How to work with a scientific writer

Get more out of your science copywriter

Scientific writers – and scientific writing agencies like 42group – are experts at creating content that captures the core of your research, innovation, service or solution and communicating it. The quality of the content you receive is directly related to the input that you have. Too many individuals and organisations have unrealistic expectations, set unreachable targets and 

42group is one of the UK’s leading scientific writing agencies, working with a client base of global leaders, exciting start-ups and amazing academic institutions. We’ve created this guide to help you get the most out of your client relationships. If you want to know how to work with a scientific writer, then let’s begin…

7 steps to better scientific content

We tried to keep this to 5 (as everyone loves 5 steps) but we couldn’t, so there are 7 steps to better scientific content. We’re going to go through each in order and show how they combine to help you work together to create great content:

  1. Create a brief
  2. Define your audience
  3. Be clear about your goals
  4. Establish a tone-of-voice
  5. Test and learn
  6. Give them the freedom to be creative
  7. Ensure you stay in touch (and in control)

It seems like we’re putting a lot of pressure on you as the project owner here, but we’re not. Any scientific writer or agency will work through these steps with you. The best projects involve multiple partners and stakeholders working together to deliver a solution.

Step #1 – Create a brief

Every content project (good and bad) should begin with a detailed, comprehensive and well-considered brief. The brief will set out the content you want to create, define the parameters, provide basic audience information, set timelines and establish KPIs. It will also include details of the budget, resources required and your in-house team. If you’re creating online content you’ll want to include the SEO keywords (or request the agency create them for you). 

The brief should be written by the project lead but should be reviewed and agreed upon by all stakeholders. 

Never rush this step. The better the brief, the better the content. 

We don’t have the space here to provide a step-by-step guide on how to write a content marketing brief, but that’s because we’ve already done it.

You can learn more in our guide on how to write a content marketing brief. You can also access a free template created by the 42group team which you can download and use. 

Step #2 – Define your audience

Your content marketing brief will provide some information into your audience, but the deeper you dive the better the content you create. 

Let’s say you want to communicate with “the general public”.

Firstly, the public isn’t general – we’re all rich, complex and savvy consumers of content with our own channel preferences and priorities. When faced with the dreaded ‘general public’ we’ll push further to define this more clearly. 

  • What demographic(s) are we targeting?
  • What level of scientific awareness and literacy?
  • Where will they be reading the content?
  • How will they find the content?
  • What do they want to achieve by accessing the content?

We quickly move from a basic understanding to a more sophisticated one simply by answering these questions. 

This same approach can be applied to any of your core audiences, including:

  • Funders
  • Researchers
  • Educators
  • Students
  • Academic partners

The ultimate aim is to have a picture (or in marketing speak, a persona) that you can use to define each audience. These are crude and reductive, but they can help writers in ensuring the content they create is focused on the reader, answers their questions and establishes your authority.

Step #3 – Be clear about your goals

So, you want a new website and need a copywriter. Your aim is to get the content written, but that’s not your goal. The goal (or goals) are to raise your visibility, establish your organisation as an authority, creating a simple, clear and unique proposition that appeals to all audiences and secure a position at the top (or as close as possible) in search engines.

Marketing teams will have goals that relate to the communication elements of the programme, but include the goals of all stakeholders. Budget holders, for example, may have timeless and financial constraints that your scientific writers should operate within.

A good way to split goals is into two elements:

  1. Project goals – timelines, budget, deliverables, quality
  2. Performance – Impact and reach

When commissioning a scientific writer you should ensure they understand both the project goals and the performance goals. You can – and should – define these in the brief where possible, but we know that projects can change and develop, so make project and performance goals a part of your ongoing review process.

We’ve written before about how to define content marketing KPIs – and how that can drive success – before.

Step #4 – Establish a tone-of-voice

We’ve spent a lot of time establishing the project dynamics, but we’re now getting into the creative (and exciting!) bit. Your organisation will have an established way of communicating with your audiences that you are comfortable with. Hopefully, you’ll have a set of tone-of-voice guidelines that you can share with your scientific writer to provide the parameters in which they can get creative. 

Don’t have any tone-of-voice guidelines? Don’t worry. What you can do (and can often be just as effective) is to select several pieces of content that exemplify what great content is like for you – and your audiences. This could be content that you have created, your competitors or even organisations in other sectors or specialities. 

Scientific copywriters need clarity on specific things, like whether you use UK or US English, how you want to reference content, and whether you like or dislike the Oxford comma. (There are more things to consider, but you’re the experts here, not us.)

The clearer you can be with the tone of voice guidelines, the better the content will be – and the fewer changes and amends you’ll need to make.

Step #5 – Test and learn

Too many copywriters are given a basic brief and expected to deliver large amounts of content to tight deadlines. That’s fine if the expectations are clear, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll get it the right first time. This is why we always recommend taking a test-and-learn approach. 

So, how does this work?

Let’s say you approach 42group to write your new website for a scientific research organisation (something we’ve done before, obviously). We would build the project plan, identify the core pages and then provide several writing samples/drafts for key pages that illustrate potential copy routes. 

When we write for charities, for example, we often provide conversational and corporate copy routes. Working through the examples together, we get a clear idea of how they want to communicate. These pieces of content become exemplars, essentially acting as project tone-of-voice guidelines. 

This test-and-learn process works for all copywriting and content projects, from website content creation to social posts, reports, fundraising packs, bids and more.

One of the benefits of this phased approach is reassurance for both sides that the project is moving forward, expectations are clear and content will be created in a style and tone of voice that will create human connections. 

Step #6 – Give science writers the freedom to be creative

Scientific writers and science copywriters want the freedom to get creative. While you can create the brief, define the audience and establish the tone of voice, you should trust your writer and give them the freedom to be creative. 

Science writers – particularly those who work with both commercial and academic organisations – have highly developed skills and can bring a unique and highly valuable perspective that can benefit you, your organisation and your project. 

It’s tempting to continually check, edit and change content (especially if you’re working on a shared document), but don’t. Give your scientific writer the time, freedom and trust to do their work. 

Step #7 – But ensure you stay in touch (and in control)

This may seem to contradict the point above, but it’s not (as long as you keep reading). Staying in touch with your copywriter through regular structured and scheduled meetings as well as ad-hoc communication ensures your project remains a priority and on track for delivery deadlines.

At 42group, we schedule weekly catch-ups with our project owners. We also work 100% transparently, with open-access documents including project plans and content sheets accessible by all partners. This ensures our clients stay in touch and in control of their projects. 

Does your scientific writing agency do this? If not, it could be time to change…

Work better with your scientific writer

We hope you’ve enjoyed this rapid run-through of how to work more effectively with a science writer. Commissioning a writer is just the start, you’ll need to work closely with them – while also giving them the freedom to be creative – through the project. The information, advice and guidance here are based on over 20 years’ of experience working with and writing for some of the world’s leading research organisations, academic institutions, businesses and brands.

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If you’re searching for a skilled scientific writer for a project, then get in touch today. Our team will respond within 1-hour.

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