How to create the perfect briefing for a copywriter

06-06-2019

Have you considered outsourcing your content writing? That could be a great idea. It allows you to focus on your business while a professional ensures that you get text content of excellent quality.

However, don’t assume that you don’t need to be involved at all. “You get out of it what you put into it” also applies to outsourced text writing. Without the perfect briefing, even the best copywriter cannot write the perfect content for you.

In this article, I will outline the essential elements of a good briefing. Consider it a practical checklist for all your copywriting briefings. Use it! It will save you a lot of time and trouble when outsourcing your copy.

A solid briefing saves time and money

30 Years ago, when I started as a copywriter, I noticed my clients would only begin to think about a text after I sent them a  first draft. Most of the time, the briefing was a hasty phone call in which the client yelled out some keywords for me to use. So that’s what I worked with.

That meant that my first text draft was mostly a ‘discussion document.’ Based on this first trial draft, my clients would then start thinking seriously about the text. Basically, the real work hadn’t even begun. It was incredibly inefficient.

By now I know better. Through a well-structured briefing, we help our clients to consider their copy needs before we start writing. This saves us time and the client money. Even more importantly, it shortens process time and improves quality.

Requirements for a good briefing

At CopyRobin, dozens of briefings for our copywriters pass through our hands every day. The writers have the option to give feedback on every briefing they receive. That’s how we learned which requirements a briefing should comply with for a copywriter to write a great piece of text content.

On average, our writers rate the briefings from our customers with a score of 4.02 out of 5:

Image: How do you rate the quality of the briefing for this assignment?

In this video, I cover the 3 most important conditions for a great briefing and later on in this article I will give you some more practical tips:

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1) Provide sufficient background information about your organisation

When you start working with a new copywriter, provide them with sufficient background information about your organisation. Of course, you only need to do this part once. At CopyRobin, we use <> this intake form for every new client.  

For starters, answer the following questions for your copywriter:

 

  • How big is your organisation?
  • Which services and/or products does your organisation provide?
  • What are your organisation’s mission and vision?
  • What is your organisation’s purpose?
  • What would you like to achieve by working with a copywriter? For example: obtain a higher ranking in Google, create authority and/or show expertise, generate leads, etc.
  • What would you consider a measure of success, looking back one year from now?
  • How often do you need new content?
  • What kind of text content do you want the copywriter to write? For example: news articles, blog posts, webpages, newsletters, etc.
  • Do you have an existing content strategy?
  • Can you describe your target audience? Are they individuals or companies? Men and/or women? What is their age? Their level of education?
  • Which tone of voice do you use within the organisation? Informal, formal, or something else?

 

By supplying these details before diving in, you won’t need to provide them again and again for each new assignment.

In this video, I explain how our assignment form works. It helps you to provide us with the best briefing possible:

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2) Describe in concrete terms what the content should be

Describe in specific detail exactly what you want the writer to write. Is it a blog post, article, newsletter, or webpage? How long should the text be? Be as accurate as possible about what you want the writer to deliver. Provide hyperlinks to sample texts and/or useful sources.

In CopyRobin’s briefing form we ask, among other things, what kind of content you’re looking for:

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3) Be specific about the scope of the assignment

Are we talking about a product page of about 250 words or an e-book of 15,000 words? That’s a huge difference. Think about the scope of the assignment in advance and mention this clearly in the briefing. It is common to specify the (approximate) number of words. Keep in mind that an A4 is approximately 400 words.

Examples of the word count for various pieces of text:

  • A product page: 150-350 words.
  • A typed A4 page: 350-400 words.
  • A short blog post: 350-600 words.
  • A medium length blog post: 800-1,200 words.
  • A long blog post: 1,200-4,000 words.
  • A whitepaper: 2,000-5,000 words.
  • An e-book: 10,000-30,000 words.
  • A novel: 75,000-200,000 words.
  • This blog post: 1,858 words.

4) Define the text’s purpose

An essential part of a perfect briefing for a copywriter is your reason for needing the text. If your copywriter can keep your ‘why’ in mind while writing the content, the final results will definitely benefit.

Examples of a ‘why’:

  • Our website is not attracting enough visitors.
  • We want to encourage one-time customers to make repeat purchases.
  • Too few people are aware that we sell products y and z in addition to product x.
  • We want to promote our latest product line.
  • We want to relieve pressure from our telephone help desk.

5) Explain which goal you want to achieve with the text

Let the writer know what you want to achieve. Do you want to inform, motivate, or inspire your readers? What should the call-to-action be? In other words, what do you want the reader to do after reading the text? Click through to the next page? Get in touch with you? Subscribe to a mailing list? Buy a product? Explain clearly what you want to achieve with the content.

Examples of goals:

  • More requests through our contact form.
  • Placing an order.
  • More subscriptions to our newsletter.
  • More downloads of our whitepapers.
  • More comments on our blog posts.
  • More social shares of our articles.

6) Describe clearly who the content is for

When formulating your briefing, put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Many people think from the inside out when formulating their briefing. Turn it around: force yourself to think outside in.

Be specific about who is going to read the content. Are you targeting men or women? Maybe both? Do they have a higher or lower education level? Which problems are they struggling with that your organisation can solve? What are their fears, passions, ambitions, and beliefs? Have you already created personas for your target audience? Be sure to share these with your writer in the briefing.

In other words: introduce your readers to the writer in as much detail as possible. This will make their work easier and your final results a lot better.

Reading tip: Make your client the focal point. For real this time!

7) Describe the tone and voice you want

We all know that design, colours, and fonts say a lot about the nature of your organisation, but you might not be aware to what extent the tone and voice of your content also contribute to the brand experience of your organisation.

That’s why it’s important to indicate as clearly as possible in which tone and with which voice you want to address your readers. Formal or informal? Do you use specific jargon? Do you like humour? Are you always businesslike and serious? Do you mainly want to inspire or is the emphasis more on being informative?

It helps to provide some examples of both the right and the wrong tone and voice for your text content and explain what is right and wrong about them.

Reading tip: Writing for the web: voice & tone

8) Mention the desired keywords (SEO)

If you want your text to rank high in Google, you should start with a keyword analysis and share the results with your writer. Provide at least one keyword to focus on and possibly add a few synonyms.

Reading tip: Keyword analysis: this is how you pinpoint the ‘winners’

9) Indicate how the text will be used

Will you publish the text on your own website? As a blog? A guest blog? In print? Specify how you plan to use the content. And what does that mean for the text? Also, will pictures be added? Will they be stock photos or custom-created? Will there be embedded video or any other multimedia in the text? Will you add text boxes or widgets?

10) Provide as much useful information as possible

Assume the copywriter doesn’t know anything about the topic and you need to provide him or her with as much useful information and as many pertinent sources as possible. You can refer to blog posts, whitepapers, studies, reports, etc. When relevant, also provide the name and contact details of an expert for the writer to interview.

Give a clear structure to your story, if you can: a start, body, and end. Put the most important issues or arguments you want to convey in bullet points. This will not only help the writer to create a better piece of content but will also ensure that the text actually tells your story.

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You can see a screenshot of the entire form here.

11) Communicate a clear deadline

Agree on a clear deadline with your copywriter. Without a deadline, content never gets finished. Do allow enough time for your writer to deliver quality work.

Reading tip: 10 Tips for a successful design

Common mistakes

I asked CopyRobin’s copywriters for examples of common mistakes in the client briefings they receive. Enjoy and learn from this hit list of issues they’ve come across:

  • Assuming too much knowledge on the subject by the writer and expecting them to fill in the gaps.
  • Having a specific website format that won’t actually fit the text.
  • Not considering in advance how to promote the content, which doesn’t leave enough time to write great social media updates.
  • Not specifying the style you envision. (Refer to a sample text and tell the writer what you like about it!)
  • Wanting to convey more than one message in one article. As a result, none of the messages stick. Consider a series of articles, in that case.
  • Indicating irrelevant keywords or unrealistic ones with too much competition.
  • Providing limited  context in the briefing: purpose/target audience/tone of voice.
  • Giving too little background information about the assignment, likewhitepapers, studies, reports, and links to sources.
  • Asking for a briefing of 50,000 words to be condensed into a blog post of 400 words.
  • Requesting a list of 10 tips without mentioning what the tips should be.


Do you have any additional tips on how to create the best possible briefings for copywriters? Do you have any questions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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