When it comes to getting some compelling copy written for your website or marketing materials, you’ll often find that writing the brief takes longer than it would for you to just write the copy yourself.
But if you don’t take a little bit of time to brief your copywriter properly, they’ll send you back a string of words which might be easy to read, but probably won’t speak to your audience.
What comes next is endless too-ing and fro-ing and a lot of time wasted as you end up briefing your copywriter in reverse, after they’ve already spent hours (and you’ve already spent money) on their first attempt.
So if saving time, cash and a lot of aggravation appeals to you, just use this short guide to effectively brief your copywriter.
And to make life even easier, you can download the briefing template below so that you can simply fill it in and send it to your copywriter.
1 Introduce yourself
The first part of your brief should provide the following basic info:
- Your organisation’s name
- The date you are submitting the brief
- Your name and contact details
- Your (pre-agreed) deadline for receiving the first draft of copy
- Your final copy deadline
- If your writer is new to your organisation, it is helpful to write a few sentences to outline who you are, what you do and how you help your clients or service users.
2 Introduce the project
It will help your copywriter enormously if they understand what you’re expecting from them. So don’t forget to provide:
- A very brief description of the project that their copy will be a part of.
- In what format the copy will appear (e.g. copy for a printed four page flyer, an A5 postcard, an entire website, a PDF annual review etc.)
- What you want the piece of communication to achieve (e.g. inspire people to donate, to inform them about an issue, to become a new supporter etc.)
3 Introduce the audience
A good copywriter will want to provide copy that strikes a chord with your audience even more than they’ll want to strike a chord with you. And that’s exactly why you’re paying them! So, tell your writer:
Who do you want to talk to?
(e.g. mums in the UK aged between 30 and 50 who have children in school, run busy households and have very little spare time. Or young professionals with lots of disposable income who love to socialise with their friends). Provide as much RELEVANT detail as you can.
4 Introduce the content
Your job is to tell the copywriter what you want to say. Their job is to tell you how best to say it. So this part of the brief is crucial. Make sure you include:
- Your key messages
Keep these to a minimum – concise bullet points are often best so that you’re not tempted to waffle. But whatever you do, remember to provide specific detail – assume your writer knows nothing at all about the subject that you’re asking them to write about. And try not to copywrite the key messages yourself (which can be easier said than done).
For example, if you want your writer to provide copy for an event flyer, you might note the following as your key messages:
– The date: Friday 8th June
– The time: 10am – 5pm
– The venue: The Valley Community Hall
– The purpose: To bring the local community together to have a day of fun and improve community relations.
– The activities: John Jones MP will be speaking about how the community is working to improve the local area, there’ll be activities for all the family including football, face painting and music from local bands and lots of games for small children.
– Include the strapline ‘Working together for a better community’.
All too often, the brief just states: ‘Please provide, the date, time and information about the event.’
But without the specific details, how will the copywriter know what to write? You’ll end up with copy that has a lot of holes and that won’t be very engaging.
This is also the place to include any straplines or words and phrases that you specifically want the copywriter to use. If you already have draft text which you want edited by the copywriter, that can be even better. Simply include it here.
- Your call to action (CTA)
What is it that you want your audience to do after receiving or interacting with this piece of communication? Is it to buy tickets for an event? Is it to visit a website to get more information? Is it to make a text donation? Is it to sign up for email newsletters?
Whatever it is, state it clearly, giving the specific details of where the copywriter need to direct the audience.
- Ideal word counts and word limits.
It’s really important to give your copywriter a steer on how many words you’d like each section to include. If it’s an 800 word article, tell them so. If it’s a web page and each part of the page has a different amount of words that the design can accommodate, tell them how many words they’ve got to play with for each part.
- State the single most important point that the copy must communicate.
OK, now this is where a lot of brief writers get stuck. They want their postcard, website or flyer to communicate lots of messages so how do they pick the most important one?
However hard this may seem, it’s really important that you take a step back and think about this. If your audience were to remember one thing after reading your piece of communication, what would you want it to be?
Now write it down in a very short sentence (the chances are that if you use the word ‘and’ or insert a comma, you’re including more than one key message here!)
When you try to communicate lots of key messages, not only will your audience forget most of them – they’ll probably forget ALL of them. If you focus on getting one main point across, they’ll remember it and will be far more likely to take the action that you want them to take.
- State whether or not you want the copy to be written to accompany specific images.
If so, provide links to the images and state how you want the images and copy to marry up. It may be that you simply want 20 word captions to accompany each image, or you may want the copy to reference the imagery directly. Perhaps you simply want the copy and imagery to incorporate the same theme. Whatever the case, tell your copywriter here.
5 Introduce your tone of voice
Every organisation should have a tone of voice and it’s important that your copywriter gets a sense of yours so that they provide copy which sounds like it’s come from your brand. If they are editing copy that has already been drafted, they should work hard to give it your brand’s unique voice.
So tell your writer what you are and what you’re not.
For example: ‘Our style is warm and friendly but not over familiar’. Or, ‘we have a formal tone but we are not stuffy or unapproachable’. Or, ‘we like to inject humour in an irreverent way, but we’re never silly’.
6 Introduce your dos and don’ts
There’ll be some basic things in the way your organisation communicates which your copywriter will need to know, but probably won’t. So tell them here. For example:
We refer to ourselves in the singular, e.g. ‘Comic Relief is’ not Comic Relief are’.
We always talk about ‘we’ not ‘I’ e.g. ‘We would like to take this opportunity to thank you’, not ‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank you.’
You may only have a few of these rules, or you may have many, but the important thing is that you set out your house rules from the start (and there’ll be a lot less to edit later).
And viola. You now have a brilliant copywriting brief in the bag.