How to… brief a copywriter

  (by )


Behind every sparkling article is a comprehensive, generous brief. Cover these 10 essentials in your brief and a copywriter will never be lost for words…

Introduce yourself – Approaching a new writer? Give them a potted biography of your company. Who you are, what you do and who you do it for.

What you want and why – Firstly, detail what the copy will be used for (news story? Marketing brochure? Press release?) Secondly, list the copy’s overarching objective.

Make a date – Place deadline details high up the brief. Writers like to know straight away if they’ll be playing with words or punching them out. Stagger submission dates to include first draft, second draft and final version.

Message in a nutshell – What is the key message that needs delivering? Message singular. Never ask a writer to weave 10 separate messages into 300 words. It’ll get messy, believe us.

Call to action – Easily overlooked but it’ll stand out a mile if missed out. Tell your copywriter exactly what you want your reader’s ‘next steps’ to be.

It’s all in the detail – Times, dates, stats, names, locations – if you want them tucked inside the copy, share them with the writer… or else they’ll have to make them up. Or worse still, litter their first draft with unsightly XXX-laden gaps.

Sharing is caring – telling a writer to ‘just Google it’ is a dangerous game to play. And, often, both sides end up losing. Provide web links, screenshots and research docs; anything that provides info or context.

Guide them on style – Details of preferred tone, language and abbreviations are essential. Access to previously published materials written in ‘your language’ gratefully received. Be straight. Tell them if bullet points drive you barmy or you’re totally in love with alliteration.

Picture perfect – Send across any photos/visuals that are set to accompany their words. It will provide inspiration and help them weave words that support and flatter your proposed aesthetic.

Reveal your ideal reader – Who do you really checking out your copy? Be specific, especially when it comes to age. Don’t leave a writer free to create copy drenched in ‘youth-isms’ when you’ve set 40-somethings in your sights.

Show them the money – Finally, reveal the fee based on your budget, and let the writer know if price includes amends. Reiterate the maximum number of drafts you’ll expect.

Then, sit back and confidently await words that beautifully reflect what was inside your head.

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