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Here’s the thing with a writing brief. The better it is – the more comprehensive, the more informative, the more detailed – the better the copy you’re going to get back.

On the other hand, if you provide a brief that’s not quite up to scratch… We’ll try our hardest to get you something of a really high quality, something we think you want. But there’s a good chance we’ll miss the mark.

Because you haven’t given us the mark you want us to hit.

It’s the old ‘garbage in, garbage out’ thing. A poorly prepared brief (or no brief at all) will leave everyone feeling disappointed. You’ll be frustrated you haven’t got what you wanted, and we’ll be disappointed we haven’t met your expectations.

And then we’ll go through rounds (and rounds) of changes.

So before you write a brief, think very carefully about what you want to achieve. The better the brief, the better the copy will be.

Start with these five pieces of essential information:

Who?

Who are you writing for? Provide an idea of age, gender, demographic, interests. Consider what they already know, what they want to know – and why they should care about what you want to tell them.

What?

What form will your message take? Is it a brochure, presentation, eDM, white paper or landing page? (You’d be surprised how many clients don’t tell us this). How long will it be – is there a word or page limit? And where will we get the source information from – do you have any existing collateral as references, or do we need to interview clients or staff?

Where?

How will you send the content to them – by email, as a leave-behind after a meeting, or will they just (hopefully) find it online? Where is the reader most likely to read this message – on the bus, at their desk, at coffee time…

When?

When they read it, what point in the buying cycle will they be at? And what point do you want to move them to?

Why?

This is the most important thing of all. What is the purpose of this piece of content? What action do you want your reader to take? How will you measure the impact? Why do you want us to write you a new website? (Here’s a hint: the answer isn’t ‘because everyone has one’.)

There is a fine line between too much information and not enough, but we find it’s better to err on the side of too much. As we get to know your brand and audiences, this process will get easier and easier.

It’s always the jobs that start from amazing briefs that get the best results. Yes, it means taking a bit of time out of your day to think about what you want and write it down.* Writing it down is the crucial bit, as it makes your thoughts much clearer. But just think of all the time you’ll save later on rounds of tedious edits and rewrites – and disappointment and frustration on both sides.

For your next content piece, aim for a thorough brief – an oxymoron to live by.

* We have an easy peasy writing brief template to help – just ask.

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