Back in the day, when I was in the ad biz as a creative director, I often marveled at the so-called “creative partnership” between writers and graphic designers. As one would marvel at, say dogs and cats sharing a dish of meat.
That’s how it works at most agencies of any size, they have these little pods of creativity, pairings that at first compete with other pods for the best assignments, then become the primary creative engine for generating billable client work.
The Account Manager role? That’s just an intermediary. Someone who takes the client to lunch a lot. It’s that creative team that makes or breaks the account, and frankly, they aren’t all that much fun at lunch.
On paper the writer and the designer share equal responsibility for the concept, content and execution of projects, but in reality the roles and expectations are more clearly and succinctly defined.
One writes, the other designs. And often, when one tries to hop into the other’s sandbox, trouble ensues. Especially when one is operating under the naïve illusion they can do the other’s job.
In over 25 years in that business, I never met a graphic designer who could write killer a line of copy. Vanilla, sure. But vanilla isn’t worth $200 an hour.
And I never met a writer who, even if they could wrap their head around it, aspired to the mastery of design software.
A Pod of One
These days, as a blogger with a whopping six online months under my belt, I see such partnerships differently.
Because for the most part there are two core competencies required to get a decent blog up and running – that’s on top of the wheelhouse expertise the blog is all about in the first place – and once again, it’s pretty rare when someone is a mad genius at both.
Perhaps not as rare as a designer who can write pithy copy, but I’m just sayin’.
The secret weapon in this business, even if you are all alone with your blog, as most of us are, is to find an expert resource to cover your ass.
The CYOA of Getting Mentored
If you’re a writer, you’ll need someone to make sense of the techno-gibberish that dominates the how-to oeuvre of blogging’s conventional wisdom.
If you’re a technophile, you may need a real writer to make you credible and marketable.
I’m of the former ilk. I can write my techno-lame ass off, and I understand that I need to cover that ass with a vendor who knows their way around the requisite software.
I’m lucky. I’ve hooked up with a bit of a wizard, one who could, for a modest fee, reprogram the space shuttle on short notice. And she’s only 25 bucks an hour.
Such a secret weapon is the best investment in the blogging universe.
If it’s your writing you need shored up, chances are you’ll have to spend more than $25 an hour to get a proven pro, unless you outsource to a third world country via Elance or some other sweat-shop level of intermediary, which are out there in spades.
Good luck with that, by the way. In writing, you absolutely get what you pay for. On the technical side, that’s not as true — for $25 an hour I have a consultant who knows everything I don’t, and then some. Which, rather than saying something lame about me, actually says something pretty amazing about her.
Getting Out of Your Own Way
One difference between the two camps – professional level writers and people who are at home with HTML – is that one often takes the other for granted.
Writers who are technically challenged realize they are dead meat without a propeller head in their camp.
Tech geeks, however, too often think they can write well enough to brand them in the bloggosphere, or that writing isn’t that hard or even necessary beyond a fifth grade reading level. It’s the great and eternal trap of engineering-think, one that I remember well from those ad agency days — if you build it they will come is no truer in blogging than it is in advertising. And if your client was, in fact, an engineer, you were in for a fight.
For some types of blogs that may be valid. But if you want a massive influx of readers, you need to give them something read that transcends codes and plug-ins.
Because always, a blog’s essence is delivered through its words, as well as its content.
It’s just like dating, you may be a cool person with deep emotional substance, great personal integrity and a significant trust fund, but if your personal hygiene suggests Mickey Rourke after a week-long camping trip in an equatorial climate, good luck getting beyond eHarmony.com.
Sometimes the difference between loneliness and stardom is a good tailor, a competent barber and a gym membership. Toothpaste, too.
With blogs, it’s not just about content, and it’s not just about writing.
You need home runs in both core competencies. And unlike that little dating analogy, the good news is that you can – and should – go out and buy whatever it is you lack.
And if that particular and analogy floats your boat… to paraphrase Moliere, think about this: blogging is like prostitution. First you do it for love. Then you do it for a few friends. And finally, you do it for the money.
Hopefully, you’ll never completely lose the love. With a secret weapon in your pocket – no analogous pun intended there, I swear – you have a good shot at having both.