The brief. It tells you exactly what to write, how to write it, who you’re writing for, and a bunch of other essential facts. In an ideal world, every client you write for will give you a brief. But we’re not in an idea world, and some clients won’t give you one.
So you’ll have to write the brief yourself. All it takes is eight questions and a 20-minute phone call.
What to ask
For every piece of writing you ever do, there are only a few things you need to ask yourself.
- ‘What am I writing?’
This could be an email marketing campaign. Or Direct mail. Or a web page. Or a brochure.
- ‘Who is my average reader?’
The person you’ll be writing for. The more you know about them, the easier it is to write for them.
- ‘What’s my message?’
What your writing is about. You could be selling computer software, or raising awareness of a disease.
- ‘What’s my tone of voice?’
How you should write. Should you be sophisticated, or goofy? Your average reader may answer this question for you.
- ‘Why does it matter?’
Or rather, why your reader should give you their time or money. You should think about how your content will make their life better, and focus on benefits and unique selling points.
- ‘How many words should I write?’
There’s not much I can say for this one.
- ‘When’s the deadline?’
When your client needs it done by.
- ‘Where can I learn more?’
If you answered questions 2 – 5, you’ll know what you need to find out. You should to talk to PC enthusiasts and learn how they talk, or read medical journals to discover how the disease spreads.
It’s equally important to know how your competitors write. What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? How is your product better?
Where to get the answers
To answer your questions, you’ll need to look over all the emails, phone call notes and any other communication you’ve had with your client.
Highlight anything that answers your questions, and write these down together.
Once you have this, ask you client if you can speak to them for 20 minutes.
Keep your brief in front of you during the phone call, and read you questions and answers to them. Ask if this is correct.
If they say yes, you can leave your brief alone. If they say no, ask what should be different. Make a note of anything they want changed.
Run the changes by them one more time. If they say yes, you can start researching.
Keep these questions close by. If you find yourself without a brief again, you can turn to these questions.