It’s easy money for a writer to give a client what he wants. It is much harder to disagree with a client for his own good. Yet, the value of a writer, or any consultant for that matter, lies largely in their objectivity. A writer stands outside your organization, its internal politics, and its perceptions of itself. A good marketing writer sees you the way your consumers see you. A good brand creator (which I am) sees the best way to position yourself in the market based upon the reality of what you do as a company. Subjective Surveys Are Notoriously Unreliable For A Reason.
Economists and social scientists doubt the validity of subject answers to survey questions. Bertrand and Mullainathan (The American Economic Review, 2001) summarized the research on the meaningfulness of subjective data. Simple manipulations in how questions are presented will impact how those questions are answered. People will naturally attempt to be consistent with their previous answers, whether they believe it or not. They will also make answers conform to what they think is expected of them. In other words, people are dishonest because they want to fit into the social order.
People Are Unable To Perceive Themselves Accurately
Johns and Robins (Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, 1994) found that workers were far more accurate in their assessment of team members than they were of themselves. Similar results were found by Berger in her 2001 thesis paper (University of Virginia) on adolescent self-perceptions. Adolescents’ perceptions of themselves were very different from how their classmates saw them. Similar results have been found in a wide range of investigation into self-perception.
Self-Confident Leaders Are Most Likely To Have Inaccurate Self-Perceptions
Data collected by Barron Stark Companies on hundreds of business leaders revealed that chief executives who saw themselves as supermen were considered barely adequate by those who worked under them. These leaders cut themselves off from feedback and work in a “top down” manner to force their vision upon others.
The implications are obvious, because self-confidence and a strongly held vision are the cornerstone of the modern startup, or any business. But these traits can bleed into stifling narcissism.
While 1% to 5% of the general population is narcissistic, the number of narcissists at the top echelon of business is estimated to be as high as 70%. On the positive side, narcissists tend to have a very strong vision for a company and to clearly articulate it. They are full of creative energy, glib charisma, and persuasive ability.
On the negative side, these leaders are stuck in the bubble of their own egos, cut off from reality. Their refusal to allow disagreement into their cognitive spheres also shuts out the realities of the marketplace and the actions needed to make a good idea reach its potential.
If You Expect A Writer To Agree With You, You Deserve What You Get
I have worked for narcissists. They don’t want a better idea or even a good idea. They want their own ideas, period. I have learned that the trick to making these projects manageable is to listen to what the client says and regurgitate it, word-for-word. The client is happy and I’m miserable, but I get paid. End of story.
If You Expect Good Work, You Deserve Something Better
If a client sincerely wants the writer to do his job – to think through a project and come up with the right brand idea or the right spin – the client deserves more than good work. The client deserves great work, brilliant work, work that stays up all night sweating through the details.
If you are this kind of client and the writer doesn’t question you, doesn’t attempt to poke holes in your ideas, then you’re being cheated. Hacks know the easier, softer road is to give clients what they want because clients don’t realize they should expect something more.
A marketing writer may legitimately agree with everything you say and think. But, unless the writer is willing to disagree with you – and you are willing to deal with disagreement – the work will probably be disconnected from your real needs.