A well-written brief is vital to your copywriting project’s success. This becomes even more critical if you’re situated in another country and can’t meet your copywriter face-to-face.
Where do you begin when it comes to writing your copywriting brief? Here are the 15 essential points that your copywriting brief needs to cover.
1. Summarize the project
Provide an overview or a simple summary statement of what you want your copywriter to do. It lets your copywriter know the type of copy you need. Keep it simple and limit this to 1 or 2 sentences.
Brief: To write a brochure promoting our interior design services. The brochure will be targeted at newlyweds and we will be distributing this brochure at a home renovation fair in June.
2. Describe your business
If your copywriter has no knowledge of your business, it’s helpful to provide background information that will help your copywriter gain a better understanding of your company and industry.
- Company background: How did your company get started? What are its corporate values? How big is your company? Where are your markets?
- Products and services: What does your business do? What products, services or solutions do you provide to your customers? What benefits do they offer?
- Value proposition: How do your products or services help your customers? What problems do they solve? What are your unique selling points? How are you different?
- Customers: Who are your customers? Where are they based? What’s their typical profile?
- Competition: Who are your main competitors? How competitive is your industry? How are they similar or different to you?
- Brand personality: What does your brand stand for? What emotions do your brand conjure?
3. Determine the format
What exactly is it that you want your copywriter to write?
Is it a revamp of a website, the marketing pages of an annual report, a press release announcing financial results or a brochure about a new line of products?
4. Describe the objective
What do you hope to achieve with the copy?
Is it to get people to sign up for a newsletter, to generate more leads, to create awareness about a new service, to fill in a questionnaire, to position you as a thought leader in the market or to reposition your brand?
5. Define the target audience
One of the most important aspects of the brief is to define the target audience. This will help your copywriter to find the right choice of words that will strike a chord with your audience.
Be as specific as possible. Are you trying to reach career-minded young professionals with a high disposable income and who love to wine and dine, travel and socialize? Or perhaps you are targeting the retired baby boomer who has spare cash to splurge?
Sometimes, it may even help to build a persona – a fictional character with certain demographics that represent your typical customer profile.
For example: “May is a mother of two. She works full-time and makes most of the decisions when it comes to her children. She uses the internet to research for the best deals, brands, and schools for her children.”
As you begin to create a picture of your ideal target audience, include demographic information such as age, income, job, interests, education, gender and location. You should also dive into their reasons for buying, as well as their buying concerns.
6. Provide a title
The right title can entice your audience to take a closer look at your content. It will also help your copywriter to frame the content and steer the writing in the right direction.
It helps if you have an idea of the title or header of your article, white paper, blog post or speech. You can then work with your copywriter to refine the title to hook your audience and get them to continue reading.
A catchy title such as “10 tips and tricks to taking Instagram-worthy photos” will get you more clicks and reads rather than a staid and boring title such as “The adverse effects of eating the wrong foods on your skin.”
7. Explain the content
This is a critical part of the brief and you need to be as detailed as possible. It doesn’t matter if your language is not perfect. It’s your copywriter’s job to polish your language.
But it’s important that you know what you want the content to be all about so that your copywriter can translate your thoughts onto paper or the screen.
For example, in every marketing copy, your readers need to know how they will benefit from your product or service. Why is your product or service ideal for your audience? What pain points do they address?
Also, if your copy needs to accompany images, charts or graphs or other visuals, provide your copywriter with those details. Do you need captions or descriptions for those visuals? Do you need to make reference to those visuals in your copy?
Whatever it is, let your copywriter know the details.
8. Outline the key message
The key message is what you want your audience to take away after reading your content. Some people may even describe it as the elevator pitch.
Consistent messaging enhances your brand and image. Sharing the key messages helps your copywriter to crystallize the information in a consistent manner.
Your key messages set you apart from your competitors. What is so awesome about your product or service? It could be a statement that summarizes the main benefit of your product or service, or it could take the form of an advertising slogan that captures the very essence of what your brand is all about.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right words to say it. Your copywriter can do that for you. But you must communicate to your copywriter the essence of what you want your audience to know.
Take a step back and think hard about what is the single most important piece of communication you want your audience to recall after reading your copy. Focus on getting across one main point – the most important point.
9. Specify the tone of voice
It’s important that your copy should sound as if it is coming from your brand.
What is your brand’s unique voice? If your company is a professional services firm offering B2B services, you would probably go for a formal, serious and authoritative tone. If your company is a creative services agency, you’d probably go for something more fun, casual and friendly.
Decide what sort of language your content should use. Should it be:
- Cheeky, humorous, light-hearted?
- Down-to-earth, reassuring, approachable?
- Serious, formal, professional?
- Chatty, laid-back, lively?
10. Pinpoint your SEO keywords
If your copy is going to be published online, you’ll need your content to be search-engine optimised.
Do you know your keywords? It helps to use longtail key words (i.e. longer rather than shorter keyword phrases) to boost your rankings. For example, “dual key condos Singapore” will work better rather than “condos Singapore”.
11. Nail down your call-to-action
What do you want your audience to do after reading your content?
Do you want them to sign up for a newsletter, click to buy, make an appointment, share your post on social media, enter a competition or call a hotline for more information?
Let your copywriter know what specific action you want your audience to take.
12. Decide on your word count or page length
Do you have a desired word length? Are there any word count constraints?
If it’s a thought leadership article, tell them the word count is 1,000 words. If it’s product descriptions for a brochure, tell your copywriter how many words they can play around with for the descriptions.
13. Identify your distribution method
How will your content be published?
Will it be posted on a website, will it emailed as an e-newsletter, will it be printed or will you be posting a video on YouTube?
14. Establish your deadline
Let your copywriter know when your copy is due, but be realistic about your timelines. You may need to outline key milestones for your project and come to an agreement with your copywriter on the deadlines. Be sure to set aside some buffer for revisions before the final deadline.
Don’t forget to inform your copywriter if something is driving your deadline. For example, you may need the copy for a trade brochure so that you can have it printed in time for a trade show you are participating in.
More importantly, engage your copywriter well in advance as he or she may be booked up for other projects as well.
15. Outline your budget
Most of the time, you won’t know how much copywriting will cost and will ask your copywriter to quote for your project. But you may already have an idea of how much you are willing to spend or already have a budget set aside for the project.
It’s a good idea to be upfront with your copywriter about your budget. If your copywriter is able to deliver the work within the given budget, that will save you and your copywriter time without having to go back and forth to lock down the quotation.
As the bedrock for your project, the copywriting brief is all about good communication. Get your copywriting project to a flying start with a great copywriting brief. Nail it and your copywriter will be able to rock your content.