Tag Archives: planning

How much information is enough for your writer?

Do you know how much information to give your writer?  You will have seen our guide on how to give good brief so you’ll already know that more info is better. But what kind of info and how much is too much?

The short answer is that you cannot over-brief your copywriter.

Last week a colleague send me a draft of his copywriting brief for a group of writers charged with overhauling a very complex website. The group of writers were a mix of internal and external; subject matter and copywriting specialists. He nailed it. And here’s how.

  • He ensured that the goals were clear and they were S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  • He gave the writers a living example of what he wanted.
  • He set clear accountability for content with a sign-off process that ensured the content couldn’t go live without approval.

If you’re lucky your copywriter will already be familiar with your industry – especially for technical and tightly regulated industries. But possibly more important is that your copywriter understands marketing – how to get your customers to do what you want. If you have to sacrifice one skill set, get the marketing expert. Technical details and compliance can be reviewed internally, but you need your marketing messages to work.

Give SMART goals.

The SMART goals related to things including word count and reading index levels, along with a brief about the tone and feel of the copy.  A good copywriter will ask you for information along these lines, or liaise with your printer, graphic designer or web designer to make sure they know what’s required.

Give examples.

As my colleague happens to be an excellent copywriter himself (and more) he was able to provide the writers with a before and after example of the kind of writing he wanted. But even if you’re not a writer, you can take a good example of what you want and give it to your writer.  That includes other people’s marketing and websites; just be sure to explain to your copywriter why you like it (so they don’t run off on a tangent).

Give a clear sign-off process.

The clear sign-off process gives the writer the parameters in which to work. It also provides a means to set the time frame and accountability for the content.  This in part relates back to industry expertise but essentially it’s just good practice.

Trust your writer.

Be guided by your writer. My colleague asked me if his brief was too prescriptive. It wasn’t. But I wouldn’t have hesitated to point it out if it was. Your copywriter wants to the best job possible for you. You’d be mad not to trust them with enough information to do it.

Tell us what you want to know about working with creatives and we’ll do our best to answer.

Chunking it vs churning it!

If you’re not naturally a writer and have to write for your business, it’s important to give yourself a fighting chance.  As with any postponable task, the key is to break it into small manageable chunks that will systematically get you where you want to be.

Without context, that last statement gives even me, the horrors.  Anyone who’s ever done a time management course is thinking “really?! That’s your best insight?” and who could blame them.  So let me show you how to do it, with context and a genuine example.

Let’s look at writing a newsletter.

What on earth are you going to write about?  Probably, because you knew it was coming up, you have a couple of ideas for some of the content. Maybe a link or two?  Maybe an industry article?  Maybe a thought about something a client said last week. All good.  But it’s what you do next that matters most.

Do NOT be tempted to just start writing.

If you do, you will churn.  By churn, I mean you will change sections around, write and rewrite the same article, ditch one idea for another, rewrite the headline seven times and still wind up dissatisfied.

STOP and decide what you want to achieve.

(I do hate to beat an old drum, but yes, that comes back to ‘the brief”, so if you haven’t already, download our free guide to giving good brief here.)

With your brief in hand, break your newsletter into sections where each section has a purpose or point to achieve.  In my case, we have 6.  Best research says 5-7 items is about as much as the brain can handle so we have 6 (and yes, these are the 6 topics most requested by clients).

Our highly technical chunking tool in action.

Our highly technical chunking tool in action.

This is what the chunks look like:

1. The Writer’s Corner : how to write better
2. Across the Desk : insights into marketing best practice
3. Working It : how to work with a creative (writer / designer / etc…)
4. Inspiration : where to find it
5. The Naughty Step : things you should never do (and hilarious things others have done)
6. The Water Cooler : useful online resources for writing / SME marketing 

So for me, I don’t write a newsletter per se, I write 6 mini-articles.

See the task is getting easier already!

Even then, I don’t write all 6 at once.  I write one article, to purpose, until completion. Then it’s done. 5 to go. The task is getting smaller. Satisfaction all round. For this article I only had one purpose; to give you a useful tip on how to write better.

So if you are struggling with writing your newsletter this month, stop.

Take 10 – 15 minutes to work out the main sections of your newsletter. Give each section a section title and a section purpose. You only have to do this once. The next newsletter will use the same sections and same purposes (until you want to retire or renew them).

Now pick one section. Go back to your ideas (links, industry stories, client’s comments) and find one that fits your purpose. Do not change topic. Do not change purpose. Just get the words down for that section and once you’ve finished the article, check your grammar and spelling, and only then give it a title.

There you go. It really can be that easy.

And as you get better at chunking instead of churning, those articles will start to roll off your fingers with ease.

Post your comments below. Meantime happy writing!

Understanding the copywriting process

Thanks to Allan Kent of Zeald I came across a brilliant theory that explains a lot about why some marketing doesn’t work. I’ve borrowed his theory to explain the copywriting process and the pitfalls to avoid.

It’s a quick look at what commonly goes wrong, and an overview on how to get it right, from the very beginning.

Here’s the link to my free download about The Copywriting Process and how to get more out of your marketing investment… yes, it’s about marketing for results!  Enjoy!


Click here to download this free guide on The Copywriting Process to ensure you get the most from your marketing investment. Discover the number one mistake business owners make when investing in marketing and learn how to avoid it. Essential reading for anyone looking to hire a copywriter!

Struggling to write? Help is at hand!

How to write an effective brief to make more of your marketing investmentOne of the hardest things as a small business owner is trying to write your own marketing material.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I know it can be really frustrating spending hours with the backspace.  So I’ve decided to make it easier, right here and now. Continue reading

Overloaded by newsletters? Ditch the drama now!


Here at Copy Carats we get far too may newsletters a month.  Some are unsolicited and unwanted (instant delete); some are initially unsolicited but a pleasant surprise; and then there’s our regulars, the ones I can’t wait to read… but even those don’t usually arrive at a convenient time.

I’m as guilty as the next person for not wanting to miss out.  But I’m also as time poor as the next person and on a busy day I used to hit unsubscribe (often dancing through the three stage process, and losing more time)… only to have someone in the business ask me if I’d seen that tip from XYZ or news from ABC!

Honestly for the longest time I thought newsletters were fools’ gold but after being caught out a few too many times… genius struck.

Thanks to modern email programmes there’s a really simple solution. You create one folder for newsletters, and command all newsletters to go automatically to it (commanding is one of the many guilt free things you can do with machines. They never ask if it’s fair, they just do it).

With a few simple keystrokes, my problem was solved. My inbox was as clear as my conscience – guilt free indulgence in news when I want it, and no irritating interruptions when I can’t afford the time.

And here’s the best bit.  All those previously wasted minutes in my day (when I had a scheduled call in a few minutes, or arrived a little too early for an appointment) are finally useful instead. I just pop into my newsletters folder and catch up with the world; and I’ve never been better informed.

So to start the process, create a new folder in your email programme (mine’s called newsletters but call it what you want).  Then once a day (and later once a week, then once a month) create a rule for all those newsletters to go straight to your folder.

In most email programmes it’s as easy as a right mouse click… just tell your email that all content from that sender’s address should go straight to your “folder” and sit back and relax.  Yes, there’s a reason why most newsletters have their own email address.

Let me assure you, those few minutes you spend now will save you hours every week!  Hours you can spend on writing… or golf… your call!  Or call us.

four letter words

Yes, I made you look but I’m not talking about the obscene kind. The words I’m referring to are “goal”, “plan” and “track”.

Ok, that last one has five letters but you’d think it was a four letter word (and that word would be “rack”, as in “on the rack”), judging by the way some businesses react to it.

Running a business isn’t easy; you’re always up against competing priorities. In NZ we’re famous for our number eight fencing wire mentality – we can fix anything and we do. Of course we’re also famous for our rugby. So the way I see it, if John Kirwan can talk about “the plan”, so can we.

Planning is often referenced as the place we go back to when the (proverbial) hits the fan and it is really good for that. But planning is largely ignored when everything’s working ok – and it shouldn’t be!

Setting goals, planning and tracking are essential to avoid wasting precious business resources on poor outcomes. And it doesn’t have to be hard (another four letter word), or complicated.

At Copy Carats we like goals, plans and tracking because it gives us a chance to show off. Equally importantly, we like them because it gives us a chance to use our number eight fencing wire skills (tweaking, fixing, innovating) because we can see if it’s going wrong.

If you haven’t got a goal, a plan to get there and a way of tracking your success – you’re relying on luck and she’s a fickle mistress. We can still help, but we’ll put you in touch with the right expert.

If you have a goal, a plan and the means to measure it – talk to us. We’re champions of copy and we’re a dab hand at numbers too.