Throw away the template and get the job done faster

copywriting briefA while back, I was contacted by somebody who wanted their newsletter revamped. They sounded very organised – they’d put together a detailed briefing document, which they’d send across ASAP. Could I look through it and give them an idea of time and cost? Sure, I said. The document was beautifully formatted, with bullets, boxes and shading. It even had sans-serif fonts for the headings, and serif fonts for the body copy (increases readabililty, or so the experts say). So much for the form. And the content? Well that was less impressive. Objective: ‘To create the April newsletter’ (this was October) Tone: ‘Appropriate to the target audience’ Deadline: ‘ASAP’ You get the picture. And to tell the truth, I can sympathise. I’ve been on the other side: tabbing from one box to the next, filling in the blanks with something – anything  – just to get to the end. It’s a curious fact, but briefing templates often kill a brief. Like brushing your teeth or stacking the dishwasher, it becomes something you do on autopilot – with predictable results. You do what you’ve always done, so you get what you’ve always got. Don’t get stuck in the template rut. Start with a blank sheet of paper, and go. Just go. Forget about boxes, shading and fonts.  Forget the jargon – just tell the story. Here’s an example:
  • What? A downloadable PDF overview of ABC Ltd. It can double up as a brochure, to be given to clients on sales visits. It should complement the website content and stand alone.
  • Who? New clients who may or may not have heard of us. Existing clients who may not know of all the services we offer.
  • When? Late March. Deadline for copy mid-February. Design complete late February. Brochure print early to mid-March. Website upload mid-March.
  • Tone? Friendly yet professional. Show ABC Ltd as a dynamic, can-do company that can step inside its clients’ worlds and solve their problems.
  • Call to action? Get in touch today – phone, email, online form.
  • Special offer? Free consultation and action plan for new clients. No obligation, no cost. And it’s yours to keep and use even if you don’t work with ABC.
  • Must include? The ‘ABC difference’ (dedicated account manger, 24×7 access, full online service, lowest rates).
See? No need for fancy formatting or slick marketing-speak. Just tell the story. And keep it short. Remember, a brief is called a brief for a reason. Happy New Year.