A thorough copywriting brief is vital
You wouldn’t attempt to create a complex meal without a detailed recipe. Or assemble flat-pack furniture without the full instructions.
The same goes for writing a website, blog or other communication.
Your copywriter will need to understand who you are, what your message is and, most importantly, who you’re talking to.
Starting with a comprehensive brief means you are more likely to get the copy you need — and get it more quickly, with fewer rounds of revisions.
My copywriting brief
Every copywriter works slightly differently, but we’re all looking for the same information.
My brief is a seven-section questionnaire that helps me learn all about your brand, your audience and your project.
So, let’s go through the brief and take a look at each section:
Section One: Your information
We start with a nice easy one, which is just filling in your contact information.
It’s important that you fill in as much as you can — including your business address, as I’ll need this for invoicing.
Section Two: About you
Section Two comprises 8 questions about your business and your brand.
1. Describe your brand in 3 to 5 words
This question is all about how you want your audience to see you and what impression you want to make.
Some examples might include:
- Expert, authoritative, knowledgable
- Young, fun, vibrant, energetic
- Fresh, creative, quirky, dynamic
- Luxurious, expensive, seductive.
When I write the copy, I can make sure these attributes come across.
2. Describe exactly what you do in plain English
In an ideal world, anyone who reads your copy should be able to understand what you do.
There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea, for example:
- The key decision-maker in an organisation might have their messages filtered by admin
Therefore, having something that admin can understand too makes it more likely your message will get through.
- You might have more markets for your product/service than you’re actively targeting
Making your copy simple to understand can help you reach them.
In your answer, you should aim to give an overview of what you do in no more than two sentences, avoiding jargon and keeping it as simple as you possibly can.
3. How does what you do help or benefit your customers?
This question is all about how your product/service improves the lives of your customers. Your answer should explain why your customers should buy it.
For example, maybe it:
- Solves a problem they’re having
- Makes a task quicker or easier for them
- Improves their rate of success
- Makes them more comfortable
- Helps them achieve a lifestyle goal.
If it helps, describe the before and the after to show the change.
4. How does the value of your offer compare to others in your industry?
This question is designed to give me an idea of where your brand sits in the market and the kinds of customers you want to attract.
To answer it, you might consider the following:
- Are you offering a high, mid or low-value product/service?
- Are you more or less expensive than your competitors?
- What’s the budget of your ideal customer?
5. What are your main selling points?
Your answer to this question should help me understand why your prospects should specifically choose to work with you or buy from you.
Try to think in terms of what you do differently rather than what you do better. The reason for this is that better can be replicated, but different is exclusively yours. If your selling point is something unique to you, that’s even better.
For example, perhaps you:
- Offer a unique product, service or combination
- Have a product range with a unique range of features
- Benefit from specialist expertise or a unique set of skills
- Have a unique brand story or reason for doing what you do.
6. What do you want your brand to ‘sound’ like?
This question is designed to help me establish a tone of voice for your brand.
Tone of voice refers to the language, rhythm and style I’ll use to write your copy.
To answer the question, it might help to think of your brand as a person. How would that person sound when they ‘talk’ to your audience?
I appreciate this might seem like a tough question, so in the brief itself, I’ve given a whole list of things you might say. You can use a few of those or choose your own if you prefer.
If you’re finding it difficult, it might help to have a look at question 7 then come back to this one.
If your brand is established, you may already have a tone of voice. If this is the case, you might want to include some examples of communications you’ve had produced before.
7. Who or what is your brand inspired by?
Have you been inspired by another brand’s communications? Or a celebrity, perhaps?
Maybe you like the way they sound and would like a similar style for your copy.
If there are brands or celebrities you’d like to emulate, you can tell me what/who they are here and explain what it is about them that you like.
8. Do you have any special achievements we need to mention?
Special achievements can give your brand credibility.
I’m talking about things like:
- Awards you’ve won or been nominated for
- Memberships of professional organisations
- Professional qualifications or accreditations
- Something you’ve become famous for
- Being featured in a high profile publication (‘As featured in…’)
- An appearance on TV, radio or a high profile podcast (‘As seen/heard on…’).
Section Three: Your audience
Section Three has 5 questions about your audience. These are to help me understand who the copy will be talking to. The more detail you can provide here, the more effective your copy should be.
9. Describe your typical target audience/customer
This question is looking for the particulars of your audience, specifically their:
- Age range
- Job title(s).
10. What are their interests, ambitions, dreams and desires?
There are two main factors that influence most purchases: want and/or need. This question should answer the want.
It’s a question that could have many answers — all depending on what you’re offering.
For example, let’s say you’re selling cleaning products. Your audience wants a fast and effective cleaning product that will help them get the job done quickly. Because they don’t want to spend more time cleaning than they have to.
Or, for example, you sell luxury country getaways. Your audience wants a peaceful escape from the stresses of work and everyday life. They want to be somewhere they can truly switch off, relax and recharge their batteries.
To answer the question, you might think about your audience and ask yourself questions like these:
- What goals do they have?
- What do they want most?
- Where do they want to be?
- What does their ideal scenario look like?
- What kind of lifestyle do they aspire to?
11. What problems are you going to solve for them?
The second factor that influences purchases is need. Things your audience needs are generally things that solve their problems and relieve their pain points.
So, the question is, what are their problems and how does what you offer solve them?
To answer it, tell me about their problems:
- What’s causing them difficulties?
- What’s consuming them — taking up their time and energy?
- What’s costing them financially?
- What’s keeping them awake at night?
And then explain how your solution will resolve these problems and improve things.
12. What motivates them?
What’s going to motivate your audience to buy what you’re selling?
For example, will you:
- Enable them to get results quicker and with less effort?
- Save/make them lots of money?
- Give something they desire?
- Alleviate their discomfort?
- Help them realise an ambition?
- Take them closer to the lifestyle they’ve been dreaming of?
13. How do you want your audience to feel?
Despite what some people say, there’s an element of feeling in every purchasing decision. Even if it’s only feeling confident you’re making the right purchasing decision!
So how do you want your copy to make your audience feel?
- Something else?
Section Four: Your competitors
Section Four has just one question — and it’s about your competition.
Now, you might be thinking ‘but we don’t want to be like our competitors’. But that isn’t what this question is about.
It’s more about differentiating you from your competitors — and I can’t do that with any certainty if I don’t know what your competitors are doing.
If you’re getting website or blog copy, it’s also about SEO keywords. I need to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for and how competitive those keywords are.
14. What companies/brands do you see as your biggest competition?
You probably know who your closest competitors are — and if you do, that’s great. List them in the box with links to their websites, if you have them.
If you don’t know who your competitors are, or you think you don’t have any competitors (you do), you need to do some digging. But where do you start?
Your competitors are businesses that:
- Sell the same product or a similar product
- Offer the same service or a similar service
- Offer the same experience or a similar experience
- Purport to solve the same problems — even if their methods are different.
To find them, try searching on Google.
For example, if you have an Italian restaurant in Oxford, you’d search for ‘Italian restaurants in Oxford’. Then look for the ones that offer the closest dining experience to your own, or those that are positioning themselves similarly.
Section Five: Your project
Section Five comprises three questions that deal specifically with your project and what you need from it.
15. If you haven’t done so already, tell me what you need
This is a general question that deals with the deliverables for your project.
There are entry points for the:
- Project title
- Media, for example if it’s a brochure, blog article or website
- Number of pages required
- Word limit or number of words required.
16. What are the main aims of your project?
To answer this question, tell me about the results you’re looking for and what you want your project to achieve for your business.
For example, perhaps you want to:
- Increase sales or business enquiries
- Get more sign-ups to your mailing list
- Attract more visitors to your website
- Convert more of your website visitors into customers.
17. Are there any suitable sources I can use to gather further information?
When I’m working on your project, it’s likely I’ll need access to information. And for this, I’ll need credible sources I can trust. If there are sources like this you can recommend, this will be a big help.
For example, your business might be associated with:
- A designated industry body or regulator
- An official agency or government department
- A charity that conducts its own research.
Section Six: Your website (if relevant)
Section Six is applicable if I’ll be writing copy for your website. If your project is not website related, you can skip this section and move onto Section Seven.
18. Do you know what keywords your existing website is already being found for?
You can find this information on Google Analytics or Search Console.
Or, if you have Google Analytics and Search Console added to your site, you can add me as a user and let me see for myself.
19. What would your customers type into Google if they wanted to find a business like yours?
You can answer this question with a list of possible search terms potential customers might use if they were looking for your business.
For example, if you’re an online wallpaper retailer, your list might include:
- Wallpaper with next-day delivery
- Designer wallpaper
- Wallpaper newest styles
- Lounge wallpaper
- Buy wallpaper online.
Section Seven: Project specifics
In this final section, I’ll include a list of questions that relate directly to your project.
For example, I might ask you to list the specific points you want to include on each page of your website.
If you want to, you can provide additional resources with your brief.
- Existing marketing materials — so I can match your existing tone and style
- Case studies or testimonials — to make your business case stronger
- Statistics or research — to support what you’re doing
- Analytics from your current website, if you have one — to determine the strengths to capitalise on and weaknesses to improve on.
Want to work with me?
If you don’t have all the information and need some extra help to formulate a winning strategy, I would be happy to help you with that, too.
If you’re interested in working with me and would like to find out more, you can do so via my website.