Recommendations for managing your product copy
Team + Process = Results
You there! The one up to your eyeballs in product copy. We here at Talkoot feel your pain. Before Talkoot, we were copywriters, editors, proofers, and project managers who created product stories for the world’s most loved brands.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t just magically happen. High-quality content takes a dedicated team with a strong, shared understanding of the process. Here are some of our best practices we’ve developed through years of trial and error.
Keep everyone on the same page
Clear and consistent communication guardrails will help keep your team in sync and avoid wasted time. A brand Style Guide is a document that everyone can refer to when they have questions. If you use Talkoot, you’ll be able to load all this info into a handy-dandy feature called BrandCenter™, which prompts suggestions as you work to make sure you’re on brand.
1. Create a style guide that includes:
- The goal of your product copy and how it relates to your customer’s journey.
- Your brand’s tone of voice and differences within product categories (men’s, women’s, kids, etc.).
- DO’s and DON’Ts. For example: “DO keep the character count within a specific range. DON’T use industry jargon that consumers may not understand.”
- SEO requirements.
- Legal requirements, including brand marks and words or claims to avoid.
- Guide to grammar, punctuation and spelling rules.
- Banned words or phrases. These are can be banned for legal reasons, because they do not align with your voice guidelines, or just because your CMO can’t stand them.
- Translation requirements, if applicable.
2. Build a word list or glossary for your brand language and terminology.
Create a guide that includes all the special terms you use, including anything that diers from the standard grammar and spelling guides you follow. This will likely include a mix of industry terms, technologies, and words unique to your brand. If you can, include descriptions of these terms for any newbies, plus approved language if you have it.
3. Standardize your product details (aka bullets).
Create a document to show the kind of information you include in bullets for each product category, as well as the specific language you use to describe common features, technologies, fabrication or materials, and country of origin. If requirements change by category or channel, include those distinctions.
In addition to standardizing bullet content, you’ll want to standardize bullet placement. For example: “Bullet one describes the most important technology associated with the product. Bullet two describes the product’s material construction. Bullet three describes the product’s country of origin.”
Build a team
In between the initial data dump and consumer-ready product (complete, accurate, on-brand product copy), there are many steps. If you’re a small company, you probably have one person doing it all, but as you grow you should consider splitting these roles out. (Note: if you sign up with Talkoot, we can help you figure out these roles and how they will work in Talkoot.) Whether you have a team of 1 or 50, we recommend the following.
1. Include multiple roles/stages for ultimate accuracy and efficiency:
a. Project Management. This role is responsible for managing the actual production of copy. This person makes sure that the content team has everything they need to do their job, doles out assignments, and ensures the copy meets brand standards and is delivered on time and on budget. Normally we recommend that these be in-house team members as they need to understand your whole process and work closely with your brand and product teams.
b. Keyword/SEO Research. This role is often outsourced to agencies or ecomm teams. Whoever it is, they should provide tailored keywords for each product or category type, along with additional recommendations for usage. These should be passed along to the writer(s) to ensure product copy gets optimized.
c. Writing. The people who carefully craft the main copy block and corresponding product details. Ideally, they have some firsthand experience in the subject matter (i.e. if they are writing about snowboarding products, they actually like to snowboard).
d. Editing. The quality control stage. Here is where you verify that copy is on-brand, accurate, translatable and legal.
e. Proofing. The editor’s back-up, this eagle-eyed final player spots any brand terms, product names, copy descriptions and SEO terms that are incorrect, out of place or missing.
f. Approvals. Whoever is closest to the product copy, whether that’s a Product Line Manager, Merchandiser, or Designer, should be reviewing all copy before it goes live. Your legal team should also review any copy that includes technical language or branded (aka non-descriptive) names to ensure you don’t fall into any legal hot water. Getting a final stamp of approval will help you lower return rates and keep your customers happy – a win-win!
2. Set guardrails in place for new team members.
Due to the cyclical nature of product launches, many teams will need to use contractors to staff up during peak seasons. As long as you have the guardrails in place to get them the same information that a seasoned staff writer would have, you can rest assured that they will be able to write on-brand, accurate copy with the rest of the team. Talkoot has several tools to make it easier to onboard new writers, from version reports to Carryovers to BrandCenter™.
Good workflow means assignments are flowing smoothly from role to role, without bottlenecking, thumb-twiddling or harried last-minute sprints to the finish line. Here’s how to smooth things out:
1. Write all copy types simultaneously.
If you can write your catalog, wholesale, eCom, and/or Amazon copy all at once, do so. It saves a ton of time to run through the workflow once rather than two or three times. Pro tip: If writing concurrently isn’t possible, Talkoot has a feature that makes repurposing existing copy easy.
2. Create channel-specific copy for online retailers.
The consumers buying products from your site are likely not the same ones buying your products from Amazon, Target, or Walmart (to name a few). Your copy should reflect that. Having dierent copy for each channel also boosts your search results. We generally recommend writing copy for online retailers after your catalog or eCom copy is complete, since it’s normally a smaller list that’s determined later in the process. You can use your existing copy as a base and tweak it as needed for the retailer.
Get your Product Managers, Designers or Merchants to review whichever copy comes first to make sure the product details are correct (it saves angst when they see the copy in the catalog or on the site and say “Whaaat? That’s wrong!”).
Note: These approvers shouldn’t weigh in on voice or language, because that can send your copy consistency out the window. Just the facts, ma’am!
4. Review copy early.
Have your less experienced writers send five examples of their product copy to the Editor for review and feedback. This gives you a chance to correct issues and train team members early on, before they’ve written 400 styles you’ll then need to correct.
5. Insist on rewrites when needed.
Editors, don’t get into the habit of rewriting lackluster copy yourself, because your writers will never get the chance to learn how they are missing the mark. Little tweaks here and there are fine, but when you find yourself reworking a whole paragraph, it needs to go back to the writer for a rewrite (with sucient feedback, of course).
This is just a quick look at some of our best practices. When you work with Talkoot, you’re connected to a team that understands the ins and outs of product copy production and has your back when you need a little help!
Built by content creators for content creators
As a former content agency that helped world class consumer brands produce thousands of product page stories every season, we struggled beneath our own manual, spreadsheet-based process. It was slow, inecient and a bad experience for everyone.
We searched everywhere for software that could solve our problems but never found it. So our team hacked together our own process using lots of different tools — none of which were designed for what we were using it for.
Finally, after laboring beneath this broken process for a few years, we decided to build an end-to-end platform specifically tailored to solve the everyday challenges of creating, tracking and distributing accurate, consistent, shopper-friendly product content.
Launched in 2016, Talkoot is the result of deep research, hundreds of interviews and collaboration with content teams across leading consumer brands. We packaged all of the best ideas into a single, cloud-based system, purpose-built to ease pain and boost productivity throughout the entire product content production and approval process.