Basic Copywriting Brief

Handful of pencils

Effective communication is not about what you say but how the person at the other end receives it. Before you start writing make sure that you have an absolutely clear idea of what you are trying to communicate and to whom. Here are some key pieces of information you need to gather. It is by no means definitive, so please take a look and then come back to me with your thoughts and suggestions on best practice.

Contact  details

  • Name
  • Position
  • Organisation
  • Email
  • Phone

Project description

  • Website copy
  • Brochure
  • White paper
  • Case study
  • By-lined feature
  • Other

Scope of the work

  • Research
  • Interview
  • Write
  • Rewrite
  • Edit
  • Subedit
  • Other


  • 1st draft
  • Revision
  • Final copy
  • Approved

About  our business

  • Industry sector
  • Products
  • Services
  • Other


The person responsible for managing and giving final sign-off on the project?

Word count

Estimate word count for each element

Brand values

Insight into the brand

  • Proposition
  • Character
  • Promise

Main competitors

Who are we up against and what do we like and dislike.

  • Provide website urls
  • Highlight best practice

Target audience

The more information about the target audience, the more relevant the communications can be. What are their likes and dislikes, critical issues, and what do we want them to do?

  • Internal
  • External
  • Position
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Business
  • Consumer
  • Socioeconomic class
  • Other


What business need does this communication support?

What do you want this communication to do?

  • Position
  • Inform
  • Build awareness
  • Generate sales
  • Other?

Key messages
What do you want the audience to:

  • Know
  • Feel
  • Do

Tone of Voice

  • Corporate
  • Conversational
  • Snappy sales pitch
  • Quirky
  • Other


  • Samples of work that you like
  • Other key information

So there we have it. What have we missed out. Drop me a line with your suggestions. Thanks.

Ten Top Tips for PR Research

Whoops! How did we end up here?

I had a bad week trying to produce a research report  and I wanted to share some tips to those that travel this path after me. If you do these ten simple things you may produce a report that has editorial legs and at no  point will you feel out of control or overwhelmed by the process. Then again …

1) Define the 0bjectives

If it’s for PR, you will probably be looking for data that provides an opportunity to do thought-leadership PR. So your research needs to address an issue that is topical and relevant to your target audience, while playing to your businesses strengths.

2) Check media appeal

In developing your research project you will be quite focused on ensuring that the results indirectly lead people to your door and position you as someone who can help address the challenges and opportunities identified. But make sure that you also come up with results that excite the editor and ensure press coverage. You could give him or her a call and ask if there is a question that needs to be asked.

3) Platform for PR messaging

Check back with the client once you have the final questionnaire and make sure that the ‘hoped for outcomes’ provide a good platform for them to provide thought-leadership and putting across key messages about the industry, market, or whatever you are surveying.

4) The final report

Before you proceed have a crystal-clear idea what the final report will look like. Agree not just the visuals but also the document template covering:

  1. Number of pages
  2. Contents: Introductions, Executive Summary, Research Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations, About the Sponsor
  3. Word count and content criteria for writing each section
  4. Style and tone of voice
  5. Use of visuals

5) Shared vision

If the research agency knows what you are looking to achieve, they can tailor the results to meet your requirements. One of the mixed blessings of today’s technology is the power to dice and slice the data in lots of different ways; to the point where you are overwhelmed results. Beware information overload and go for just the right amount to make a compelling research report!

6) Say what you want

Clarify with the research agency how you want the results presented and to whom. Specifically, to make analysis and report writing as easy as possible, ask for a results report that enables you to write your report without the distraction of data levels that are not relevant to the immediate task. You can come back to that later.

7) Define results format

Sometimes questions have so many cross references that they cannot be presented in a diagram and come to you in an Excel spreadsheet instead. Oh dear! Avoid these if possible because they will make you go cross-eyed. If you do have to deal with them, ask for the decimal points to be rounded up and the charts formatted so that they fit on one page.

8)  Answer to open questions

The quality of answers to an open question depends on the quality of the question – i.e. is it easy to answer in a few words – and the quality of interviewer. Will he or she probe correctly and then record the answer in language that is comprehensible. Just beware! And if you are doing European surveys you will have to get these answers translated which will be an added cost.


When you set up your research be smart and put together a schedule that allows enough time for each of the component parts to be done thoroughly (SMART as in Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Don’t scrimp on the planning, nor on any element of the process because everything is interdependent. If you get one thing wrong, the rest will begin to wobble. And yes, this should have been the first tip …

10) Report and PR

Think twice before deciding to write up the research results yourself. Maybe this is best left up to someone who is experienced in the art of drawing out and presenting data in a way which is easy for the reader to digest. If you are client-side or the PR person, you can add value when it comes to writing up the Executive Summary and developing the press briefing materials.

So that is what I learnt this last week or so. Its been a good lesson because its done just what that old China man said about learning: ‘I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand’. Phew … and do I understand!

And now, if I have missed anything out please post a comment and give us your tips to make a success of PR research projects.

10 Lovely Tips for Producing Great Tenders

Preparing a tender is  a tough job and if you are not careful they can get out of control.  I wrote down these tips after a  traumatic experience; a few simple things  to set yourself up for success instead of heartbreak.

1. Focus on Requirements

It’s worth investing the time in really getting to grips with this. Have a clear idea of what is required and if in doubt go back for clarification. Then measure everything you do against this. Remember those school essays and ‘answer the question’!

2. Brainstorm the Answers

Bring an open and empty mind to the opportunity. Avoid reaching for stock answers and solutions and instead see what fresh thinking the team can come up with. Engage with the challenge and enjoy (and record) the process!

3 Storyboard the Response

Once you have your answers, work together to storyboard your response. Create a document with a natural flow; one that sets up the challenge and then shows how to engage with it and bring things to a successful resolution.

4 Planning the Document

Set a word count for each section and then allocate writing responsibilities.  The rule for contributors is that you deliver on time, the exact number of words (or less) for your section. Be strict or you may receive a ‘cut and paste’ approximation that takes you ages to pull into shape.

5 Setting the Format

Make sure that everyone is using the same word-processing package. For example, different versions of Microsoft Word are incompatible and lead to formatting problems. Consider providing a pre-formatted document (fonts, typefaces etc) for contributors to work with.

6 Standardise on Formulas

To make your document easy to produce and understand, standardise the way you present information. For example:  Tactics (What it is, How it works, Benefits); Profiles (Skills, Successes, Qualifications); Case Studies (Challenge, Solution, Benefits).

7 When in Doubt

Cut it out! If parts of the document seem dull and don’t do the job delete them.  Make it easy and interesting to read. And avoid squeezing information in at the expense of good spacing. A bullet’ed list condensed into a paragraph is a brick wall to the reader.

8 Read it Out Loud

When all is done, get the team back together and have everyone read out their section. Does it have pace, and does it engage? Use this opportunity to further refine and polish the document so that it has vitality and momentum to it.

9 Executive Summary

Now translate this ‘film script’ into an elevator pitch. Your Executive Summary should inspire and delight the prospect. It should give a clear idea of what you are proposing and the benefits of you solution, while leaving the readers hungry to tuck into the document and find out more.

10 Dotting and Crossing It

Now make sure that spelling and grammar is good, sections are properly headlined and numbered; and the index and page numbers are correct. Hard copie,s and soft copies on a disk, will need to be produced and the courier booked to deliver the document to client in good time.


So that’s my top ten tips! Did I miss something? What else should we be watching out for? I love to hear your tender tips!