Close up of glasses, pen and written plan

Copywriting tip 1: Get it in writing

Close up of glasses, pen and written plan

Get it in writing: I’m talking about the brief, here.

There’s a more detailed look at briefs in a previous article ‘You’re naked without briefs’, by the way.

But, for now, this is a reminder that the ‘corridor brief‘ won’t do. That’s a brief made ‘in passing’.

‘Hey, Jon,’ the client says. Via text, email, a call. Or a brief chat in the corridor.

‘Remember that newsletter I mentioned last week? Reckon we could knock it out tomorrow? Something about Zoom? Thanks, buddy!’

And off they go.

That won’t do. I need it in writing, if I’m going to do a good job.

And how long should a brief be?

Well, classic marketing says a brief is no good if it’s more than one side of A4.

That might have worked in the 1960s (when it was invented). But, these days, we need more.

I want a cardboard box (real or digital) packed with stuff. A standard brief, plus previous activity, examples of results, who the competitors are. Whatever they’ve got.

All to help me dig down and find the gold.

Here’s an example of a fantastic brief. From Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol, for the design of a vinyl album sleeve.

Mick Jagger brief to Andy Warhol

Know what I like about it?

1. It’s in writing. Fab.

2. It starts by saying ‘I’m really pleased you can do the art-work …’ How nice – and inspiring – is that?

3. ‘Here are 2 boxes of material’. Magic – give me lots.

4. ‘I leave it in your capable hands’. After warning about the production issues of complexity, Mick then shows complete trust.

5. The money: ‘write back saying how much money you would like.’ That’s a dream client.

6. Finally, he says don’t worry about the guy looking nervous and saying ‘hurry up’ (the account service). ‘Take little notice,’ he says.

If only all briefs were like that …

So, insist on a written brief. Even if you have to fill it out yourself (with their help).

It’ll give you a much better chance of writing that great piece of copy.


This tip is based on my 30 Tips in 40 Minutes webinar.

Feel free to download a version of the slides and watch a video of the one-hour webinar.

Image source: Pixabay


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.