The copywriting brief is the starting point for every content project.
As the client, this is your opportunity to spell out precisely what you’re looking for. As a copywriter, it’s your chance to challenge ideas, make suggestions and check understanding. That all sounds very straightforward, but sadly it rarely is.
The briefing process can make or break a project. It can be the difference between plain sailing and navigating your way through a hurricane. So, when you are providing your copywriter with a brief, make sure you cover everything – even things you think are obvious.
A six-year-old has to be able to understand it
This is a classic statement that can cause issues (by the way, the child can be any age). To the writer, it signals the fact that you want her to use clear,
unambiguous, simple language. There will be no technicalities, jargon or empty phrases. Concepts will be explained clearly, and there won’t be swathes of data to present.
Unfortunately, in the past, clients have said this and then backtracked. They didn’t mean that at all. Of course, the copy should contain complex diagrams and data sets. It should be written using more complex language. Our processes should contain the minute detail that no one understands unless they’re in the industry.
This bit just needs editing and tweaking
For the copywriter, this is a breath of fresh air. It means the client is happy, on the whole, with the messaging and content. They are just looking for the flow and language to be improved or the tone to be brought into line with the rest of their content.
No, no, no – says the client – tweaking means a complete re-write. It’s too close to what it was before. We want something completely different that’s going to wow our audience.
We want to come across as friendly and approachable
Every copywriter loves to write in a friendly tone because they all know natural writing is the most engaging. They craft copy that’s almost conversational in nature, so the reader gets the impression they are being spoken to directly. The language is simple in terms of vocabulary and structure.
The client reads it and announces it’s not professional enough. It doesn’t make them sound impressive. They want to be seen as market-leaders, at the cutting edge of their industry, innovators, not followers. Plus, no one else in their sector writes like that, so it’s not what their customers want.
I really like it. Oh no, I don’t
The briefing process is also an excellent time to talk about the review process. When the reviewer isn’t involved in the briefing process, you know there will be problems. Also, when more than one person is involved, issues can arise.
Generally, the first person sees it and loves it. You’ve captured the style they wanted. Then the second person reads it. Suddenly, it’s all wrong. It’s not what they asked for, and they demand why you wrote it that way.
When you explain that it is what they asked for, they deny all knowledge (despite the email train you’ve kept that proves your point).
At this point, it’s not worth arguing the toss (despite having done nothing wrong). Just ask them what they do want and how they want to proceed and take it from there.
I don’t have a crystal ball
Copywriters are a talented bunch, but I’ve not yet met one that can read minds. When delivering your brief, make sure you spell out precisely what you want.
Just because you know the inner workings of your business or industry intimately, it doesn’t mean your writer has the same level of knowledge. Never assume anything, so make sure you provide all the information and assistance you can when asked for it.
Copywriting brief – the final word
Your copywriter is a professional, but they can only do their job if given all the tools they need.
Above all, don’t forget copywriting is a collaborative process. There will also be some level of subjectivity, so there will inevitably be areas that have to be gone over again. Together, you can achieve so much, so work as a team, and you’ll be astonished by the results.
Sally Ormond – at times a frustrated copywriter