importance of a copywriting brief


Every business needs content. That’s a given.

Whether it’s for your website, brochures, newsletters, emails or case studies, the voice and words you use will have a huge impact on your brand image and bottom line.

For most companies, finding the right voice and approach is quite easy. You know your customers well, you know what they like and you know that a conversational, friendly approach will work.

But what happens when you run a large corporation?

Nine times out of ten, again it’s a simple process. You already have an established brand and your content simply has to follow the guidelines you have in place.

So what happens when you run a new company, or have two or three businesses coming together to create a single entity?

Well, that’s where the fun and games can start.

Too many chiefs will ruin your copy

Let’s look at a scenario in the latter category – two or three businesses coming together to create a single entity.

The first problem is you’ll have two or three very different personalities to deal with. Then each section will probably have a very different customer base. They may each deal with very disparate customers and are used to producing marketing materials that satisfy each category.

You have a problem: how can you satisfy everyone?

The answer is you can’t.

The only way you can proceed is by someone (probably the new CEO) to make a stand and agree a tone of voice for the whole group.

You might think it easier to get each section head involved so they get ownership of their own material. The problem with that is you will get several different approaches creating a cacophony of styles that will confuse the reader and make the company a laughing stock.

It might seem harsh, but in this case it’s down to the CEO to make a decision and then sell it to his or her section heads.

If that doesn’t happen, your copywriter won’t know which way to turn and will end up drafting and redrafting copy until the cows come home – frustrating them, you and the whole company. Oh, and it will also end up costing you dearly.

The buck stops here

If you think that sounds a bit far fetched, you’d be wrong.

I am currently working on a long-term project that has this exact problem.

I am working with a Marketing Consultant trying to create a new suite of marketing collateral for a company that’s merging four businesses into one. He briefed me on the tone and approach that was to be used and I fulfilled that brief to the letter. He was thrilled.

The problem was, when it was shown to the company, the CEO decided he wanted a different approach. The section heads where then brought into the equation and they all want different approach, a different voice and a different structure to their copy.

As a result we’ve now come to a standstill until a way forward can be agreed.

Pinning down a brief

The above example highlights why it’s so important to pin down a cast iron brief before your project starts.

Usually, if I am the sole marketer/writer on a job, I will not start until there is an agreement on the direction of the content, the structure of the piece of work and the tone of voice.

At least that way the initial draft that is produced should be 99% of the way there.

It may seem a waste of time at the start, but getting a solid brief in place before work begins will reduce time to completion and your costs.

Your copywriter will probably be working to a fixed fee, but every change you make to your initial brief will attract an additional fee. If they are charging by the day, your costs will continue to mount until you come to an agreement.

That’s why spending a day or two agreeing the brief and gathering the information your copywriter needs is so important.

I have no idea how the project I’m working on is going to pan out – it’s now back with the Marketing Consultant to find a way ahead.

The moral of this story:

  • Take your time over the brief and make sure you get buy-in from everyone involved
  • Make sure you gather all relevant information required by your copywriter
  • Stand by your decision and don’t backtrack