The bloody client can’t write!

September 4, 2009

Here’s a tricky newsroom dilemma…

You’ve received a piece of editorial from a client who is contributing copy for your current magazine. They submit the requested 600 words from your detailed Brief, via email, on deadline day – and it is awful.

What to do?

If you’re the kind of journalist and editor that likes to sub copy super-fast, work through your multi-tasking editorial tasks and stay on top of forward-planning your next edition well before production week on your current mag (this is how I like to work) then receiving crap client contributed copy can put a real spanner in the editorial works – even for the most talented editor.

And – unfortunately – this wasn’t the first time I had come across off-the-mark copy from this contributor. They had supplied copy three months prior, missing the deadline by 24 hours, and then delivering a full 25 percent under the required word count. Tricky.

At that time, I had dropped the piece and produced alternative copy myself. Not on this occasion.

I contacted the client and informed them I would be utilising images from their website to fill the editorial space and presenting their editorial as a series of bullet points instead. They were not happy, but then again, neither was I!

Bottom line? The editorial page looked awesome. They loved it in the magazine. My mag director planned it in as a regular contributed copy page item from that month on, making each issue an additional £2K. Result!

What would you do with sub-standard client copy in these circumstances?

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2 Responses to “The bloody client can’t write!”

  1. Of course you could always keep a roster of talented and creative sub-editor/writers on call to handle this kind of work via email, on a per-job basis (I have some suggestions for personnel, by coincidence…)

    Personally, I would have rewritten the piece – no matter the stress. Which is why you probably make a better editor than I do. The key here is good client handling – being firm when you need to be, and also the ability to sell your solution to them, either before or after the event.

    It always strikes me as strange that most journalists and editors seem to despise the idea of sales – when actually selling is at the heart of editorial, whether it’s to the reader, the subject of your journalism to get them to play ball, or to clients in the world of contract publishing.

    • bristoleditor said

      Great input!

      And, of course, the demands of contract publishing are very different to standard newsrooms, but in essence…if the copy is broke, fix it. Within reasonable limits.

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