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How devoting time to your copywriting brief saves you time and money

by | Copywriting, Copywriting brief

How to achieve your desired outcome, on time and budget? Prioritise your copywriting brief


Where did it all go wrong?

I should have booked a consultation before the haircut. I should have made it clear to the hairdresser the time I have available to tame and style my thick wavy hair.

So many times I’ve left a hairdressing salon, with an immaculate and stylish hairstyle. Only to realise the odds of me recreating my sleek new haircut daily at home were slim-to-none.

My experiences taught me the importance of taking the time to outline my brief.

It’s a bit like briefing a copywriter.

You put your image and identity into the hands of someone who doesn’t know you well.

When questioned about what you want, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re too busy to fill out a briefing form and fire over an email listing a few bullets instead.

When the first version arrives in your inbox, you open the document in eager anticipation. At first glance, the design and copy look great. But then you notice:

  • Important information is missing
  • That friendly, conversational voice you asked for, is just too… well, informal

Worse still, like the time-consuming and unsuitable haircut that’s going to take months to grow out, you know the revisions process is going to eat up your valuable time.

At this point, you realise you didn’t explain what you wanted clearly. You assumed the professional would catch your drift.

Here’s the thing. For a professional who is not involved in your day to day life or business, lack of detailed instructions can render a project a challenge too far.

For this reason, it pays dividends to spend time on the brief.

Let me show you how this works.

What is a copywriting brief?

A copywriting brief lists the intentions, core messages and intended business goals of a piece of marketing collateral or digital content.

What are the real benefits of spending time on the copywriting briefing process?

First off a brief helps a writer to ensure your message resonates. It helps a writer to:

• Answer questions for a reader who knows nothing about who you are and what you do
• Tell a credible story that flows from one point to the next
• Avoid company jargon your readers won’t understand

Beyond that, a well thought out brief helps a writer to differentiate your company from the bland, poorly thought-out messages communicated by your competition.

But that’s not all.

Just like the hairdresser who maintains a history of valuable information with client notes cards, a copywriting brief is a living breathing document.

Keep updating and referring to a copywriting brief and you’ll:

  • Ensure consistency across communications
  • Improve your chances of converting readers into enquiries

And, from a business point of view, a brief helps you to:

  • Set realistic timescales
  • Avoid wasting time on extensive revisions
  • Ensure your project comes in on time and budget
  • Measure the effectiveness of your messaging

When should you complete a copywriting brief?

If you complete and agree on the brief at a project’s outset, you’ll make sure everyone is on the same page.

Therefore if you encounter objections, a brief will help you to turn the conversation around to what’s essential.

Better still, you’re more likely to get an acceptable first draft.

As a result, when you work to a brief, you speed up the approval process.

What makes an effective copywriting brief?

A typical brief covers:

1. The purpose of the project

What do you want your audience to do? For example: Find your website in the search engines. Or sign up to a newsletter.

2. Your business goals

For example, do you want to launch a new product or service? Or sell more products to existing customers?

3. The buyer

Who is it? Then, what is the problem your company can alleviate? What motivates your buyer? And what is most likely to persuade your buyer?

4. Your product or service

What does it do? How does it work? What are its features? Also, how do people buy it? Is there a buying journey?

5. The benefits

How do your product/service features satisfy your buyer? Also, what is the reason to believe your product/service can do what you say it can do? What objections do you need to overcome?

6. Tone of voice

Is your brand voice serious? Fun? Lighthearted or practical?

7. Call to action

What is the reason to contact you right now? Also, how can a reader get in touch?

8. Legalities

Does the writer need to be aware of any legal issues?

9. SEO

What key phrases will help people to find your copy in the search engines?

Sounds like a lot of form filling…

But don’t worry, besides form filling; your brief can be taken in person, over the phone or via Skype.

So it all adds up to this

To ensure your marketing projects complete on time and budget, and achieve your desired outcome, make sure you build in time at the project outset to compile and approve a brief.

What could be more important?

Claire Hawes, Copywriter and owner of The Content Boutique

About Claire Hawes

Claire Hawes is a marketing communications copywriter. She enjoys writing engaging copy that helps businesses to get noticed and attract enquiries. Claire’s experience mainly lies in the business to business sector. Her clients include both businesses and digital marketing agencies.

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