How to stop aggravating your suppliers….

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Do you know how to manage your communications suppliers? Here’s some advice that will get them working FOR you rather than against you….

As someone who works in communications, I end up managing a host of suppliers. Maybe you do, too. Writers, copy editors, proofreaders, graphic artists, web designers and printers are just some of the team members who might be contributing to your projects. And to your success or failure.

Here are five things you might be doing that irritate them mightily.

1) Not giving them enough time. I’m a very fast writer. In an emergency, I can turn around a 500 word story (including the interview time) in less than an hour. But I don’t expect other people to do that. Nor should you. If you give your writers and other suppliers more time, you’ll get a better product. Remember the phrase: “Your poor planning isn’t my emergency.” (Frustrated admin assistants often have this as a sign above their desks.) Here’s an idea: Instead of just dumping something on someone’s desk ask them how long it will take them to do the job. Then give them that amount of time.

2) Failing to provide enough direction. I’ve noticed that many people will be vague about the outcome they’re seeking, until they receive it. Then they know exactly what they don’t want. It’s like the old definition of an editor: “Someone who doesn’t know what he wants until he sees it.” When you give a job, be very specific about issues like word count, who should be interviewed, the feeling you want a product to evoke, the type of audience who will be reading your website. On the other hand…

3) Giving too much direction can be just as damaging. If your company believes in micromanaging every product it produces then you’re never going to get anything creative from a writer or a graphic artist. You’ll get something “cookie cutter,” something predictable, something safe. Is that what you really want? You’re paying for expertise so let your expert deliver it.

4) Not being clear about deadlines. To me, a deadline is something sacred. I never miss one. But if I don’t know the deadline, how can I be held accountable? I often work with writers who tell me their boss hasn’t been clear about deadlines. This strikes me as incredible but, apparently, it happens. Don’t be daft. Put all your deadlines in writing. In fact, make a point of checking in with the supplier about a week before the due date just to make sure everything is tickety-boo.

5) Not giving enough respect. Many writers I know have received offensive notes on stories questioning why certain interview subject said certain specific things. Why? Because the client gave the writer the the wrong person to interview or didn’t fully brief the writer on what was needed. As well,  I’ve heard companies argue over colours with graphic artists (not branding colours, which of course need to be debated) but say spot colours for brochures. This always makes me wonder why they bothered to hire a graphic artist in the first place. Let the experts do their jobs.

Yes, things go wrong all the time. But that’s life. Don’t beat up the messenger. Communicate clearly with your suppliers and they’ll respect you. You’ll get better work out of them, too.

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