We’re often asked to write some pretty complicated multi-source articles for our clients. Despite my short-form writing crown, I enjoy having the opportunity to stretch a little and dig into a topic. And I’m blessed with colleagues who are great researchers, which always helps!

Every writer needs a CPA

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But before any of that happens, I deploy a tool that helps ensure the client and I are singing from the same choir book. I’ve mentioned the Content-Purpose-Audience (CPA) Strategy™ here before (A Matter of Opinion). It’s our workhorse strategy because it not only serves as a great tool for writing, but it’s super serviceable as a project management tool.

Too often, folks want copy for a brochure, web site or article, but they have trouble focusing on what they need to say and what they need the reader to think or do. That makes it almost impossible for me, as the writer, to meet the client’s needs. So years ago, I created a set of questions that would help me guide clients to a clearer vision of the project. From their answers, I’d craft a brief that we could all say grace over before the real work started. Sure, it took a little time, but it saved so much more later in the process. We had fewer revisions and faster reviews. And the end-product was a much more effective piece of text. Talk about a win-win.

Over the years, I narrowed down the questions, and today I use the CPA with any new client, and all clients ordering complex projects. It’s the single best way I know to prevent message and project creep.

How it works

Here’s an example we used on a project for the N.C. Museum of Life & Science in Durham: Investigate Health. It took only two passes to agree on the final plan using the CPA, and only one round of revisions on the article copy to reach the final version.

And guess what? It works great as an outline for a new release, an entire project, a PSA or ad, a brochure or a newsletter, too.

Get your own

Here's an annotated template if you want to try it yourself. And if you'd like to learn more about how to use the CPA for better writing and/or better project management, drop me a line: margot@thewordfactory.com.