Best Practices

How to work with a copywriter: A three-part series (Part 2)

Written by Ensmble Guest on Tuesday 08, August 2017
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Laura Ranieri of CopyBard Writing Services provides insight on working with a copywriter.

Part 2 – Briefing a Writer

So you have finally made the big decision: you will hire an outside writer to improve and expedite your communications and marketing. Perhaps it is to whip your web content into shape? Drive better results with sales collateral or an email campaign? Or maybe you want to create a whitepaper, blog series or industry article to underscore your sector leadership?

The decision to invest in a quality content writer is well-justified.  74 percent of marketers claim they could drive more than twice as much ROI, lifetime customer value and “brand lift” if they had an expert content team at their disposal, according to a 2015 digital marketing survey. I would argue that one savvy content writer can often generate similar results, depending on the needs of your business.


This three-part series aims to demystify the process of working with a writer. I will outline the common pitfalls, and arm you with some guidelines to ensure the best kick- off to your new supplier relationship.


Briefing a Writer

So you have found the writer for you. Great, you are ready to start. For those who are new (and even not so new) to working with a writer, here are some recommendations to get the most bang for your communications buck.  After all, the copywriting he or she produces is more likely to shine with clear and informed direction from you.

Here are two recommendations to ensure your success.


A. Provide a clear written creative brief: If you know the perimeters of your writing project, it is important to share them with your writer via an informational creative brief.  A well-written brief does not need to be long – two pages is ample.  It should include the following information:

  • Nature of Project: Examples: a 3-part retention email campaign to current clients, a tri-fold marketing brochure targeting prospective clients, or a 2-page media release to announce a new CEO hire
  • Project Objective: Examples: Increase online sign-ups to our newsletter, boost attendance at an event, or to increase online sales of XX product. This section can also be worded as “What action do you want the target market to take? (sign up, call, attend, purchase, etc)
  • Target Audience: Include demographic information, like: women 35-55 in the Greater Toronto Area or C-level executives in technology enterprises across the USA. If you like, you can include primary, secondary and even tertiary target audiences.
  • What is the single most important message that you wish to convey? This is one of the most important pieces of information you need to share with your writer!
  • What is the second most important message? Take note: two main messages are really the maximum you should ask the writer to include in any one communications piece. Ideally, there should just be one. If you have isolated three or four, think again. Which ones could be relegated to subsidiary content points – or another marketing piece?
  • What is your USP? (Unique Selling Proposition): It is very important to give your new writer a sense of your organization’s brand, key strengths, weaknesses, etc.
  • Additional content points to be included: Here is where you can direct the writer to include key words, phrases and subsidiary ideas that you know your executive will want to see.
  • Who are your three main competitors? This information will empower your writer to better understand your industry in order to position you uniquely. Be sure to provide any URLs of key competitors.
  • Deadline for first draft copy: This is important to establish from the get-go, so you and the writer are on the same page regarding delivery expectations.


A written brief is also your guarantee that you get what you pay for: an on-target communications piece. A writer will need to pay attention and follow your clear direction — or else he/she will owe you a free re-write.



B. Provide access to at least one SME (Subject Matter Expert) in your organization

Many projects today need to get off the ground before a written brief is possible — even before all the content points have been gathered. With a good senior writer, you can get a head start and avoid the costly “broken telephone” missteps of a vague, verbal briefing. Simply provide your writer with:

  1. your company and product background information and URL(s),
  2. the nature of the project, objective, target audience, and
  3. the contact details of an accessible SME (Subject Matter Expert) in your organization.

The word accessible is key, as this busy individual – often a senior executive in your organization – must have the time to speak to your writer or at least reply to concise questions over email. (I recall one nightmare healthcare project I worked on when a majority of the SME’s were simply too busy and never available to me – and I ultimately had very little information to draft a “Case for Support” They subsequently abandoned the project, after having paid me.)

With an introduction to your SME(s), a writer can flex their journalistic research muscles and deftly gather the information needed independently. They will interview the individual(s) to gather content points for the piece via phone, emailed questions – or in person, depending on your SME’s preferences. This approach is especially effective for blogs, articles and reports. By empowering your writer with executive access, you’ll usually get stronger, more on-target communications, especially when you also give them a written brief.

When it comes to briefing your writer, be sure to set up your writer for success. Armed with clear information on your project and expectations, a good writer will be well equipped to deliver communications that are snappy, credible, compelling, persuasive, on-target – not to mention ‘results-oriented’ — for your organization.


Stay tuned for part 3 of this series: ‘Managing the Revisions Process” – coming soon. 

Laura Ranieri of CopyBard Writing Services is an award-winning Toronto-based copywriter with 20-plus years of experience writing online, corporate and marketing communications and creative campaigns. She continues to service a wide range of small and large clients in the finance, professional services, technology, travel and cultural sectors. Visit her at