. Be prepared to say no to some suggested edits while maintaining a smile on your face.
  • Toot your own horn. Share results of your program’s big wins. This will inspire confidence and remind your colleagues that you know what you’re doing.

By setting up a formal copy review process and using these tips, you can reduce stress, be more efficient and improve yours fundraising results.

-By Kathy Swayze

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