Great words wrapped up in a swift service – clients dream of it and copywriters aspire to it. But delivering this package depends on a decent brief.

All good communication has one thing in common – an understanding of the readership and what’s in it for them, whether you’re writing about a service or a product.

What to include in a brief

If you’re briefing a copywriter, they are more likely to create accurate content in a first draft if you tell them, accurately, why there’s a need for it and the audience it’s aimed at.

You should also give your copywriter an idea of key messages to cover, the resources they’ll be given, and what the call to action is. It’s also helpful to provide a copy of the organisation’s tone of voice and its style guide.

If you don’t have a style guide, point them to a website or publication that you like and tell them why you prefer it. Many national newspapers have put theirs online. Here’s The Guardian and Observer style guide.

A brief word on templates

The savviest of my clients have a template brief they use repeatedly, finessed a bit here and there, when appointing me as a writer.

The briefs come in all shapes and sizes but I like these two. One is from a recent marketing project brief I received from a manufacturing client, covering one side of A4.

At the top it said:

Project name | Project owner | Delivery date

This was followed by six short two-line summaries under these headings:

Business need for project

Target audience

Call to action

Who to contact

Creative copy and key messages

Print and production details

This brief gave me all the guidance I needed in the simplest possible terms, so I could get cracking straight away. A two-line introduction told me to avoid jargon and write clearly and simply, as if talking to someone new to the company. Wise words.

Another brief, this time for an internal communications news story for an energy company, went into more detail:

Brief summary of the article and its key messages

How it fits the company agenda

Who to interview

Comms team contact


Approvals process

Call to action

Experience tells me that the more information a client supplies up front, the easier it is to get to grips with what’s required and the more likely you are to write to brief.

Make sure you list the communications objective and the business goal, and any key messages. Most importantly, list whom you want to target and the market sectors you’re aiming at.

For clients, a well-briefed writer will deliver a draft right first time, avoiding the time-consuming messiness of redrafts and the cost of rewrites.

If you have any examples of excellent briefs, or any other tips on writing a good one, I’d love to receive them.