Copywriting brief.

The better the brief, the better the result.

At the start of all new copywriting projects, I ask you to answer the briefing questions below.

If you’d like a Zoom call to discuss, please book a consultation. If we work together, I’ll take the charge off the final bill.

  1. What type of content do you need?
  2. What is the project deadline?
  3. What action should the content lead the reader to take?
  4. Who is the primary audience?
  5. Do you have a Tone of Voice guide?
  6. Describe your business in two or three sentences
  7. What problems do you solve for your customers?
  8. What is the story behind your business?
  9. Do you have any good content examples?

Download briefing document in Word

There’s some useful supporting information in this April 2021 blog post by LinkedIn.

Q1. What type of content do you need?

Examples: web page, blog post, case study, ebook, white paper.

I ask this so I can understand which writing style is likely to be best. The way you write a website sales page won’t be the same as how you write a white paper.

I’ll supply my content to you in a Word document with minimal formatting. If you need design help, I can call in a third-party designer to assist for an additional fee.

Q2. What is the project deadline?

Examples: 4 weeks, early September (specifics are better than “as soon as possible”)

I need to know when you need me to finish the work, so that I can make sure there’s room in my schedule.

I tend not to work on more than a couple of projects at once.

Short timescales can affect the price of the work. Keep that in mind in case your deadline is “yesterday”.

For more about pricing, see my technical writing prices series.

Q3. What action should the content lead the reader to take?

Examples: sign up for a trial, book a consultation, subscribe to a course

Think of your goal. What do you want the audience to do after consuming the content?

There’s no point creating business content that has no end goal or next step.

Q4. Who is the primary audience?

Example: Chief Technical Officers with a budget of £2 million, looking to rescue a delayed IT project.

Most people think of their audience in much too broad terms.

We should produce something targeted enough that the reader thinks “yes, this person is speaking to me!”

We need to demonstrate that we understand their role, motivation, fears and possible objections.

If you want to go into detail on defining the ideal reader, see pen portraits.

Q5. Do you have a Tone of Voice guide?

Examples: short and authoritative, warm and friendly, zany and unusual

Think about how you want your business to sound – and then we can write in that voice.

What written rules should we use to talk about your business? Dos and don’ts would be helpful.

Q6. Describe your business in two or three sentences.

Examples: we create a mobile bookkeeping app for owners of small businesses. It’s free for most users but we sustain our business through premium subscriptions.

I need to know what the key business proposition is. What is your field of expertise?

Perhaps we’ll find a better way of describing what it is you do, and that could lead to more business.

Q7. What problems do you solve for your customers?

Examples: we save people time and money with our integrated invoicing app.

If you’re promoting a product or service, talking about features alone isn’t going to cut it.

As well as discussing the benefits of whatever you’re offering, you’ll need to make clear the problems you’re solving for your customers.

There needs to be a level of empathy shown here: whatever is causing your potential or existing customers pain is what you need to be talking about.

Q8. What is the story behind your business?

Examples: a family-owned business started in 1965, created to support ex-forces servicemen and women. (And a lot more detail.)

If you need content for your website, including this sort of historical information can help set you apart from the competition. Put some detail and personality into your About page and get readers interested in the business.

Even if the writing has nothing to do with “about” content, it can sometimes be helpful to bring this sort of information into other places.

For example, perhaps we’re working on an educational project and can refer to the organisation having more than 50 years’ experience in a particular method. This sort of insight comes only when I have some grounding in your history.

Such matters might sound boring to you, but bear in mind that it could and probably will appeal to the right audience. Having a rich back-story is far better than having nothing.

Q9. Do you have any good content examples?

Examples: your best blog post or ebook.

List relevant sources of your own content that I could use as a “gold standard” to aim for.

If you don’t have examples of your own, you could list other content on the web that inspires you. Note that copying others isn’t a good idea.

What happens next?

Once you’ve filled in the briefing document, email it to [email protected].

I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can, often within 1 working day.

Still haven’t got the briefing document yet? OK, one more time:

Download briefing document

Thanks for reading,

John Espirian

Get in touch.

Tip: nice people get a quick response.