Content Production
May 13, 2020

How to Write a Copywriting Brief

Working with a writer? Make sure you use a copywriting brief to guide the project. It’ll save you time, money, and a bunch of headaches.

To help you come up with your own brief—one that works well for your and your writer’s needs—I thought I’d share the things we include in the DGW brief whenever we work with clients.

Do you always need to use a copywriting brief?

Short answer: YES.

Long answer: HELL YES.

It’s tempting to think you can “jump on a call” with your copywriter and chat haphazardly through every note and idea that’s rolling around in your head. But in my experience, a project that starts all over the place ends up being, well… all over the place.

Take the time to write a brief before you hire a copywriter.

The process will:

  • help you clarify what you really need a copywriter to help you achieve
  • force you to be judicious about the assets you’re requesting.
  • identify specific objectives you want the project to achieve
  • give a copywriter everything they need to deliver copy that’s on brand and optimized for conversion

How long should a copywriting brief be?

Ideally, a copywriting brief should be one to two pages long. As a general rule, the more concise your copywriting brief is, the better.

While there's nothing to stop you from making a 10-page brief, just remember that a bloated, convoluted copywriting brief is often a sign that you need to go back and reconsider the project objectives and the assets you’re requesting before pushing things into production.

If your brief is getting too long—or it just looks overloaded with information—link out to additional resources instead of cutting and pasting huge blocks of text into your brief. We all know that if there’s too much information in front of us, it’s hard to make sense of anything.

What should I put in a copywriting brief?

Your copywriting brief should include everything your writer needs to know to deliver copy that achieves your project objectives—the assets you want written, the marketing or conversion objectives you're setting for this project, deadlines, audience information, and more.

Keep in mind, what you include in a brief will vary from project to project. For quick, straightforward projects, a simple one-page brief will usually suffice. For complex, "multi-asset multi-deadline multi-stakeholder" projects, you'll probably find that longer, in-depth briefs are required.

For this reason, it's a good idea to have a template copywriting brief on file that you can easily adapt—i.e. add to, or edit down—based on each project's scope.

To help you come up with your own copywriting brief, here’s a long laundry list of all of the things you might like to include in your brief. Don’t feel like have to include them all.

Information about your project

Project description: Include a brief overview of the project and how it relates to your company’s business strategy.

What needs to be created: List the assets you want the copywriter to produce. For example, a landing page, a sales email sequence, web copy, a white paper, a blog post, a series of facebook ads…

Objective(s): What do you want this project to achieve?

Call to action: What action do you want people to take in order to “convert”? Free trial, book a demo, sign up, complete an intake survey, give us a call…

SEO: List your primary and secondary keywords, word count, and anything other SEO parameters your copywriter should take into consideration.

Deadlines: When do you need final copy delivered? When do you need draft(s) for revision?

Constraints: Anything your copywriter needs to be aware of. Min/max word count, format restrictions, design limitations, etc.

Information about your target audience

Target audience: Who do you want to reach? Include any information about your target audience that may be helpful to your copywriter (the nature of their business, the position they hold in the company, their age, sex, socio-economic profile, etc.)

Triggers: What pain points, needs, or desires make potential customers search for your product or service? What triggers or “aha!” moments make them convert into paying customers?

Objections: What makes your target customers hesitate? Why do they abandon products in their cart? Why do they not sign up after the free trial period?

Past experience: What other products have they purchased or tried in the past? Why would they choose yours instead?

AOB (Any Other Business)

Consider this section a “catch all” where you put anything else in that’s relevant to the project.

Supporting documentation: Are there any benchmark assets you’d like the copywriter to revise before starting work on this project? Is there a sales presentation, a customer research deck, a library of customer testimonials, or a file of unedited interviews that would be helpful for your writer? If so, flag this with your writer here.

Competitor info: What are the alternatives to your company or product? Which companies are kicking your butt? Which competitors do you need to beat in search results?

Voice, tone, and style guidelines: include key pointers on your company’s brand voice, tone, or even just the way that you like copy formatted.

I don’t think I’m doing this right. Help!

Seriously, don’t overthink it. Download our free copywriting brief and use it as a starting point if you're feeling lost in this process.

And take solace in the fact that writing a copywriting brief is a “choose your own adventure” endeavour. You get to decide what to include and what to omit. So keep it simple at first. Then, add or subtract whatever you like in future copywriting projects.

If you follow this iterative process, you'll find that your copywriting brief template will improve over time. You might develop different templates for different projects (e.g. your in-house copywriting briefs might look a little different from the content briefs you send to freelance long-form copywriters.)

And if you do happen to forget any vital information from your brief, don’t stress. An experienced copywriter will always pick up on that and reach out with questions before any writing begins.

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