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Our Senior Copywriter, Ben, shares his perspective on what should be included within a brief for a copywriting project.
Whatever type of project you’re working on, a good brief is the starting point for a brilliant piece of work. When it comes to writing, the team member who creates the brief has the power to help the copywriter create a masterpiece (...or completely derail the entire process). Luckily for me, Team RKH are pro's at supplying quality briefs but, whether you’re looking for some tips on how to make your briefs better or you're starting your first brief from scratch, I’ve got a few handy pieces of advice:
If the copywriter has to spend an hour trying to make sense of your brief, it's probably no good...
Yes, you could include every single piece of information that your client has ever supplied but, if your brief is too complex for the copywriter to understand, it's not going to result in an engaging, thoughtful piece of content. Try to be as clear and concise as possible, avoiding endless amounts of rambling text - you just need to pick out the key pieces of information and think about the most effective way of presenting each point to the reader.
Clarity is key, but that doesn’t mean we have to skimp on detail, just for the sake of it. A brief that is too short will probably force your copywriter to come back to you with a whole host of questions, which delays the start of the work and creates unnecessary back and forth.
Depending on the type of work required, you should include common, important details, such as:
Copywriters are well adept at researching the topics they write about but it will always help them if you provide useful resources within your brief. Whether that’s something you’ve found via a quick Google search or the client specifically mentioned it during a meeting - if you think it’ll be useful when it comes to writing the copy, make sure you stick it in the brief!
You could even point them to a previous piece of work with a similar theme, the clients tone of voice and brand guidelines, or a sales brochure that holds relevant information on a particular product.
Copywriters can't just magic the perfect piece of copy out of thin air, so don't be stingy - suggest a reasonable deadline for a written piece of work. Of course, every client has a budget and resources need to be carefully allocated, but asking your copywriter to research and write 500 words in an hour isn’t good practice - if copy is completed in that time, it’s likely to be rushed and lacking quality.
Copywriting generally falls into three categories; quick, cheap or good. You can get work done quickly and on the cheap if you like, but it’s very unlikely to be good... Good copy can be immensely valuable to a client, so give your copywriter a decent amount of time to write it!
If possible, try to have a chat with your copywriter while you're still discussing requirements and the quote with your client - if the copywriter has a clearer idea on the scope of the work, they’ll be able to estimate how long it’ll take. If the client’s desired spend is restrictive, you can adjust the contents accordingly.
Once you're happy with the brief and you know you've listed all of the key points that need to be included in the final piece, make a copy, strip out all of the bespoke details and you'll be left with a standard briefing template that anyone in your organisation could make use of in the future.
Try to make it easy for your colleagues to find and fill out, then you’ve got a ready-made framework that will ensure your copywriters have all of the info they need, whenever they need it.
This is particularly helpful if the content is being created for a certain type of CMS; your briefing template can include each of the specific fields and their respective word limits to ensure copy never hinders the design or function of the web page.
If you’re still not sure how to create the perfect copywriting brief or template, consult your copywriters. They’ll be able to advise which details are crucial for each client and this step will massively reduce the time it takes your team to brief copywriters in the future.
You should have an established feedback process in place. At the very least, all of the feedback that you provide for copywriters should be useful and actionable; for example, highlighting an area that you’d like to change and commenting ‘change this’ is not really very helpful.
Explain why that particular reference needs changing and what the replacement text should include. This not only helps the copywriter to make amends more efficiently, it will also help to avoid repeated mistakes.
If your copywriter delivers a first draft and you are sure that just a few quick tweaks are needed, make your edits clearly distinguishable. When using Google Docs, you can use the ‘suggest’ function, which makes all of the edits crystal clear. If your software doesn’t have that functionality, you could use 'tracked changes', add a comment on that section or even just use a different coloured font for the edited copy.
When your copywriter has confirmed that they're happy with the edits you have suggested, and agree they haven't impacted the flow or quality of the piece, you can accept all of the changes and give the piece a final proof before sharing it with your client.
It's so important to provide quality, detailed and easy-to-use briefs, not just for the benefit of copywriters but for everyone in your organisation who needs to use and create them. These tips will be useful for any briefs you are working on but remember to consult with the people who will actually use them, in order to ensure the finished product is as good as it can be.