Getting it right: copywriting briefs
Briefs come in all shape and sizes.
No, I’ve no wish to discuss the relative merits of boxers from M & S or Y-fronts from Hugo Boss.
It’s copywriting briefs I’m talking about. The instructions we receive from clients before we start writing a piece of copy for them.
At ProseWorks we have a process, or a set of questions, that we ask clients to help them define exactly what they are after. This is important for a number of reasons.
Saving time and money
We want to get it right for clients. In order to do so, we have to know exactly what they want. Once we know this we can usually deliver copy which is just what they are after, saving the client money and saving us lots of stress and angst.
The role of the copy; the tone of voice; the length; the format; the key message; the call to action; the audience or readership; the deadline; and the sign-off process are just some of the questions we ask.
The answers are a mixed bag. “I don’t know….just make it read (effing) brilliant” was perhaps the shortest and most succinct response we’ve received.
Others are not so pithy. They take a more scientific approach by providing detailed market spiel analysing their customers and segmenting their target audiences.
Briefs are like pictures
Experience tells us that copywriting briefs are like pictures. Some are small; others are larger and more expansive. Some are incredibly detailed; others are just impressionistic. The key, though, is that the readers (i.e. us writers at ProseWorks) are given a clear direction about what is required.
We like to build up in our collective mind’s eye a character who we can write for, as if we are communicating with them person-to-person. We also need to know what’s the key point we want to press upon them, and what action we want them to take after reading our fine words.
There is no single way to prepare a brief. However if you cover the ten points outlined below you won’t be wide of the mark:
Audience – No, you are not asking your copywriter to pen a radio show… audience is a common term to describe who your copy is aimed at.
Message – This is the main point you want to get across. You may want to cover secondary messages as well, but make sure your copywriter knows what’s the most important message.
Call to action – What do you want your audiences to do once they have read your copy? Be as clear as possible.
Media – You need to describe where the words written will appear. Is it an offline publication such as a leaflet, brochure or report, or for online purposes? If so, describe exactly what it’s for.
Format – As much detail as possible. If you want brochure copy, what type of brochure will it be (A4, A5 etc), and how many pages? If it’s web copy, do you have a template or any idea about how the words will look online? Don’t worry if you don’t have precise answers to these questions, but the more detail you can provide here the better.
Tone of voice – This is another way of saying how do you want your copy to come across. Use as many adjectives as possible to describe the tone and feel you want to convey. For instance, should it be informal, friendly, authoritative, or reassuring?
Deadline – It’s the key question any copywriter wants to know. When’s the deadline?
Liaison – Outline who your copywriter should approach if he or she has any questions, and how comments and amendments will be dealt with. Giving your copywriter this information will assure them that you’ve thought things through.
Budget – If you have a finite budget then it’s best to state it. Most copywriters will be able to tailor their proposals to different budgets, but only if they know how much you are able to spend.
Payment – Not so much how much, but certainly how you will pay and when you pay are key questions any copywriter will want answering.
Alternatively, you can always brief ProseWorks. We help clients draw up clear and precise briefs, ensuring our copywriters always deliver exactly what’s needed.