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A creative brief gives you insight into your client's needs and desires

A creative brief gives you insight into your client’s needs and desires

If you don’t have a good creative brief to work from and inspire you, you’ll struggle to satisfy your client and fail to deliver what they want and need.

For those who follow this blog, you’ll know that I’m now doing more copywriting than proofreading. It isn’t a hard transition; I love both proofreading and writing copy. However, my biggest help has been Belinda Weaver of Copywrite Matters.

Belinda gives me overflow copywriting work and writes an awesome creative brief. She spends time getting to know the client, the business and the business environment so we don’t have any surprises down the track.

Once I’ve read through one of her works of art, I’m fully prepared and can pretty much sit down and start writing. Of course, I do my own research to make sure I’m not going to parrot someone else’s words, but the brief is enough. The brief gives me the information I need, but also, it inspires me.

This means that I write copy that the client wants and expects, and we tick all the SEO and marketing boxes. The tone of voice is right for the client…and we get great testimonials.

No creative copywriting brief
Last year, I had a client – a smallish graphic design studio – who’d hired me to write some marketing collateral for their client, Brand X. I’d met the ‘marketing’ people from Brand X and, well, they didn’t really have a clue. Business plan? “Make more money, ha ha!” Marketing plan? Any indication that they were aware of the best times to target new business? Nothing.

I asked the studio people to ask their client to fill out my creative brief and it duly came back, sparsely populated. Well, you work with what you’ve got. I wrote copy that addressed the brief and sent it off. A few days later, the studio got back to me.

Studio: “They hated the copy. They said you should have known it wasn’t what they wanted.”
Me: “The copy addressed the brief.”
Studio: “I know, but we didn’t get them to fill it out. They were too busy so we did it.”

Great. My reputation with Brand X is in tatters and my primary client isn’t happy because their client isn’t. I didn’t get a chance to rewrite the copy and didn’t get paid for the work I’d done*.

Stop! Unless you have a great copywriting brief
Now I won’t go ahead with a project unless I have a comprehensive copywriting brief, signed off by the end client. The creative brief is your opportunity to build a relationship with a client, to learn a bit more about how they think and what their real goals are – overall, and for a particular project. It not only helps me to fulfil their desires, but also, it weeds out the undesirables.

Thanks to some great copywriting briefs, I’ve worked on jobs that were a doddle – Classic Blinds and Shutters, Groundtruth, Matryx Solutions in Security, Overflow Café and Bar, Clancy’s and Maroba Caring Communities, to name a few. They’re all happy clients, all due to Belinda’s professional approach from the start and the attendant good client-supplier relationships.

How do you manage the briefing process? Any horror stories? Let me know.

* I’d done work for this client before and satisfied their needs and goals…because I had good creative copywriting briefs.

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Some weeks go by and my clients all disappoint me by being so clever; I don’t feel needed.

This week was better than usual and I was able to prove my worth. See my top 10 proofreading catches below.

  1. ‘Pubic’ instead of ‘public’. (Seriously, I suspected that this was one of those gaffes that rarely occur in real life…and then I found an example twice in a week. One of the documents was going directly to a senior government minister, and the error was in the opening paragraph. Lucky.)
  2. ‘Peak’ instead of ‘pique’. From someone who’s more aurally inclined.
  3. ‘Optimises’ when we needed ‘epitomises’. Not common but this isn’t the first time I’ve picked up this one this month.
  4. ‘Predominately’ rather than ‘predominantly’. This one is so common, I do a search for it before I start reading through the entire copy deck.
  5. ‘Per say’ instead of ‘per se’. Not used that often so it’s understandable that someone who’s only ever heard the phrase wouldn’t know how to spell it. I have the benefit of four years of Latin so I shouldn’t be too smug.
  6. ‘Brought’ instead of ‘bought’.
  7. ‘Conjour’ instead of ‘conjure’. No idea…really. Maybe they’re writing with a French accent.
  8. ‘Tenants’ instead of ‘tenets’. This may have been a spell-checking error so that client gets the benefit of the doubt.
  9. ‘Compliment’ rather than ‘complement’. This is one of those words that pays my mortgage. Very few writers, even when they know the difference, get this one right. I love finding this error…it’s like an old friend.
  10. ‘Premise’ instead of ‘premises’ “…because it’s only one business”. That client received a photocopy of the dictionary definition (and she still insisted on keeping ‘premise’). It’s sad because I can’t put that piece of writing and proofreading in my portfolio.

Well, that’s all for this week. Do you have any words that you trip over regularly?

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Thanks to Belinda Weaver of Copywrite Matters, I’ve been able to work on some great jobs with lovely clients. The Classic Blinds and Shutters website was a joy to do, with both Belinda and the marketing company, Green Chilli Marketing, being so receptive to my ideas. So, too, for the Overflow Café in Mt Waverton; lovely job. Both sets of clients knew exactly what they wanted so I could deliver the goods without any hassles.

However, not all clients are able to tell you want they really want. Not all clients understand the copywriting process (or the SEO consequences of plagiarism). If a client offers examples of websites that he or she likes, and asks you to emulate the tone, all well and good. Recently, however, we had a client who not only provided website examples, but also, wanted almost exact replicas. He wasn’t familiar with the usual protocols of using a copywriter and, as a result, thought he could ask for a major change on the third round of edits.

If you’re thinking of using a copywriter for your marketing or advertising copy, ensure that you’re given the chance to fill out a comprehensive creative brief. If you have any ideas you want incorporated on your website or brochure copy, then the creative brief is your opportunity to let the copywriter know. We want our clients to be happy with what we deliver but we depend on our clients to tell us what they feel and need.

Do you have any suggestions regarding how to use a copywriter?

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