September 28, 2010

Website Content Series Part 5: Ten Questions to Have Answered for Your Professional Copywriter


Hostway Team

By Simon Wright

Copywriters are skilled professionals, but they aren’t magicians or mind readers. To get the best from them, you must provide a clear steer but, before you produce your website brief, there are a number of questions you must have answered.

1. Target audience(s)?

The copywriter won’t have an in-depth knowledge of your business, so brief them on your key audiences. Understanding the typical age, gender, education levels and attitudes of your customers will help them tailor the content to those segments.

2. Devices the site must support?

Smartphones (such as iPhones) are accounting for ever greater proportions of Internet browsing. However, a website that’s configured for desktop-sized screens won’t render well onto smartphone-sized screens. For some companies, the answer may be to create a separate mobile-optimized website and your copywriter will need to know if this is part of the brief.

3. Tone of voice?

Do you need the Website to be written in a professional and formal manner? Or can the tone be more informal, with a conversational feel?

4. What actions must the content drive?

Copywriters are interested in page calls to action. That call to action might be in the form of a request to “Apply Now,” linked to an online application form. Or the desired action may be to drive calls to a sales number or visits to a store.

5. Key products?

If there are a select few products that you want to give priority to, then the copywriter needs to know this so that they can ensure they have prominence.

6. Integration with offline communications?

Companies often make the mistake of looking at their website in isolation. To be truly effective, however, your site should be integrated within your overall communications strategy. So if you are running an advertising campaign, then your website should also be focusing on the same product with the same straplines and images.

7. Scale of job?

The copywriter needs to know the scale of the work. Are we talking about a 10-page website or a 100-page site? And how in-depth do the product pages need to be?

8. Legal obligations?

If your industry has any regulations that must be complied with, then the copywriter needs to know about them. For example, are there rules around the claims that can be made about services?

9. Deadlines?

It’s important that you let the copywriter know the deadline by which you need the site to go live. This will enable them to allocate sufficient resource to complete the work to schedule. If there is a particular unmovable event that is driving your deadline, such as the start of a planned advertising campaign, then make sure that you communicate this!

10. Budget?

When you enter into a contract with a copywriter it’s necessary to agree what the payment terms will be. You need to ensure that you’ve assigned sufficient budget and made the copywriter aware of the financial constraints.

About the Author

Simon Wright works as mobile delivery manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and has extensive experience across ecommerce and mcommerce including the launch and promotion of websites.

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