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Briefing your copywriter

2010 October 26
by Helen Keevy

How to save yourself time and get the best work from your copywriter

Getting good writing involves giving. Apart from the money, if you give some thought to what you need before you even look for a copywriter, you’re likely to get more accurate quotes, better writing, better results and a project that runs to schedule. Here’s a list of the information your copywriter will appreciate:

  1. Your project deadlines.
  2. This sounds straight-forward, but when deciding on your ideal deadlines, don’t forget to factor in the time that you will need to review the writing. This can take longer than you think. Give yourself the time you need, and your copywriter the time to provide you with value-for-money.

  3. The estimated length of the project.
  4. Roughly the number of pages and the number of words per page. Or just an overall word count. This is not the easiest thing to work out, but if you consider it carefully at the beginning then you’re likely to get more accurate quotes from your copywriter.

    If you’re looking for copywriting for your website, then ideally you want a minimum of 300 words per page.

  5. A brief overview of what your business does and your key products and services.
  6. To be able to write about your business your copywriter will need to understand it first. Anything from a business plan for a start-up to your brochure or annual report can be useful. But ideally we’d like it from you in your own words as a starting point.

  7. Your business goals
  8. Where do you want the business to be six months or two years from now? Are you shifting your marketing and sales strategies to get there?

  9. The target audience for your communication.
  10. Who is ideally going to be reading and taking action because what your copywriter produces? If you’re a B2B what types of companies do you sell to? Where are they? Who within those companies is going to be reading your website, brochure or letter? Are they the people making the decisions?

    If your information is for individuals: What age group? Where do they live? What type of people are they? Active, bird-lovers, executives?

  11. Five or six adjectives that you would like people to associate with your business.
  12. For example, do you want to thought of as avant-garde, professional, fun, exciting or extravagant? This can be difficult to answer, but it is very useful in giving your writer an understanding of what to say and how to say it

  13. Your unique selling point.
  14. What sets you apart from your competitors? Why should I pick your product or service?

  15. The benefits of using your products/services
  16. A big part of any copywriter’s job is to identify all the benefits of your products or services, and present them in a way that will ‘speak’ to the target audience. But they need to know from you what the main benefits are that you have identified.

  17. The main messages that you want to convey or the main action that you want your reader to take.
  18. Why have you drafted in a copywriter? What is the most important message that you want people to get from the writing? What do you want them to do after they’ve read the information? Place an order? Make an appointment? Set up an account? Register for a demonstration?

  19. Customer guarantees, special offers or discounts that you wish to include.
  20. Your copywriter can help you phrase these as well as making them a key part of your message. Make sure they’re aware of them from the start of the project.

  21. Any other information that you’d like to include – i.e. testimonials from your customers, business awards, press coverage, market research, case studies.
  22. All very useful information that a copywriter can use to bolster your credibility and weave into the writing. Don’t just provide it at the end of the project. A skilful copywriter can put it to good use.

  23. The writing style and tone
  24. This is another hard one, but very important. The easiest way to identify a style and tone for your business is to find something similar to what you want and provide an example. You might want something slightly different to the example, but it’s a great starting point.  Examples of what you definitely do not want are also helpful.

    Your copywriter will be able to guide you on this too, but definitely start thinking about it early. And always remember that your writing is for your readers, not for yourself: a style you like might not suit them.

    Style describes the form of the writing and the type of vocabulary, i.e. formal, informal or academic, whereas tone refers to the attitude you want to convey, i.e. enthusiastic or serious, for example. They are quite closely interlinked though, so don’t worry about that too much.

  25. Brand and/or style guidelines
  26. If you have any these need to be provided at the start of any writing project.

  27. Existing copywriting
  28. Adverts, brochures or web content that you’ve previously had done or done yourself. Even better if you can give an idea of which worked and which didn’t. Any existing writing for your project (previous or draft versions) or sources of information on which you want the project to be based

    Again, gather them together even before you’ve found your writer. That way it makes your part of meeting the agreed deadline that much easier when the project starts.

  29. Your  main competitors.
  30. Who are they? What are their website addresses? Do you like how they’ve done certain things? If your copywriter knows who they are then they can be sure to make you different

    Copywriters are human too… we like working with organised people who have a good idea of what they want. And you can’t help but do your very best work for people you like.

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