If you’re a small business owner and you’ve approached a copywriter to write clear, conversational copy for your business, one of the first things they will do is ask for your brief.
What is a brief?
It all sounds terribly formal, but in truth your brief is a set of clear instructions about what you want your copywriter to write for you. It’s important but not something to be afraid of.
In an ideal world, you’ll already be very clear about what you want.
But this is real life and most copywriters will be prepared for the fact that you may not be 100% sure what you want at the beginning of a project.
If this is the case, your copywriter will probably already have a brief questionnaire template for you to complete.
This will be a form, probably in a Word document or similar, that asks all the relevant questions.
Alternatively, they may prefer to interview you over the phone, or in person, to get to the bottom of what you need.
Why is the briefing stage so important?
I can’t stress enough how important the briefing stage is.
Understandably you may feel that you’re too busy and just want the copywriter to get on with the writing.
You may even feel a bit aggrieved that so much is expected from you when you’re paying them to write. But without a good brief, your copywriter is unlikely to deliver what you want.
You might be surprised to hear that the actual writing stage is only a small part of a copywriting project.
They will carry out loads of research and planning before they start writing.
The more information you provide, the more successful this research and planning phase will be.
Some copywriters will share their plan with you before writing (or once they’ve written a short section) so you can see if their interpretation of your brief works for you.
At that stage, if you’re not happy with the writing style or direction the copy is taking, you have an opportunity to speak up at an early stage.
But I don’t know how to brief a copywriter!
Don’t worry. Your copywriter will know all the right questions to ask (and if they don’t ask questions, don’t hire them).
If they ask you lots of questions, think of this as a good thing. It means they’re taking the time to understand your business and client-base, so they can write something that works.
Here’s a list of things they are likely to ask you, so you can be prepared:
- Nature of your business
- Number of employees (if any)
- The story behind your business (your why)
- Information about your product/service (what are you selling?)
- Your target audience (who are you writing for?)
- Your USP and why customers should choose you over your competitors (what’s special about you?)
- Benefits of your product/service (what’s in it for the customer – this is a crucial element and your copywriter will be able to help you with this)
- Your desired tone of voice (friendly, formal, casual etc)
- Keywords you want included in the content (for SEO)
- Word count
- Your call to action (what do you want to happen next, ie email, call, form etc)
If your copywriter does ask you to complete a brief questionnaire, be prepared for them to ask even more questions once they’ve received it.
Think of this as a good thing – it means your copywriter has engaged with your project and cares about doing a good job for your business.
And so they should – that’s what you’re paying them for.
I didn’t realise there was so much to briefing a copywriter! I thought they’d just get on with it
It does seem like a lot of work. And that’s because it is. Forget the notion that anyone can write – a professional copywriter will do everything they can to understand your business first.
Think of your copywriter as a new business friend – not just someone who can string a few sentences together.
If you engage fully with the process yourself, you’ll get a better service from them, and content that gets you results.
Until next time.
I do hope you found this blog useful. I’d love to know if you feel more confident and knowledgeable about the process of briefing a copywriter? Do you like the idea of someone writing for your business? Or would you prefer to do it yourself?
Feel free to drop me a line – I welcome constructive feedback. Here’s a link to my contacts page.
About me: I’m Alison, a Freelance Copywriter living and working in Milton Keynes. The experiences of raising a child with autism and losing a parent to dementia remind me to value the power of words and communication every day. I believe in writing clear, conversational copy that people can relate to.
Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to work with me.