No briefy no copy

Having woefully neglected my blog for several months, this is my belated New Year’s resolution coming to fruition and, behold, you are now reading my new, long overdue blog post. It only took until July.

Stirred into action by the unstoppable Melissa Love of The Design Space Co who has been blogging like a boss of late, I’ve decided to start broaching one or two of the copy conundrums that have been cropping up during a few of my interactions with other creatives.

This week: briefs (not the lacy kind, sadly).

This one is relevant when working with any copywriter, graphic designer, web designer or anybody you’re entrusting to produce creative for your brand. To date, I’ve been a fan of keeping things simple with a nice, old-fashioned telephone call to establish a working relationship with my clients, scribbling notes down as we talk and then toddling off to produce a first draft. Of late, I’ve found that, actually, this technique is full of pitfalls.

To elaborate…

  • Talk is actually cheap. By taking a verbal brief (in the form of a friendly chat) I establish an important human connection, but I might miss crucial details. It’s easy to get chatting (if you’re a friendly sort like me) to the client about their kids/dogs/Brexit instead of getting down to the matter at hand. Small talk: it’s a killer.
  • Memory fails. During this conversation, I might be scribbling down notes like a good little creative but my client probably isn’t. I have often delivered a first draft that has been batted back to me with a vaguely confused note reading: “Did I say that? I don’t remember saying that…” When I get a client talking on the phone, it’s easy to find yourselves rambling off the point. It’s too much to expect my clients to remember everything they said when put on the spot about their brand.
  • Headspace. Speaking of being put on the spot, I’ve learnt that most people need a bit of time to have a little think about what they want me to write. By crafting an effective client survey in print (effectively, a DIY brief), it forces the photographer/make-up artist/dog walker to sit down and have a proper brainstorm about what they want to sound like. It allows much more brain space than a phone conversation.
  • Mystic Meg I ain’t. It’s very easy, when you need copy for your site but have left it until the last minute, to expect a copywriter to magically step inside your head (like a tiny, creative lilliputian), immediately get what you and your brand are all about and translate that into beautiful, perfect copy in time and under budget. Sadly, copywriters are 100% human and all that that entails. We need facts before we can deliver fables so the more info clients can give us, the more lovely the copy will be (fact).

What does all of this mean? It means I’m going to keep the phone calls to a minimum and put together a kickass briefing document that I probably should have put together about 2 years ago. Better late than never.