Writing a Brief for Your Copywriter: A (Hopefully) Handy Guide

David Ogilvy, known as the Godfather of Advertising, famously wrote a letter describing his method of writing copy - and it’s an interesting place to start when trying to understand how to build a brief you need your copywriter to answer.

In the letter he says, “I write one definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve.”

It’s vital when writing your brief that you understand and communicate the problem you’d like your copywriter to solve - and if you follow the ‘Five Ws’ it can actually be easy and enjoyable.

The Five Ws

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The Five Ws are Who, What, Why, Where and How (I realise How doesn’t start with a W, but there’s one on the end so let’s not be too picky)

Who

Think about who you are trying to talk to and influence – consider your customer, perhaps, and if you were to meet them on the street, what would they be like. Describe them

What

What is it you’re trying to tell your customer and how will it benefit them? Whether it’s a product or a service, what problem does it solve? If it’s an offer or invitation, what will encourage them to accept?

Why

Why should your customer pick your product, service? Why is what you’re offering special?

Where

Where can your customer find your product - is it online, is it at an event, is it in a particular place? Where will you be collating their response to your copy? Are you collecting their data or watching a sales figure?

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How

How are you going to communicate with your customer? Is it via direct mail, social media or a press release?

Spend time answering these questions and building a picture for your copywriter, looking at what you need them to do.

Structuring your brief

A helpful way to lay out your brief is:

Aim

Objective

Method

Anticipated response/result

Research to be considered

Timescales

Budget

Structuring your brief this way and using the Five Ws will enable you to share with your copywriter all your thoughts behind the work you need them to do. The better they understand your expectations, the better the results will be.

Nothing Like Face-to-Face

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If you’re still feeling flummoxed at the prospect of writing a brief, consider this other nugget of info from the Godfather of Advertising: “If you want ACTION, don’t write - go and tell the guy what you want.”

Sometimes, when you’re not 100% sure what you need your copywriter to do, but you know you need them to do something, it’s easier for both of you to sit down and write the brief together.

Don’t forget: your copywriter has tonnes of experience to share with you; asking them to help you structure the brief can be part of the process.

If you’d like help with a copywriting brief I’d be more than happy to take a look - just get in touch.

 

How do you know if you need a copywriter?

Do you sit staring at a blank screen, tweet or Instagram post waiting for inspiration to strike?

Do you wish you had the time to write blogs, newsletters or content for your website?

Do you have sales literature, adverts or emails to write for your business, but you dread having to tackle them?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the questions above then, yes, you and your business would probably benefit from a copywriter.

So, what is copywriting?

A common misconceptions about copywriting is that anyone can do it and that it’s easy.

The definition of copywriting according to Wikipedia is…

“The act, or occupation of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.”

I think of copywriting as talking to someone using words on a page – sounds simple, I know, but writing copy that conjures a voice in a person’s head is tricky - especially when it has to stand out from a sea of well-written marketing copy.

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The key is to allow a person to feel like your words have been written just for them.

The Value of Good Copywriting

Good copywriting gives your brand personality and makes your customers remember who you are. Having gorgeous shots of your products for social media, or a great email offer to share with your customers are no use on their own; they need words and language to bring them to life.

A favourite example for me of when copywriting amplifies a brand’s personality is last year’s John Lewis Christmas TV advert. Using the sentiment of one of the most iconic songs ever written, John Lewis brought the message of their campaign to a final crescendo with the heart-warming end frame and simple line ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’.

Understandably, not everyone has John Lewis’ budget, but with email marketing as powerful as ever, 57% of people read more than half of the emails they receive; using copy to influence your customers can be done effectively and within your budget.

Press releases, social media posts, emails, website content, white papers can all be sent via various channels relatively cheaply; but where it’s important to make the investment is in the words you want your customers to read.


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Are you ready to let me help you?

You can use copy to great effect on your website, in your social media posts, in your newsletters, sales literature; pretty much anywhere where you write about your business - and I’d love to help you do it.

If you think your business could benefit from my copywriting expertise then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’d welcome the opportunity to help you talk to your customers.

Until next time…

Writer's Block: What to Do When it Strikes

Whether it’s a blog post for a client, a short story competition you want to enter or even a new caption for Instagram, when writer’s block strikes it can feel completely debilitating - and like you’ll never be able to write again.

To help overcome it, the first thing to remember is that ‘writer’s block’ isn’t something that crawls into your head zapping you of your writing ability; it’s usually connected to how you feel about your work.

Confidence is a huge part of being able to write and when those sneaky suspicions of ‘am I good enough?’ or ‘will my client like this?’ start to creep in, they can be overwhelming and leave you struggling to write at all.

What to do to restore your faith in your writing ability?

Here are my five top tips for when writer’s block strikes:

1.       Get up and walk away

If you find yourself struggling to find the words to write, get up from your desk and walk away. Pay with cash, don’t take your phone and walk a different way home to the way you came…it will encourage you to connect with your surroundings and look at things differently.

On returning to your work you’ll find you approach it with a clearer focus and the new ideas will start to flow.

2.       Get creative

Writing is a creative output and as described in an article for the New York Times, people’s approach to writing varies, as can the parts of their brains they use to write. Disciplines that require skill and practise need exercise.

Danielle Krysa’s book Creative Block is packed full of creative exercises to help you stimulate the grey matter, give some of them a go.

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3.       Buy a newspaper

Newspapers offer stat-based, short snippets or long form pieces of journalism about people, products, services, businesses – everything! I recommend reading them in hard copy as this is a much more immersive experience than reading online. Plus, you can’t fall into the rabbit hole of click bait if the paper is on the table in front of you.

Get your pen out and scribble all over it as your brain engages and ideas come to you; go grab a paper and feast on its contents.

4.       Talk

 Talking with someone you trust will help your confidence and talking about your work will create new perspectives.

If you’re not quite ready for an in-depth dive into what’s at the root of your writer’s block, think about joining a writing community like Pro Copywriters – but remember to limit your online browsing to no more than 20 minutes, or you run the risk of losing half your day to aimless online wandering.

5.       Write

This comes up a lot when looking at solutions for writer’s block, and as obvious as it is, it’s also probably the best solution.

The chair you’re sat on – describe it, the scene from your window – dictate it, the last time you ate in a restaurant – write a letter about it; just write and focus on how you use language to solve these mini challenges.

Then go back to your work and apply the same process, break it down and start the first draft; write, edit, repeat – you can do it!

 

Running a Business: What I've Learned in Five Years

What is it that makes us Brits shy away from a spot of self-praise? Even as I type this (rather belated) blog post, I’m a little reticent. So much so that there’s a good chance I won’t hit ‘Publish’ when it’s done.

Nevertheless…

Half a blinking decade. 1300 working days. A heck of a lot of hours.

However you frame it, that’s some achievement - and I’m trying hard to be nothing but really blinking proud about it. So, here I am sharing with you what I’ve learned in five years of solid and solitary graft…because if I can keep self-employment up for that long, then so can you.

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No (Wo)Man is an Island

Yep, I’m borrowing the age-old phrase Hugh Grant famously uttered in ‘'About a Boy’. Its meaning? We all need to rely on others from time to time - and there’s absolutely no shame in that. As my workload has grown, so have my stress levels - and try as I might, I can’t manage either on my own. So, I’ve drafted in some help in the form of some equally reliable freelancers. They help keep me sane during busier months and ensure I can sleep at night, too. If I have one piece of advice for anyone else running a business, it’s delegate. As difficult as it can be to hand over the reins, sometimes you must.

Self-Care is Vital

Pah, I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘self-care’. When did it stop being called ‘looking after yourself’ or ‘relaxation’ and start sounding…well...a little bit pretentious really?! But whatever you like to call it, it’s vital for us all. We really do owe it to ourselves to take the time out we need, whether that’s an hour away from our desks or a week in the sun. Do both, when required, and don’t feel guilty. After all, us freelancers don’t get paid for being off sick, so any form of TLC will only help us stay better for longer. I’m up for that; are you?!

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I look after myself by doing my best to keep my business and free time very much separate. I think they call it a ‘work/life balance’ - and it truly is a balancing act, but it’s one I’m managing well enough. It starts by having two phones and not taking your business one out with you for cocktails, if you can help it. Ultimately, the pay off is this: by enjoying your free time to the best of your ability, you’ll feel more than ready and refreshed to return to your work come Monday morning.

(Freelance) Friends Are Important

In fact, any kind of friends are important, to be honest. But as a business owner who works in solitude most of the time, it’s vital I schedule semi-regular catch-ups with fellow freelancers. Again, it’s what keeps us all sane. That and cake. And plenty of it.

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Cake Tastes Better with Colleagues

For me, there have been few downsides to running a business. But one of the bigger ones is this: eating cake while having a coffee break is absolutely no fun on your own. Sure, podcasts can take you away from your desk for 15 minutes or so, but few things beat catching up with a colleague as you make a brew together in the office kitchen, or chowing down on another slice of Victoria sponge, lovingly made by Office Manager, Carol.

Those of you with workmates, cherish them - and the next time you feel a mini meltdown coming on because John from accounts hasn’t washed his mug again, breathe a sigh of relief that there’s someone else to vent your frustration toward in the first place. When you’re freelance, there’s no one. Well, not if you don’t count Barry the visiting window pigeon. No colleagues also means there’s no one to share a post-meeting natter with, no one to share your woes with, and no one to buy a Secret Santa gift for. Sob.

Tax Return Time Will ALWAYS Make me Long for an Office Job

I have an accountant who files my return for me, but that time of the year still manages to fill me with dread. When January rolls around, I wonder why I even chose to be self-employed at all. I find myself pondering if life would indeed be easier if tax was taken out at source.

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It Doesn’t Get Any Less Frustrating When People Don’t Pay On Time

You’d think after five years I’d have developed a foolproof system that ensures late payments just aren’t a thing. But it still happens, despite reminders, despite signed contracts, and despite firm emails.

Another downside to working for yourself? I think so. My newly-enforced rule? A spot fine for payment that doesn’t reach me on the day it’s due. Sounds harsh, but believe me, it’s necessary for the 0.1% of people who don’t feel it important to pay us freelancers on time. And so far, so good. You should do it, too - if you haven’t already.

Creativity is a Process

I used to strive for a ‘right first time’ attitude to my work, but that level of ‘perfectionism’ doesn’t get you anywhere. Plus, improvement only comes by rehashing and retuning copy, right down to every last punctuation mark. Clients don’t mind when there’s some to-ing and fro-ing when it comes to their content. In fact, I think most appreciate the chance to get involved. So if you’re a creative who feels a ‘failure’ when a round of amends drop into your inbox, all I can say is don't. Copywriting, designing or creating of any kind is definitely a process.

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An Uncluttered Office Improves Productivity

For me, this is a biggie. Also: a nice-looking office filled with things that make you happy. My space is a mixture of fresh flowers, colourful wall prints, and calming scents, thanks to my plug-in, light-up room diffuser. I change the fragrance with my mood (yes, I’m that gal!) and it works a treat.

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Working from Home Can Be Great. It Can Also Be Lonely.

I thought that the answer to my work-based solitude was to join a business centre and take up an office room of my own - because while being your own boss is cool, working on your own isn’t. So I took up said space, and found that, after just three months, I missed the quiet of my home office and promptly handed in my notice. It’s bittersweet, as I loved the building and the people who worked from it. But the noise from the other offices made me feel more alone in my little space. It also made me realise that I can’t write with too much background noise. So it’s back to the working from home drawing board for now.

Making Your Own Hours is Blinking Ace

For all my bemoaning of this here self-employed life, it really is fantastic. On the whole. Nothing comes close to being able to make my own hours, take time off when I need it and not feel too guilty for very occasionally being off sick. In the five years since I’ve been freelance, I’ve been able to jump in my car and head down the M6 at literally a moment’s notice when my sister went into labour. I’ve also attended my nephews’ sports days without needing to formally put in a day’s holiday with the boss. And I’ve had numerous late lunches, early finishes and long weekends.

Meeting nephew number 4

Meeting nephew number 4

If you’re thinking about going freelance, too, please do it. I have a feeling you won’t regret it. Not a jot.

Here’s to the next five years…



The Ultimate Instagram Stories How-To Guide

If your business uses Instagram, you’ll have probably used the Stories function once or twice. Swiped from Snapchat (more or less), it’s an instant way to share thoughts and boost your visibility on your followers’ feeds.

If you’re not a confident Instagrammer, it’s also another confusing feature to feel intimidated by.

Some businesses hammer Stores all day every day, and some barely use it at all. This ultimate Instagram Stories how-to guide has been created to help you get the most out of this quickfire feature, no matter how you intend to use it.

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So let’s get started!

Create a Calendar

If you’ve been running your business for a while, you’ll already be familiar with the concept of an editorial calendar, whether you know it or not.

Your editorial calendar is a foolproof guide, created by you, to help you create and post the right types of marketing content, advertisements and offers at ideal moments throughout the year.

Whether you drill right down to the hours and minutes or you simply keep track of your busier times of year, your editorial decisions are based around these timings. It sounds difficult, but it isn’t: think about how you plan campaigns around Christmas, or summer holiday season, or even in the run-up to the weekend. It all counts!

Creating a calendar for your Stories content will help you out because it means you won’t be left stranded without content on a busy day. It also means you can really take advantage of my next tip…

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Schedule Your Stories

Creating your Stories content in bulk and scheduling them across the day, week or month is a fantastic way to keep on top of your Instagram Stories and ensure you’re not leaving your followers drawing a blank when they want to see content from you.

There are apps and scheduling platforms that allow you to do this easily, such as Tailwind and Later. Use their tools and let technology do the hard work for you.

What content should I share on Instagram Stories?

Good question. Every Instagram account is different, and it depends on what you use the platform for as to what you’ll be publishing on Stories every day.

Your main options to choose from are:

●      Photo

●      Video

●      Boomerang

●      Sharing posts.

With photos, you get a static picture, but you can add gifs and other adornments to them in the editing process.

Using video is great to share news or product releases in a personal way, and you can choose to have volume on or off.

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Boomerang is a more compelling way to share a relatively dull image – think shots of packaging – but it can eat into your users’ data and become annoying if used too much.

 You can also add to your story by sharing posts from your main feed or from any other feed you choose. This is really useful for highlighting review posts, or drawing people to your main feed for your latest post.

Use Stats

If in doubt, follow the numbers. If you’re not sure what types of content your followers are enjoying, take a quick look at Instagram Insights to see what’s been playing out well and what’s been flopping.

Armed with the facts, you can head back to work and create content you know will hit your targets.

See, Instagram Stories are easy once you get the hang of it! But if you’re really struggling, ping me an email. I’d love to talk to you about how I can help boost your Instagram game.

Until next time…