It’s tricky to get copy right the first time. OK, it’s almost impossible – but when you’re writing about a complex business with lots of stakeholders, getting group consensus on things like copy style or tone of voice becomes even more elusive. Copywriting like this feels like an endless succession of conflicting revisions and disheartening edits.

This problem isn’t exclusive to copywriting of course. Mention fluid requirements and ever-changing scope to any software engineer and I guarantee the conversation will steer rapidly in the direction of development methodologies and all the benefits they offer.

Copywriting, being art more than science, doesn’t have the same lineage of formal methodologies. You simply can’t accommodate inspiration and the turbulent emotional relationship a writer has with words into a formal set of processes. Yet that said, an interesting experiment to test that hypothesis has cropped with a new client who works in IT.

My client uses the Agile software development methodology to help them handle obstacles (similar to those I described earlier) when they build systems for large organisations. And as we begin their complex new copywriting project together, the familiar issues of changing scope and elusive group consensus have reared their ugly heads. So it’s an ideal opportunity to test if copywriting can gain anything from the principles of Agile development.

I won’t bore you with the mechanics of Agile (I would’ve ten years ago when I was a developer) but it might be useful to pick out a few of its biggest benefits to help explain why this is relevant:

  • Agile embraces change
  • Simplicity, collaboration and trust are highly valued
  • Delivery is in frequent, small stages

It’s like a microcosm of evolution with bytes rather than life, adapting to new circumstances in a process of continual improvement. If you’re a copywriter too, I imagine you’re already as intrigued as I am at the possibilities this opens up to almost any tricky project subject to the same inevitable change.

The plan with my client is to write short sections of copy (in this case web copy for a web site) and deliver it within a period we’ve agreed. I’ve been allocated the time and budget to do that and we’ve got a set of topics we need to cover in that copy (the requirements if you will).

In principle, frequent delivery and the autonomy every freelancer loves should work well. There’s enough time to allow for the nebulous elements of copywriting (like inspiration and emotions) too, and my client clearly already believes in the Agile process.

Let’s see how we get on.