6 reasons for writing a Copy Brief

What exactly is a Copy Brief?

If you’re new to writing briefs, I hope this helps explain the whys and wherefores.

A Copy Brief or Creative Brief uses a Q&A format to help you clearly define and express the creative problem to be solved. Wording varies but the basic questions comprise:

1. Background. (Why are we producing this?)

2. Target audience. (Do they already have a relationship with you? How much do they know about your service/product/ organisation? If there’s more than one audience, please list them as primary, secondary etc.)

3. Who are your competitors and what is their current marketing activity? (Your positioning in your marketplace)

4. What is the single most important point you want to make? (The proposition: only one thought expressed succinctly. Even for a website or brochure, this is essential – what’s the most important point you want your target to remember?)

5. Main features and benefits? (e.g. Feature: in this investment, your money will only be invested in ethical funds.  Benefit: you’ll have peace of mind as your money will work for good. For brochures and websites, please attach additional info as relevant).

6. Tone of voice? (Design is your body language to your target audience; copy represents your ‘voice’. You need to be ‘speak’ in a way that is true, relevant and interesting to your target audience. Please attach your brand guidelines to be followed. If you’re unsure about your brand language, please ask about my tone of voice consultancy).

7. What do you want your target to believe? (Please write this from the target’s viewpoint. For example: I feel reassured that this investment will give me the opportunity I’m looking for.)

8. What, if any, action do you want your target to take as a result of reading the copy? (For example, phone 0800 123 4567 and ask for an application pack.)

Take the time you need to produce a brief you feel is right. If you find it difficult, you may need some help with brand language consultancy. Brand language covers both tone of voice and overarching stories and messages, culminating in a brand promise, which is bigger than a USP. More about that in another blog.

Six reasons why you should write a brief 

  1. It’s like a doctor’s diagnosis and prescription. If you haven’t accurately ‘diagnosed’ the problem, then the creative ‘remedy’ can’t be effective. The questions prompt you to think it through.
  2. I need to know all these answers anyway. 
  3. I can see any blind spots in your thinking. 
  4. I’ll constantly refer to your brief while I’m writing, ensuring the copy is ‘on brief’.
  5. A decent brief reduces my time and cuts your costs. If you want to give me a verbal brief, it’s fine, but I still need to go through these thought processes and find out all this information. 
  6. All clients who are new to commissioning copy say that writing the brief resulted in better work, prompting them to consider things they hadn’t looked at before. This feeds into the copy, making it more effective.  

Why don’t all writers ask you for a written brief? 

To be frank, not all freelance writers have an agency copywriting background – and although they may write content for you, they may not know how to treat you as a brand.

Your copy is a big investment. It needs to be right. And I really care about getting it right for you.

In an advertising or direct marketing agency, developing the brief is a rigorous process. It’s signed off by the client, by the Account Director and the Creative Director i.e. we all agree on the creative problem to be solved. We’d frequently explore some aspect of a client brief that doesn’t quite make sense – the brief would be developed before it was given to the creative team.

And if you still want to give me a verbal brief?

Most designers just give me a verbal brief. That’s straightforward, because their design brief uses many similar questions and we talk the same language. If I spot anything that hasn’t been considered about the copy, either the designer can check or I can liaise directly, with permission.

If you’re a client and you just want to give me a verbal brief, I’m happy to run with it but please understand it will take a little more time. Effectively, I’ll be doing this aspect of your work for you, so it will cost more. It’s also more likely that we’d need to run to another draft of copy, as there are likely to be facets that the client hasn’t considered or communicated which emerge when the client sees the copy.

Ultimately, my 25+ years of award-winning copywriting experience mean:

  1. I can dovetail into your stage and process.
  2. I spot problems and solve them.
  3. I can sharpen your thinking.
  4. I’m not afraid to speak the truth so we can achieve a better result.
  5. I polish your gems and spot others you may not have seen.
  6. I connect the dots in ways you hadn’t anticipated to create stronger copy.
  7. Your final copy will connect with your customer and evoke the right feelings.

I hope this helps explain the process – please get in touch with any questions.


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