The secret to briefing a writer
Here are three great tips to help your copywriter produces the best possible material they can for your business.
But before we get to the tips, let’s quickly cover off on the basics. Then you’ll find the three tips below.
There are a few things you should always cover when briefing someone for a copywriting job.
Any professional content producer who knows what they’re doing should ask you these questions before they start. Nonetheless here are the basic things you should go through.
Even if you have an experienced copywriter, it’s still a good idea to go through this checklist. It will help ensure that your communications is focussed and has a specific aim. Much better to say: “Show potential customers that our product isn’t as expensive as they think and will save them money in the long run”, than having a vague aim of just getting more publicity just because you think you should.
Also, covering off these questions can reduce the chance of any misunderstanding about what the brief actually is.
Here are the questions:
AIM: what is the overall aim of the piece of writing?
MEDIUM: What sort of writing is it and where is it to appear? Website, brochure, blog, case study.
WORD COUNT: The copywriter should be able to help you with this if you’re unsure.
AUDIENCE: Who is the target audience? Are they already customers or potential customers? What do they want? How do they use your services and those of your competitors?
The more information you can give a copywriter about this the better they’ll be able to tailor their message to the audience.
AUDIENCE BELIEFS: What does your target audience believe about the topic?
TARGET BELIEFS: What do you want them to believe?
For instance, you might be a business advisor but a lot of your potential clients might believe that a business advisor is too expensive and that their business wouldn’t benefit. You want them to believe that engaging a business advisor is good value for money, because the advisor will pay for itself by making their business more efficient and profitable.
TONE: This will depend on your objective and your audience. For instance if you’re trying to demonstrate your expertise in a professional service, then you want a serious and authoritative tone (though this doesn’t mean boring). If you’re trying to differentiate your business through your customer service then you might want more relaxed piece of writing, showing off your personality, written in the first person (using “I” and “me”).
DEADLINE & PRICE: Nail these down before you start as well.
THREE MORE TIPS FOR BRIEFING A COPYWRITER
Those are all the basics and you should be covering them off at a bare minimum. Now here are three more tips to ensure you get the most out of your copywriter:
SAY IT BACK
Once you’ve briefed the copywriter and been through the above questions with them, get the writer to explain back to you what they think the brief is. (This is something I do as a matter of course).
It’s another check to ensure that you both have the same expectations for the piece of writing. And it also helps to clarify the brief in the writer’s mind.
LOTS OF INFORMATION
Do not underestimate the importance of making sure the writer has enough information for the content they’re producing. The more information a writer has to draw on the better job they’ll do. For instance, the more they know about your business or products, the more their copy will reflect what makes your business and products different to your competitors’.
Sometimes the writer will be able to find this by themselves, on the internet or from other sources. But often the information will be specific to your company. Make sure you make it available to the writer. The best source of information is often the people inside the business, so make them available to the writer – a good content producer can glean a lot of useful information from a 10 minute chat on the phone, so it’s worth making the time.
Without this sort of information, the copywriter will pad out their work with clichés and you’ll end up with something bland and generic.
GET A SAMPLE
If you’re only having a page or two done, then you may as well wait until the job is finished before you have a look.
But if you’re having a whole report written, or a book, or many pages of web copy, then insist on getting a sample after the writer has done a couple of pages. It’s much better to anticipate and head off any problems before the writer has spent a lot of time on the job and gone off on the wrong tangent or not produced something in the style you want.