Not too many people have experience in briefing a copywriter, and those who do don’t always seem to have a clear idea of what it is that the copywriter needs to know before he or she starts work.

I thought I’d put down a few thoughts based on my own experience as I’ve often found that it’s a case of.…the better the brief, the better the end-product.

The nature of your business

I need to have a clear idea of what your business does. Whether you’re a High Street retailer, a builder or a consultancy I need you to give me an overview of your business activities – please email a company Fact Sheet to me or point me to the right place on your website.

Target audience

Tell me who will be reading what I write for you. Is it your company staff, the general public or your clients? Is the principal audience mainly male or female, young or old? Clearly defining the target audience is essential as this will influence the style of my writing.

The job

Define for me the parameters of the job. Is it web copy, a white paper, a newsletter, a sales brochure…or something else? Different types of job call for different approaches, and different amounts of research before I start writing.


Tell me the date by which you need the work completed. Please allow for the fact that it may take time for all the key people in your business to review the content and for any edits/re-edits to be done.


Please tell me what it is that you need the copy to do for your company: here are some examples:

  • Announce the arrival of the business in a new segment of the market
  • Generate new sales leads
  • Generate awareness of the business in the market
  • A detailed product description
  • Convincing customers to buy product from your website

Main competitors

This is really important. I need to understand who your key competitors are and whether they are local, national or international. If you can identify at least 3 key competitors for me I will research them. By doing so I can see what you’re up against and this will inform how I approach your project.


Before I start the job please inform me what level of background research you expect me to do. Will I be expected to interview people? Will all information be provided by you or am I expected to do some third-party/desk-research in order to complete the job for you?

Tone of voice

I need you to tell me what writing-style you’re looking for. Here are some typical ones:

  • Clear, corporate style for senior management or some other well-educated audience
  • Warm and friendly style/conversational
  • Sales pitch – snappy and direct
  • Quirky and entertaining

Some (larger) businesses have their own in-house branding and style guidelines. If you’re one of these businesses please let me have a copy before I start work.

Word count

It’s not always easy to tell me how many words you’re looking for, but it’s REALLY useful to have some idea of this.

Which media?

Am I writing for print media or for a website?

Steve Shaw

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