How to set a writer up for success

By Ben Peterson  |  July 8, 2019

I recently learned that a project I worked on—the Santa Clara University viewbook—won a big award, adding to some other big awards it earned last year.* Serving as the main writer for that project was one of the most satisfying engagements I had through Peterson Skolnick & Dodge before joining Written. Here’s why:

  1. The agency leading the work (Michael Patrick Partners) did some great research before engaging a writer. Their team asked a lot of smart questions and got smarter answers, which meant that I had excellent source material at the beginning of the writing process. I was given a clear picture of message hierarchy, audience preferences, and the viewbook’s role within the multilevel admissions enrollment campaign. In other words, they gave me a lot of the answers to the test.
  2. The University understood this was a high-stakes communication and was willing to invest the time and effort to give the writer and design team the right resources and information. When a client is engaged, motivated, and responsive, good things happen.
  3. The subject matter was compelling. Santa Clara University’s unique mix of Jesuit tradition, in the heart of one of the most innovative places in the world, stands out. It’s not hard for a writer to sell that. I just had to focus on the people and the place, and get out of the way of a good story.
  4. It looks cool. When you’re dealing with undergraduate admissions, cool matters. When I was receiving design proofs to review, I loved the visual approach. Look at these profile spreads:

In the end, I still had to do some research of my own, build a strong outline, interview the profile subjects, and write a cohesive story that would appeal to the right audiences. But because of how well I was set up to do those tasks from the start, my role as the writer was a lot easier.

Check out the whole award-winning viewbook here.

*Awards for the Santa Clara University viewbook include:

  • Circle of Excellence Grand Gold Award from CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education
  • Circle of Excellence Gold Award in the Viewbooks and Prospectuses category from CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education
  • Gold and Best of Category American Advertising Awards, formerly known as the ADDYs, presented by the American Advertising Federation