Companies and agencies often start projects with a Creative Brief – an overview of goals, target audiences, messaging, timing, delivery channel and so on. The Creative Brief typically includes details about the physical look and feel of the piece. That’s certainly necessary for the team, including your project’s writer, but copywriters can do a better job when they have certain information from the start.

Getting good copy out of your copywriter depends not only on their writing skills, but also on their understanding of what you are after. If you don’t know, they can’t figure it out for you. (Well, maybe some of us can.) A good brief on the front end of any marketing project will contribute to fewer revisions and rewrites on the back end and faster speed to market.

What Your Copywriter Wants to Know

Since I’m a copywriter, I’ve learned there are certain things I need to know about a project from a content perspective. Call it a Content Brief. Next time you think about a Creative Brief, consider including some of these questions, so the overview will also serve as a stronger Content Brief for your copywriter.

The basics

  • What service, product, or event are you promoting through this piece?
  • Is this something new or introducing an existing product to a new audience?
  • How would you describe the desired tone of the piece? Playful? Formal? Something else?
  • Where and how will readers receive it? What is the medium or delivery channel, such as direct mail, email, web page, white paper or case study?
  • What is the approximate length of the copy? Is it email length? Sales letter? Direct mailer? White paper?
  • Is there a standard layout template to follow for this type of piece or content?
  • What’s the deadline for final copy? When is the piece schedule for launch?

The resources

  • Who is the topic expert in your company?
  • Are there current customers who also might be appropriate to interview? Provide all contact info and clearance.
  • Is there additional written background material or other resources that could be used?

The players

  • Who is the internal point person for the project?
  • Who owns this project in your company?
  • What department has requested the project?
  • Who will need to review and approve copy? Who will handle the review process?
  • If you’re an international company, will this content be used in other markets? What’s that input and approval process?

The readers

  • Who is the target audience for this piece? Think in terms of title and industry.
  • What does the reader already know about your company, product or service?
  • What keywords and phrases are relevant for this audience/product/problem/market?
  • What market trends, issues or opportunities related to this piece are impacting your target readers?
  • Where is the reader in the sales process when they get this? Such as:
    • New prospect?
    • Current customer?
    • Knows the company, but not convinced yet to buy?

The value

  • What problems will this information solve for the target audience?
  • What are the top three to five messages of the piece?
  • What features and benefits should be included?
  • What is the background on the project? That is, why is it needed?

The outcome

  • What do you want the reader to do/feel/know as a result of receiving this information?
  • What’s their motivation for doing this?

Having the answers to these questions will save time for your copywriter and speed time to market for your marketing projects and campaigns. Content will be closer to the goal sooner and require fewer revision cycles. The Content Marketing Institute also covered this topic recently in this post: Checklist: 15 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Content Marketing Project.

And as you prepare your brief, don’t use vague generalities and useless jargon. Be as specific as possible. You’re not selling here. You are providing direction to a professional. The answers might also just help a struggling marketer think more strategically about the role of the content and outcome they want to achieve.