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How to Develop a Creative Brief for Your Copywriter

By Cedric Jackson, June 27, 2017
How to Develop a Creative Brief for Your Copywriter

It can be one of the most frustrating aspects of any copywriter's job: getting it right for the client the first time. While there are instances where the writer might overlook a detail or forget to include a keyword, more conflict between writer and client stems from the completeness and lucidity of the client's instructions.

Let's be real: What we're talking about is really more the lack of those things. If you're a writer, you know what I mean. If you're a client and you don't, you need to keep reading.

Making the First Draft the Final Draft

Almost everything we do to market our business is time-sensitive. In a perfect world, everyone would meet their deadlines with time to spare and everyone would know precisely what is going on in everyone else's heads (within the confines of the project, of course) because communication is just that good.

Well, it rarely is, and the breakdown can start almost immediately.

If you want your writer to deliver something usable the first time, you have to assume that he or she is approaching your project as a blank slate. Even if you hired your writer specifically because he or she (or the copywriting company) knows your industry, the writer still doesn’t know your business. That is where differences of opinion emerge as to the message being sent in the copy. You might view your business and the objective of the content you purchased very differently from your writer.

Building the Perfect Brief

So, what is the solution, then? It lies in delivering a full, complete creative brief that has both static content as well as project-specific content that can help the writer understand the objectives of the project as well as your perspective on the subject of the copy.

A good writer reads your brief thoroughly and attempts to become your voice in the copy. If you find it obvious that your writer isn't getting to know your brand the way he or she should, it's probably time to hire someone else.

Before you point the finger of blame at your writer, though, be certain that you have covered all the bases in your brief. Here are a few general items that you should always include in a creative brief:

Company Description: Give the writer a glimpse of whom you are as a company, a summary of your vision, and any relevant details that might show your writer the ways in which your company stands out from its competition.

Target Audience: Be very specific about whom the target consumer of the content will be. If you have already worked up a buyer persona or an ideal customer avatar, include it as part of your brief.

Tone, Message, and Style Guidelines: Again, be as specific as possible here. Don't let any detail come across as indecisive. Provide links to examples that capture the style and tone you want in the copy. A good writer should be able to emulate any kind of voice. 

Key Competitors: What similar companies are out there? How are they handling their content? Are they measurably successful at providing engaging content? The answers to these questions can help your writer give your brand a unique voice, and having access to competitor's content lets them know what to emulate and what to avoid in the copy they write for you.

As for specific projects, there are a few must-haves if you expect your writer to produce a usable first draft. Never submit a creative brief without covering all of these bases:

Project Summary: We've moved on from company vision now. What is your vision for this project? What kind of copy do you want? Will it be shared via or posted to social media? These and other questions should be covered in this section of your brief.

Project Objective(s): What is the intended result of putting someone in front of this copy? Is it some kind of conversion? Is it purely for SEO? If you release this content to the masses, what are they supposed to do with it? What are they supposed to do with the message sent through it?

Be careful, however, to avoid specifics like “5 percent click-through” since there is no magic formula the writer can apply to ensure that. Start with “increase engagement and click-throughs to our blog” and work your way up from there.

Outline of Deliverables: A writer should never be left to figure out what kind of content you need. If you need two blog articles, four Facebook posts, 20 tweets, and an email blast, outline all of that clearly.

Give an approximate per-page word count whenever possible, as many writers write by the word as opposed to an hourly or flat rate. Some employ all of those billing methods depending on the project, so it is important that they know how to organize their time as well as their bill.

Please don't just ask for “marketing copy” put together “however you see best.” You would be amazed at how often that happens. Please be specific and know what you want before you place your order. Doing this also makes it much easier to negotiate a rate since most freelancers and custom writing agencies have predetermined rates based on the type and amount of work you want.

Deadline for Completion: Be clear about when you need the work done. “A few days from now” is not a deadline. Most busy writers give priority to work that carries specific deadlines, so if you want your project to stay on course, let your writer know when you expect him or her to deliver. Always allow yourself a few days grace so that issues revolving around late submissions or subpar submissions can be dealt with and remedied. Never keep working with a writer or agency that doesn't take deadlines seriously.

Final Takeaway

As the client, you have an incredible amount of control over the quality of the work you purchase from your copywriter. Exercise that control by supplying the best possible creative brief for every project. Once you have all the general information established, all you need to do is fill in the blanks for each specific project. A good writer will always be able to follow a well-established set of guidelines but will almost never be able to read your mind.

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