Thoughts on how to brief a copywriter: Why should I care?

Do you find it hard to brief  a copywriter? Do you worry that you give them too much information or not enough? It’s important to get it right because the better the briefing, the better the copy. Miriam Young, an English copywriter in the Netherlands, offers some advice on how to get the best from your copywriter. 

how to brief a copywriterLetting a good freelance copywriter loose on your advertising and marketing materials can be like waving a magic wand over your promotion strategy. Throw your marketing wishes into the air and watch as we transform them into profit-inducing communication. But the quality of what we can produce depends on how well we are briefed to begin with.
Briefing a copywriter incorporates many different aspects. From describing the marketing materials you want to create and defining the people you want to reach through to explaining what the product or service you’re promoting is and what you want your marketing materials to achieve. Oh and let’s not forget…..what it is that sets you apart from your competitors.
Does any of this seem too obvious to be worth going into detail about? Not if you want to get the best out of your copywriter.
Can you make a space alien care?
To brief a copywriter, imagine you are explaining your proposition to a just-landed space alien (that happens to understand Earth languages). No, I’m not suggesting copywriters are a different species. But if we’re to successfully convince others about your message, we first need to ensure it really does make sense. From a true outsider’s point of view. And when you’ve poured your heart out about your wonderful business and its products, we’re going to put ourselves in your customers’ shoes and ask “Why should I care?”

Why should I care about that special feature? Why should I care how long you’ve been in business? Why should I care how many employees you have? Why should I care that you’ve got a new range coming out this year?
You see it’s all very well to spout facts and figures. But if you want to win the hearts, minds and custom of all your potential clients, you need to make a clear connection between everything you want to say and how it makes their lives better. As copywriters, we can communicate this like you would believe. If you can tell us why you’re worth it, we’ll convince the world.
The magic formula
What exactly do you want me to tell you, I hear you cry? Most agencies and some copywriters have a fixed set of questions. I’ve listed a few food-for-thought items at the bottom of this article. This is far from exhaustive and the line of questioning needs to be developed organically to discover the individual qualities of every different business. But it is a good starting point. Try it. Can you give answers that convince a true outsider to understand and buy into your proposition?
Know your FABs
The perfect way to explore the relevance to others of the things you think are important is to put them through the FAB test.
F=Feature = something you want to mention about your product or company
A=Advantage = what advantage this offers
B=Benefit = how this benefits the customer
For example
Feature = Business has been operating for 25 years
Advantage = The business has amassed plenty of experience
Benefit = I feel confident that these people know what they’re doing and can trust them to deliver on their promises.
Feature = this phaser has a safety lock
Advantage = it won’t go off when the user isn’t expecting it to
Benefit = I won’t kill or stun anybody I don’t mean to. Including myself. That would be both inconvenient and embarrassing.
Hopefully you get the picture.
FABs are key to selling your proposition. The more FABs you can share with your copywriter, the better the job they can do for you. No cheating though…..if it’s not logical enough for Spock, it doesn’t count. And yes, human emotions are valid benefits.
Getting the best value
Copywriters have to be paid for their time. Every minute of it that’s devoted to thinking about your project. If your copywriter is working with you to discover your best marketing qualities it’s all money well spent. But if you want to keep your costs to a minimum, make sure you’ve thought your brief through properly. The more completely and concisely you brief your copywriter to begin with, the less time they have to spend on defining and refining your story. So come prepared by asking yourself “Why should I care?”
How well can you describe your products? How well do you know your customers and meet their needs?  Could you convince a just-landed space alien to choose you over your competitors?
Know your products
What are you trying to sell?
How are your products different from your competitors’?

Know your customers
Who are your customers?
What customer needs do you meet?
How do you fulfil these needs differently from your competitors?
What keywords or phrases would customers for your products enter into an online search?

Know your image
What are your company values?
How do these enhance the desirability of your products?
Know your promotional strategy
How do you already promote yourself? How do you want that to change?
What materials do you want to create? What purpose will they serve? How will they be distributed?
Know your follow up
What do you want customers to do as a result of reading your new marketing material?
About the author:
Miriam Young is available for copywriting, content strategy, editing, Dutch to English translation and other associated marketing related activitiesShe has many years’ of international experience in marketing, sales and PR (and first-rate English language skills) and is a copywriter for both online and offline.