It is a sad fact that every copywriter knows: hardly any brief is actually useful. A typical copy brief I might get goes like this: “I need an email or mailer (maybe social ad?) to get more people buying this thing.”
A copywriter’s knowledge (of the product they’re talking about, the audience they’ll need and the format that will work best) will fill the gaps and come up with something that works for the company as a whole.
But to also make that fit with what the briefer thinks they want, we’ll need an actual brief for everyone to agree.
Your copy brief template
1. Who is this piece of copy aimed at?
The most important question. Hopefully, the briefer will know who they’re trying to target. But it’s only a hope. Sometimes, they’ll be 100% sure they know and yet…still wrong.
If the briefer only knows what they’re hoping to achieve, you need to be able to suggest the best audience to approach for that. For example, if the briefer wants to increase sales of your latest night cream, you might suggest that the audience should be women over 28 because 87% of them are interested in age-fighting products. (Why my brain imagined this particular sexist scenario, I have no idea. Let me just push my ID and wrinkle cream further into my bag.)
Once you have that audience agreed, everything you know about them comes into play for what you write. As the copywriter, you’re the keeper of the keys. The skill is in cross-referencing stats, case studies, social media comments, tones of voice and previous successes to come up with an approach for getting your audience engaged.
Audience example for your copy brief:
- Women over 28
- 87% are interested in age-fighting products
- Our case study from last year suggested that women in the ‘mature skin’ group like feeling that their skin products are just working with the beauty that’s already there
- In past email campaigns with this age group, large graphics of women using the product were successful
2. What does the person briefing think they want?
Again, what they think they want may not be what they, and the company, actually need.
What you’ll need to write down for this part of your copy brief:
- Literally what they’ve told you they want even if it’s not advisible
- Answers to questions you ask about the brief – “How many orders could we fulfil with our current stock?”
- Overall outcome they want (this is their ACTUAL requirement)
3. What does the business, as a whole, need?
- From the questions you’ve asked, what does it now appear that they want?
- What’s going on elsewhere in the business – does this serve everyone?
- How does what you know about the audience affect the way this will be received and is there anything that needs to change with the strategy to succeed there?
- Confirm with the briefer the agreed requirement and outcome
4. When does this need to be published?
- Deadline from briefer
- Is there more than one date for publishing e.g. we’ll need to send one email and then a follow-up two days later
- Approved deadline from you, taking into account anything else going on e.g. we’re launching a product that week so this will need to wait
5. Where does it need to be published?
- The briefer’s request, for example, a marketing email
- A potential alternative if there are factors they haven’t considered, for example, cost
- Any other formats or platforms that they might not have thought of, for example: ‘Actually, the whole community needs to know: let’s do social media posts and a blog as well’
6. Who needs to be involved?
- Points of sign-off: the briefer, anyone in marketing who needs to approve, legal?
- Design work, SEO support, terms and conditions
7. How will I know when this project is successful?
- Key metrics for success, for example: page views, shares, sales, email signups
- Who is responsible for measuring success?
- Will there be a review at any point?
If you’re here because you’re not sure how to brief a copywriter (I salute you!), try this.