- On July 27, 2016
Next week I’m running a workshop for a client who came to me saying, “We take too long to get to the point, and in the rush of the approval process everyone starts tinkering with the copy. By the time they’re all finished, the news is at the bottom of the page. What can we do?”
After reviewing some of the company’s documents—press releases, media statements, CEO letters and the like—I proposed they start with a content brief. Designers don’t start work without a completed creative brief that everyone agrees to. Why can’t we writers do the same?
Here’s what a content brief should include:
• The purpose of the piece and how the audience will consume and use it
• Description of the target audience
• The takeaway: The single most important thought you want the audience to walk away with
• Primary and secondary points: The information that supports the takeaway
• Visual elements: Graphic elements that help tell your story—and reduce the need for text
• Schedule: Deadline and release dates
I took one of the client’s documents—one in which the news was down around the bottom—and wrote a content brief. Once I identified the takeaway, I reorganized the piece and discarded a lot of superfluous information.
A brief that everyone agrees to at the start simplifies the writing process, makes it easier to get straight to the point, and minimizes the pile-on effect that tends to happen when the clock is ticking and the only thing everyone wants is to get the darn document out the door.