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July 28, 2011How to brief your copywriter: download a good, free copywriter brief template

There are a lot of copywriting brief templates out there. Personally, I don’t rate any of them. Most of them focus on facts, figures, times, schedules, costs. Most clients will naturally include this information in their initial contact with their copywriter anyway. And most technical information is as easy to find as a quick google search.

Unfortunately, this information isn’t enough to help your copywriter do a good job. It’s only enough to help them do a generic job. If you want truly personal copy, you’re going to have to be prepared to get personal.

Can’t meet your client in person? That’s where my brief comes in.

A personal interview gets personal results. So does a good copywriting brief.

As a London copywriter, I’m fortunate to get enough local business to enable me to meet most of my clients in person. Once I’ve met them I’ve got a much better idea of who they are and what they want, as well as being able to ask them specific questions based on their earlier responses. In other words, I’m interviewing them, the same way a journalist might interview someone for a magazine feature. It should come as no surprise to you to learn that before I became a copywriter I was a magazine journalist. But my method works for copywriting, too.

The questions a good copywriting brief (or interview) needs to answer:

You’re unique. In order to write copy that’s specific to you, a copywriter needs to know three things:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • How you help your customers.

Next, a copywriter needs to know a little more about your personality. That includes:

  • Your sense of style (Funny? Serious? Laid-back? Adademic? Professional?)
  • What you like and don’t like (buzzwords, slang, Oxford commas, etc)

Finally, a copywriter needs to understand about your audience. A good copywriter doesn’t write for you, he writes for your customers. Understanding what they want is at least as important as understanding what you want — and perhaps a great deal more.

Free to you – my copywriting brief!

I’ve created a 15 question copywriting brief to send out to clients I can’t meet in person to help them think more about their business, and to help me understand more about them, so I can provide them with copy that’s personal to them.

Too much copy is bland, generic, and could be about anything or anyone. Bad copy fails to convey a brand’s personality. The reason so much copy is bad is because clients rarely bother to provide personality information in their brief — and bad copywriters rarely bother to ask.

Here are my 15 questions. You can download this copywriting brief template here in MS Word format or as a PDF.

Copywriter Brief Template

1. Describe, in plain English, what your company does.

  • Explain who you are first, then explain what you do. For example, “we are a factory… we are a shop… we are a website… we are a software development team…” then “we manufacture phone handsets, we develop apps for the android platform, we sell bicycles, etc”
  • Avoid buzzwords or business-speak (e.g. “we provide solutions”, “we enable companies to leverage their investment and generate increased ROI” etc).

2. How do you help your clients? What benefits do you offer them? How are their lives / businesses enriched by your product / service?

  • For example, “the bicycles we sell from our online shop get you from place to place faster than walking, but cost less than a car, and are better for the environment! Best of all, we deliver!”

3. What is your main objective you hope to achieve with the copy?

  • For example, to attract new customers, retain old customers, make your brand sound more modern, enable you to charge higher prices by positioning yourselves as a ‘premium’ product, etc.

4. What is your USP? (i.e. something your competitors can’t provide)

  • For example, we are 50% cheaper than our nearest competitor, we have twice as many staff, all our staff have a university education, we sell our product in more colours than our competitors, our product is proven more reliable, lasts twice as long, etc.

5. Do you have any evidence to support your claims?

  • Case studies, product reviews, testimonials etc.

6. Do any of your competitors provide a similar service? Who are they? What are their strengths? What does their marketing (website, brochure, etc) look like. Provide links to their websites if possible.

7. Who is the main audience — who will be reading the copy? Provide as much information about the client as possible.

  • For example, age, income, company size, job title, location, interests, political affiliation, choice of newspaper, gender — anything that can help identify the reader.
  • e.g. “Our clients are typically aged 30-40, have £1000 to spend, are university educated, female, interested in the arts and the environment, liberal, iPhone users, married but don’t have children, etc”

8. Is there a secondary audience who should also be targeted in addition to the main client?

  • For example, if you supply beauty products to high street stores, you might also want to supply them to spa owners as well – they’re not your main audience, but it’s worth considering them in the copy.
  • Ask yourself – is there anyone else’s business you wouldn’t mind targeting?

9. What is the primary conversion objective of the copy?

  • A conversion goal is anything you want your website to achieve.
    • It could be an enquiry about your product by phone or email…
    • A sign up to your site or subscription to your newsletter
    • A click-through to another site
    • More comments on your blog or inbound links from other sites (“linkbait”)

10. Are there any secondary objectives?

  • For example, increased brand awareness, greater number of purchases by under-25s, website (and copy) featured on another prominent site, etc.

11. What sort of copy do you like? Do you have a preference for tone of voice?

  • Conversational? Friendly? Formal? Professional? Educational? Funny? Light-hearted?

12. If your business was a person, who would they be?

  • For example, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Don Draper, A 37 year old man in a suit, a 27 year old hipster, a teenage girl with pigtails, a Mercedes Benz driver, Al Pacino in Scarface, the sort of person who always wears a watch, etc

13. What do you like about your current copy? What don’t you want me to change?

  • e.g. short, concise, headline-driven

14. What don’t you like about your current copy?

  • e.g. too technical, too pushy, too long, too boring, etc

15. Additional information – now I’ve got you thinking, is there anything else you think I need to know?

 

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 28th, 2011 at 1:40 pm and is filed under Blog, Copywriting, Me and my business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 comments

  1. An excellent briefing document – so much better than the cold, impersonal ones you always get from marketing agencies about their clients!
    I salute your genius, sir! :-)

  2. Rich says:

    Thanks for this Alastaire. With your permission, I’d like to add it to my own website.

  3. al says:

    Thanks Rich. If you’d like to use this template, feel free, but please include a link to this post if you put it up for download on your own site.

    Alastaire

  4. felipe basabe says:

    Awsome!!! really helpful. Thanks a lot!!!

  5. Karen says:

    Love it this will be really helpful

  6. Sinead says:

    Thanks for the free template – exactly what I’ve been looking for. Also found some of your other blog posts really insightful. Look forward to reading more!

  7. Mel says:

    Thanks for this! Ben Locker put a link to it on the Professional Copywriters’ Network (http://www.procopywriters.co.uk/) which is how I ended up here. Cheers! Mel

  8. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great template. I’ll use some bits of it in my own briefing document if that’s OK?

  9. What a great template. So glad I found this. Thanks for sharing!

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