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Get your briefs down effectively – 7 tips for writing better copywriting briefs

Once you’ve decided to commission a copywriting agency, it can feel like being short-changed if you have to think too hard about the brief. Isn’t that their job? However, copywriters can’t read your mind. The more information you can give them about your business, your approach,your target audience and your goals for the copy, the better a result you’ll get. After all, no-one knows your business better than you do.

We write copy that brings in business 

A copywriter cannot be an expert on your business, but they are experts on converting readers into customers. Here at Oxygen, we know how to write copy that persuades, and we revel in the art of copywriting. Devon and Somerset SMEs form a strong core of our client base, but we’re also trusted by blue-chips, national and international companies to make sure they engage their target markets and increase their conversion rates.

Good copy influences design

Which comes first – word or pictures? Good designers, such as the ones here at Oxygen Agency  use the copy provided to guide their design process. That’s because the two need to be seamlessly integrated in order to hammer your brand message home. All the more reason to take a little time to brief your copywriter well, so that you get copy that’s perfect for the job.

So, are you convinced that it’s worth giving a little more time to the briefing process yet? If so, here are our 7 top tips for getting the best out of a copywriter.

• Gather as much information as you can before you brief
Think about where your copywriter will find the information they’ll need to include. Provide them with as much as you can. It cuts down on research time, leaving them space to focus on crafting your copy. This can be from your website, but old marketing materials such as brochures, case studies, testimonials, anecdotes, statistics and background information such as fact sheets about your facilities and services are very useful. Why are you commissioning copy right now? Try to give them a sense of how you’re regarded by your customers, and what the competition is like. If your business was a person, who would it be?

• Meet in person if you can
We have offices in Taunton and Tiverton. Copywriters prefer to meet clients in person wherever possible in order to get a feel for their brand, and our door is always open for local companies to come in and discuss what they need. Meeting a client in person gives us a chance to really understand their business and the best way to get their customers to engage with them. We have a briefing document that clients that prefer dealing with us by email can use. But meeting them in person gives us a chance to ask follow up questions and get to the heart of their company’s personality, so that the copy we provide reflects their business more accurately.

• Think about what you want to achieve
You’ll need to specify the scope and parameters of the project (e.g. white paper, speech for the annual conference, number of webpages you want revised) and word counts as accurately as you can. But you should also think about what you want to gain, such as raising brand awareness, generating phone enquiries, generating online sales etc. because each of these goals influences the way the copy needs to be structured.

• Visualise your target market
The more you can tell a copywriter about your customers, the more effective they’ll make your copy. Because it’s not about you – it’s all about who’s buying your product/service − whether it’s an international bank or a local farmer in Devon. Copywriters need to know as much as you can tell them e.g. age, gender, interests, political affiliation, newspapers they read etc. It all helps us to build up a picture so that we can tailor the tone of voice in your copy to really ‘speak’ to them.

• Spell out the benefits
It’s really tempting to focus on services or products you offer i.e. features, and you should provide as much information as you can about the quality of your product and current special offers etc. but what you really need to tell your copywriter is this. How does what you do benefit your customers? i.e. How does it make their lives easier, better, or more fun? And what makes you stand out from the competition?

• Be clear about any do’s and don’ts
If you have a style guide then don’t forget to provide your copywriter with one. Similarly if you know from experience that there are certain words or issues you need to avoid, let your copywriter know. What have you done before? What are your employees saying customers dislike about your current website/campaign? Knowing what doesn’t work can help a copywriter to find out what does.

• Specify deadlines and milestones
Be clear about when you need the copy. Copywriters hate to miss deadlines so they’ll give you a realistic timescale and milestones. Remember to allow time for all the relevant people in your organisation to approve the copy at all stages, and for edits and re-edits. Don’t forget to include name and contact details for any key people who can provide further information or clarify briefing details.

Finally, if you want to brief the Oxygen copywriting agency, download our formal COPYWRITING BRIEF

Steve Lodge :Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.