Better Briefing Brings Better Writing

When you hire a copywriter, no matter what the purpose is, you need to be able to transmit the ideas and goals in your head (or ideally your marketing plan) to your chosen copywriter. A well written brief is like a map that enables the copywriter to reach the destination that you both want to reach. Without a map it is unlikely that the destination will be reached.

I use the term ‘copywriter’ as opposed to ‘writer’ because, in my opinion, all writing created for marketing purposes is copywriting, designed to profitably further the goals of the business. A copywriter is always aware of this requirement a ‘writer’ usually does not have this awareness or the ability to, consistently, write profitably.

To pass your instructions on to your chosen copywriter it is best to use a standardised form that makes clear the specifications of the work to be carried out. This saves time for both the copywriter and the client and results in higher quality work.
Here is a template that can be used for briefing for all types of commercial writing.

A Copywriting Briefing Template

Title. The name of the project or document. Make it clear to the copywriter if a title given is a guide or is fixed.

Client Details. The contact information of the person commissioning the work and (if different) the contact info for the ongoing contact and for the person who will sign of the work as completed.

Objectives. What do you want the client to do after reading the piece? Make sure that the objectives are realistic and do not conflict with each other.

Length. How many words should the copywriter produce? Copywriters often do not think of this, but word count is usually the basis upon which work is priced and is a measure of progress toward completion of the job.

Target Audience. Who is the piece aimed at? The more detail that you can provide about this the better the job that the copywriter can do. It is best to describe the target reader with a description of who they are, what they do, what they read, what are their concerns and what are their priorities. When creating an avatar of this type I usually give the person a name. It helps the client and the copywriter to picture the person to whom they are writing.

Controlled vocabulary. This is about jargon and knowledge level. What words can be assumed to be common knowledge among the desired audience? What words should be explained? Does your business use, in written materials, certain words in preference to other words with similar meaning?

In creating this part of the brief, think about words and phrases that may be common currency on the client side but mean nothing to the reader – jargon words.

Style, British English or American English? Define clearly the type of document required. Press releases, case studies, press releases and, particularly, white papers mean different things to different people. Make clear your exact requirements for the document, don’t assume that the copywriter’s understanding of the terms is the same as yours! Share with the copywriter examples of the type of document you want.

For example, “The article must read like an article in Maxim or Men’s Health”. Does your business have requirements such as compliance with a company style guide, do you have specific trademarks or brand names that must be used, do you require a particular tone of voice (serious, humorous, neutral, first person)?

Is the language to be British or American English? This affects the spelling of some words, their usage and, in some instances matters such as punctuation or grammar.

Synopsis. A paragraph or bullet point summary of the desired piece that lays out the major points and running order. If you want to have close control over the information in the piece and its structure you could provide paragraph headings to guide the copywriter.

Document format. Should the final work be delivered in a particular format, for example, Microsoft Word or HTML? Do you require images to be provided with the piece? Should the document include footnotes and sourcing? Because the writing style for online and print documents tends to be quite different it is important to make sure that the copywriter knows the proposed media.

Third party approvals. Will the piece need to be approved by other parties, or will there be additional sources of content for the piece? In this context consider marcomms and PR agencies with whom you are working.

Client resources. What resources will you provide to make the work happen? Will you be providing subject matter experts, access to spokespeople, product samples, relevant reports, interviewees?

When you are providing access to other people make sure that those people are aware and on board with the process!

Rights, schedule, and fees. Which media will be used, and which geographic territories targeted? Is copyright to be assigned to you, the client, or licensed? Whose name will appear as the author of the work? What is the production schedule and the final deadline? What fees are to be paid and the structure of payments. How will approvals be granted. Can the document be used in the copywriter’s own marketing or are all rights reserved? Is there a confidentiality agreement?

The Small print. Client’s standard terms and conditions, where applicable – not needed when working through an intermediary marketplace but always when working direct with a copywriter.

If you like the idea of working with a professional copywriter who helps his clients to get the best results for their budget then contact me so we can discuss your next project: Contact Andrew Wilson