The Pippin A-Z of Copywriting: Brief

in Top copywriting tips

When you work with a copywriter, they’ll need a brief that covers everything they need to know about the project you’ve asked them to work on. Even if you’re writing copy yourself rather than working with a copywriter, it’s a good idea to pull together a brief to help guide your thinking as you get to work. It’s a good discipline that will give you focus and save you time in the long run.

So what does a brief need to contain? Here are the essentials…

The format

What do you need writing? Leaflet, article, website, blog? If there are size constraints or word limits, share these too (it’s a four page A4 leaflet or a 750 word article, for example).

The deadline

Does this need to be written for tomorrow or is the deadline in a couple of weeks? (A word to the wise: “a couple of weeks” [or more] is better than “tomorrow”. Your copywriter won’t thank you if you always need things in a rush – and you’ll get a better result when they’ve had time to get a proper grasp of what’s required.)

The target market

Who is the leaflet / article / website / blog aimed at? Be as specific as you can. “People in the public sector” is good. “People in the communications department of county councils who tend to be female, 30+ and concerned with finding enough hours in the day” is better. (See Audience.)

Your copywriter needs to know this so they can use an appropriate tone of voice. (If you’ve got examples of things written for the same or similar target audience, it’s a good idea to share these too.)

The aim(s)

What do you need the leaflet / article / website / blog to achieve? Raise awareness? Inform? Entertain? Celebrate? Manage expectations? Highlight an achievement?

And what do you want people to do after reading it? Call? Download something? Buy something?

Your copywriter needs to know all this so they know the approach to take.

The facts

You can divide the facts into two areas:

The background

What does your business or organisation do? How big is it? Who are its customers?

The foreground

What information do you need to get across in this specific piece?

Include background information, even if you think it’s not directly relevant. The better the understanding your copywriter has of your business and what it offers, the better the result they’ll give.

The competitors

Who are your competitors? What are their web addresses? What are their strengths and weaknesses? This will help your copywriter to understand your market and your place in it better.

How do you share this information?

However you feel comfortable doing it. If it’s easiest to chat things over while your copywriter makes notes, then do that. If you want to put together a formal written brief, then do that instead. Copywriters are great listeners and love reading, so however you want to do it is fine. And if you’re writing it yourself you can create a briefing document for yourself or simply mull it over for a few minutes. The most important thing is that you do do it!

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