Kick-start your marcoms projects – a brief guide to briefing your copywriter

A request from a potential new client prompts me to share some thoughts on how to work effectively with your copywriter to get your projects off to a flying start.

Don’t be stingy with the brief…
You’ll need to provide background into your company, your audience, your solutions and the competitive landscape. The old ‘Who, What, Why, Where, When, How?’ framework is useful, and I use a ‘copy platform’ briefing document. I don’t expect my clients to sit down and complete this; I walk them through it during our initial conversation.

Is the copywriter working to an existing design (perhaps for an exhibition stand or advertisement) or do you need them to come up with a basic theme or concept?

…but less is definitely more!
Sending your copywriter zipfiles of PowerPoint presentations, datasheets and whitepapers (or, heaven forbid, a series of lengthy videos) as background is no substitute for a proper brief. It eats into your budget too, as they’ll need to sift through many pages and slides to find the half-a-dozen points that are actually relevant.

Therefore, it’s better for everyone if you are highly selective about what you send and are prepared to talk the content through. Don’t send content just in case it might be useful. You’ll dilute your message.

A clear brief is worth a ton of background reading to your copywriter
A clear brief is worth a ton of background reading to your copywriter

What do you charge?
Asking your writer’s hourly/daily rate, or what it will cost to produce a particular item, is a difficult question for them to answer. The work required to produce a compelling piece of copy will vary depending on the amount of research required. Are they taking someone else’s first draft and knocking it into shape or starting with a literal blank sheet and conducting multiple interviews? Exactly how long is that piece of string?

Their experience has a bearing, too. A copywriter who knows their stuff may have a higher hourly rate but should be able to get to the heart of what you need more quickly than a novice.

In return, you can expect your copywriter to:

  • Bring a fresh perspective to your business
  • (Politely) challenge any assumptions and jargon that would block effective communication
  • Write engagingly and accurately
  • Bring out the hidden benefits of what you do – and which you yourself may take for granted
  • Keep you posted on progress
  • Avoid nasty surprises when it comes to invoicing

I hope this helps you to build a productive relationship with your chosen copywriter, whether you choose M squared or not!


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