Here’s a copywriter’s nightmare scenario:
You land a client. You agree on a price and deadline. You work your rear end off, writing, revising, and perfecting the copy. And, when you send it to your client, they reply with:
“This really isn’t what I wanted.”
Or, maybe even worse, pages and pages of changes they want made.
Huh? What went wrong? How did this project get SO far off course?
Nine times out of ten, when a creative project goes off the rails, it comes down to one main cause: The lack of a thorough and well-thought-out creative brief. Or the lack of a creative brief entirely.
What is a Creative Brief?
Simply put, a creative brief is a document that lists out the key elements, necessities, and goals of a creative project.
It allows the project initiator/client to both organize their thoughts and clearly and concisely convey what they want and need to the copywriter. In turn, it helps the copywriter understand exactly what the project initiator wants and needs—and also allows the copywriter to ask insightful and essential questions based on those needs.
Think of it as a blueprint for the project. It lays out the general parameters of the project, and the copywriter goes to work building it.
Imagine if a builder tried to put together a house without any kind of blueprint. That builder can do his very best, but without any kind of solid input, it’s going to look very different from what the homeowner envisioned.
Often, too, a client doesn’t know how to ask for exactly what they want. Since they’re not the marketing expert, they may not know to tell you what the benefit to consumer is or what they want the consumer to do next. The creative brief helps guide the client to give you the information you need to write effective copy.
Who Creates the Creative Brief?
Now, does this mean that you should create a creative brief and send it off to your client to fill out alone?
Definitely not. The creative brief should be the outline for a conversation between you and your client and should lead you to ask questions and make suggestions that expand on it and will enrich the project.
You can use the brief as a template for getting information from your client on a call or in a meeting—and use that information to dig further into the project and your client’s needs.
What Information Should a Creative Brief Include?
At a minimum, a completed creative brief needs to answer these questions:
- What kind of project is this? (Sales page, Facebook ads, full website, email series, etc.)
- Who is the target audience for the project? And what do we know about them?
- What is the one next step they want the target audience to take from this piece? (From a sales page, it’s likely to purchase. On a banner ad, it’s to click. On a subscription pop-up, it’s to sign up for a newsletter.)
- What is the benefit to consumer of taking that action? (On a sales page, what’s the benefit of buying? In an email, what do they get out of clicking? On a webinar sign up page, what’s the benefit to them of registering?)
- What’s the business objective? (Why is your client initiating this project? What are they hoping to get out of it?)
- What elements must it include? (Based on your copywriting expertise, you might help to guide your client to answer this and/or make suggestions)
- When is the first draft due? And when is the final version required?
There are only seven questions here, but they’re sure to lead to a full and fruitful conversation.
Remember, too, that these aren’t the ONLY questions you should ask. If you’re working with a client for the first time, you need to ask questions that will give you a thorough understanding of their business, their products and/or services, and their audiences.
Even if you’re working with a client on a second, third, or twelfth project, you should still review these points to make sure you’re fully up to date on their business. You’d be surprised at how often businesses change their focus, business model, or client base.
A creative brief isn’t a guarantee that a project will go perfectly, of course, but a thoroughly considered and answered one will help ensure that the project starts off well and gives it its best chance for a smooth delivery and an ecstatic client.
Your turn! Do you use creative briefs in your work yet? Or are they a tactic you’re going to start using? Let me know in the comments below!
Last Updated on December 18, 2022
Tessa Zeng says
In my experience, truly understanding the target audience (I go muuuch deeper with my clients than most marketing consultants do) and the deep benefits (thanks to your course, I know what those are!) of the offer are key to client satisfaction. Just finished 2 editing rounds with a dream client’s home page copy, and by my 2nd draft, they were already 99% happy, with just a couple technical tweaks left.
Nicki Krawczyk says
Absolutely! Really putting yourself in the target audience members’ shoes and getting at the deepest thing that drives them leads to incredibly effective copy. And I’m so glad your recent project went so smoothly—good for you!!
Thanks for commenting!
Lynne Mason says
“What elements must it include?” I don’t understand what you mean by this. Can you clarify or give examples?
Nicki Krawczyk says
I mean what language or elements (if any) are mandatory. This could be anything from like legal language next to a sign up box to a brief bio about a company founder—basically, things that might not be immediately understood as necessary from the rest of the brief, but that the client wants to make sure are included. Does that make sense?