Going back quite a number of years, I was an account manager in a recruitment advertising agency; responsible for taking client briefs, then writing them up and passing them onto the creative team.
Our client base was predominantly public sector. Within that, mainly NHS. Busy people who frankly had more important things to do than rack their brains for selling points for a recruitment advert.
So quite often, you would slope back to the creative team with a half empty form and just hope for miracles. Unfortunately, our Head of Copy did not wish to be a miracle worker. He would turn the brief away informing you in no uncertain terms that if you put ‘sh*t in, guess what you would get out’.
Now as a copywriter many, many years later, I totally understand that position. To be fair, I also understand how difficult it can be to produce USPs, points of differentiation and core propositions if you’re in a highly competitive market or you’re not particularly skilled in thinking like a marketer.
But it must be done. There’s no point in groaning at the copywriter for asking probing questions. If we don’t know what’s great about your business, what drives you, what your ideal buyer looks like, what’s worked and not worked in the past, what your commercial objectives are and what points of difference you have; we simply can’t write it.
We’re copywriters, not fiction writers.
Give us facts, and we’ll shout them from the rooftops, in engaging, powerful language.
Give us nothing, and well, you do the maths.
The other thing I’ve learnt over SO many briefs, is that there’s always a proposition and a USP. It may not be obvious. It can be tiniest nugget of information or specialist knowledge, or found in a testimonial or case study. But it’s there. And finding it is indeed a team effort and through my own research I often uncover highly valuable positive content that can be used. But as a business owner, you know your business best. You know why your customers choose you. You know what the competition are up to and what gives you the edge.
It is the USP, the little unexpected nugget, that gives copywriters our inspiration. Especially if a creative concept is required. Before I even start writing, I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, digesting, researching in order to nail the concept, proposition and tone of voice. But this can’t emerge from a vacuum.
When you’re investing substantial sums in marketing, it makes sense to put the effort into a detailed brief. Yes, it may mean a bit of self-exploration, racking of the brains, time spent telling your story. But think about the benefits. Your writer will be inspired and informed, able to create content resulting in lead generation, customer engagement, new business and a stronger brand.
Some clients find the briefing process a useful and therapeutic exercise. It’s an opportunity to reflect on achievements, brand, position in the market and review aspirations.
A good brief is not a luxury or a nice-to-have. It’s essential if content is to deliver good results.