I came across a very interesting poll on the ProZ translators’ site recently. The question was “What are the words that you dread hearing most when a client rings?” “Urgent”, topped the list. But you might like to know that other words such as “easy”, “straightforward” and “short” also set their alarm bells ringing. How come?

From an account executive’s point of view, what could be so scary about a short or easy job? The answer is obvious: they are often neither. One of the examples given on the site came specifically from copywriting: a four-word baseline. Shouldn’t take too much time, should it? How about the three weeks it took to come up with the original version? I’ve seen this sort of thing myself: the little ad that has a little slogan tucked away under the logo. Would I mind quickly doing a “translation”? OK, what was the original briefing? “Um, we can’t find it. But can you give us a few suggestions for tomorrow?”

Deadlines are deadlines, of course. But when the deadline is for a trade fair that was booked three years in advance, I can’t help asking myself who has been busy on Facebook instead of preparing the ads for the fair.

Urgency and agency

“Urgency” and “agency” are words that are scarily close to each other. A recent example: a short job of a couple of lines that ended up being done in six versions. Oh, and the urgency stops once the order form has to be drawn up and in this case, payment was specified as, “90 days end of month” so we’re supposed to wait 4 months to be paid. Once bitten, twice shy. The trouble is that advertising agencies have not yet realised that it’s a much bigger world out there these days. Some direct clients pay within ten days. So let me think, should I spend my energy on a job that will pay me within a few weeks or a few months?

Should I spend my energy on a job that will pay me within a few weeks or a few months?

So how can account executives take the fright out of writing? Mostly by being prepared: being prepared to know as much about the product as their own client, knowing that the copywriter is probably busy already, knowing that they might be willing to spend an extra hour for you but that making them chase information is a sure way of killing their enthusiasm stone dead, being prepared to pay for what you are asking for and lastly being capable of motivating the guy or gal. It’s a great product or service you are trying to sell, right? Then sell it to the writer first. If he can “see” it after your phone call, he might indeed be able to fit in some time for your short but urgent job.