The importance of a clear brief and cast-iron deadlines

If there’s one thing we can all learn from the scheduling issues surrounding the staging of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it’s that having a clear brief and cast-iron deadlines in place from the offset is crucial to a project’s overall success. That’s a universal truth that’s just as applicable to copywriting projects as it is to hosting major global sporting events.

Commercial interests will always be at the heart of any scheduling decision. In Fifa’s case, there’s the small matter of appeasing various governing bodies, such as UEFA in Europe, as well as the myriad domestic football associations, clubs and television rights holders. For a small business, the equation might be less complicated but it is no less important.

In a SME’s case, the commercial pressures are normally fairly cut and dry: to garner maximum exposure and impact from the marketing budget. For that reason, deadlines are normally fairly tight, which in turn requires in-depth discussions, and a rapid grasp of the brief at the initial planning stage, from any copywriter worth their salt.

So to avoid any own goals next time you’re planning on calling in a copywriter (preferably Simon Grant Comms!) to give your marketing content the once over, you might like to bear these handy hints in mind.

#1 Preparation, preparation, preparation

Whether you’re planning to stage a summer sporting event, or looking to overhaul your corporate website, it’s a great idea to carry out some thorough planning and research initially. That way, you’ll avoid the embarrassment of having to move your event to the cooler Winter desert months or arrive with little more than scant details for your copywriter to take away.

At Simon Grant Comms, we like to think that we’re extremely adept at fathoming out the key elements of a project. We’ve been able to deliver several projects on the basis of hastily scribbled bullet points or Post-Its. However, like anything in life, the more you put in, the more you get back.

In other words, the clearer the brief and explanation you can give at the outset of the project, the better chance your copywriter will have to deliver the end product you desire. Ambiguous, confused, brief…um, briefs…are far likelier to result in cross purposes (as your trusty copywriter diligently tries to fill in any blanks with their own interpretations) and re-written material.

The upshot? Your deadlines get squeezed ever longer and you might incur additional costs depending on how generous your copywriter is with their time. The bottom line is if you want a quick turnaround, and the result you’ve envisioned first time around, it’s surely worth investing some time in a coherent brief.

#2 Once more with feeling

By now, you’ve hopefully thoroughly researched the market, identified your nearest competitors, know what it is you’d like your copy to convey and ultimately what call to action it should evoke in your target audience. You’ll know what your objectives are and what tone of voice you’d like your content to adopt. Will it be authoritative and informative? Informal and friendly? Technical or accessible?

These are the types of questions that Simon Grant Comms would ask at the initial stages of your project. It is the copywriter’s job to fathom, from everything that you bring to the table, what you require. What you think you need and what you might be better to have are two entirely different things. Sometimes it’s worth considering alternative ideas if your copywriter senses a different approach could elicit better results.

Far better to engage a copywriter who is willing to question ideas and approaches, with a professional’s critical eye, than for them to blindly follow you into the metaphorical ‘desert heat’ of a misguided idea. Once again though, the clearer and more up front you can be about your end goals (and sometimes, crucially, what you don’t want) the better informed your copywriter will be about the task at hand.

Essentially, when dealing with Simon Grant Comms we would ensure that you, and we, would leave our initial discussions with a crystal clear idea of what the copy requirements are, what audience it’s intended for, to what purpose, essential messaging elements, and a realistic notion of the deliverables.

#3 Time is of the essence

One of the first questions that any freelance copywriter will inevitably ask is: ‘what is your deadline?’ Believe it or not, it’s far preferable to have a clear timescale than to leave it open ended. By the nature of our work, copywriters are often juggling several projects simultaneously and will therefore want to gauge how much time they can dedicate to your project.

The good thing about engaging Simon Grant Comms to work on your marketing content is that we’ll always endeavour to fit you in and deliver well before your deadline wherever possible. So don’t be afraid to tell us up front when you need your copy by. Most of the time we can meet, or even surpass, your expectations.

Before you do though, please take a realistic look at your timescales beforehand. Often the copy element of a marketing campaign can be somewhat of an afterthought. The website design is ready, the brochure or leaflet visuals are laid out, but the wording isn’t right. It needs to be written and fast. It will be. But go easy on your copywriter if they’re the last piece of the jigsaw. Words are important – they take time!

It’s a great idea to set realistic deadlines and that is something that Simon Grant Comms can help you with during early discussions about your project. After all, nobody wants to face the ignominy of having to completely change the delivery date of a project. Eh Sepp?!

Contact Simon Grant Comms today for more information or to arrange a consultation.

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Winners of ‘The Grantys’ Awards 2015

As a freelance copywriter I have the pleasure of collaborating with lots of talented, driven and creative individuals. None more so than the dedicated band of professionals who brought my single most important collaboration to life: my wedding day.

So, as an homage to a certain well-known awards ceremony, I’ve devised a purely fictitious set of awards – known by all (me) as ‘The Grantys’ – to pay tribute to some of Southport’s most exceptional, and deserving, business people.

For this inaugural year of The Grantys, I’ve based my selections purely on a list of independent entrepreneurs whose excellence in their field, outstanding service and attention to detail make them tough acts to beat for anyone planning to tie the knot in the Sefton area of Merseyside.

So without further ado, here are my 2015 Granty winners:

Grantys

Best Wedding Photographer

Joe Topping Photography

Joe Topping Photography offer the very best in wedding and portrait photography. Their style of photography – a combination of fine-art and photojournalism – perfectly captures all those special moments in the best possible light. Joe, and his camera assistant (and father) Tony, are an absolute pleasure to work with. From start to finish, Joe was passionate, well researched, diligent and responsive to ideas. We chose Joe because he is an exceptionally gifted photographer. He has that uncanny knack of capturing those precious moments of human warmth and emotion that no photography course or manual can teach. We would recommend him in a flash…ahem!

Best Hair Stylist

Olivia C Hairdressing

Olivia, and her talented team of stylists, are passionate about hair. Their depth of knowledge is unsurpassable, both in terms of the science and technicalities that form the bedrock of a brilliant haircut, and with regards to all the latest trends and styles. Not only that, they are an incredibly welcoming and friendly bunch. All of which combined, made them the natural salon of choice for Mrs Simon Grant Comms and her bridesmaids for a relaxing pamper before they walked down the aisle together.

Best Jeweller

KPR Jewellery

London trained craftsman, Keith Riley, is somewhat of a rare gem in the jewellery trade and wider wedding industry. Because this mild mannered artisan from Essex is as honest and reasonable as they come. As soon as we walked into his first floor studio – above The Wedding Rooms, Formby – we were instantly taken with Keith’s warm, laid-back manner and zero fuss approach. Not only did he produce two beautiful, bespoke rings, quickly and more economically than high street competitors, but he even polished Mrs Simon Grant Comms’ engagement ring, and the wedding rings of our friends, for nothing. He even recommended I went to a competitor to engrave a keepsake because it would work out cheaper. Top man!

Best Caterers

Graham Eyes Butchers BBQ Caterers (bbq4u)

When it came to sourcing such a mouthwatering hog roast, one name cropped up time and again: Graham Eyes. Rightly so because, once again, here is a Churchtown business who deliver highly on customer service. Every visit to their Cambridge Road butchers was met with incredibly friendly staff, who were genuinely interested to chat about our event. The hog itself was expertly cooked and butchered, and drew breathless adulation from all our assembled carnivores. They were even so kind as to refrigerate and bag the remaining morsels or pork and crackling for us to enjoy long after the wedding.

Best Venue Decorators

Parties For You

Michelle Roberts, who runs and owns Parties For You, is a consummate professional. We were constantly impressed with her can-do attitude and common sense pricing. Her picture perfect chair covers, sashes and tablecloths transformed our reception venue into a fairytale setting. From the outset, Michelle asked the right questions and always had the right answers for us. She prices her services fairly, refreshingly believing that a couple’s special day needn’t cost them the earth, and was readily available for any advice we needed. Her teenage son even pitched in, demonstrating superhuman strength to help carry innumerable stacks of chairs.

Best Seamstress

Sophie and Anna Maddocks

These two young seamstress sisters, based at 12 Hoghton Street, know a thing or two about dressmaking, alterations and repairs. Both are graduates in Fashion Design, from the University of Central Lancashire. Sophie won the prestigious title of the Clothes Show’s ‘Young Textile Designer of The Year 2009’ and saw her winning dress print design sold in New Look stores nationwide. While Anna completed a paid work placement at the design department of high street giants, Matalan, which saw her designs brought to life in store. Needless to say, when it came to dress and suit alterations, they were swift, friendly and competitively priced.

Thanks to all our Granty winners for 2015. While we unfortunately don’t have any statuettes to present, we hope that you’ll bask in the glory of a job thoroughly well done! Please look them up, dear readers, if you’re in need of any of their superlative services.

Helping new businesses to make ‘A Fresh Start’

Simon Grant Comms has teamed up with Southport networking group LemonyLime to help new and fledgling ventures to squeeze the most out of their businesses, as part of a free event entitled ‘A Fresh Start,’ on Thursday 22 May from 5.30-7.30pm at The Kitchen Sink in Southport.

Tailored specifically for new start-ups, and fledgling businesses less than two years old, this completely free new event gives budding entrepreneurs exclusive access to industry experts and all those ‘need to know’ slices of information that really make a business zing.

LemonyLime Networking Logo Guests can expect a trademark zesty welcome from LemonyLime business members with industry knowledge courtesy of Natwest Business Banking, Kirwans Solicitors, 4 Corners Design, Stubbs Parkin Taylor & Co accountants, HR experts Mitchell and Lee People Consulting and Simon Grant Comms.

As well as informative expert presentation segments, followed by helpful question and answer sessions, ‘A Fresh Start’ is an opportunity to meet like-minded professionals who have also recently ‘taken the plunge’ and started their own businesses.

Freelance copywriter and PR specialist, Simon Grant is the newest member of LemonyLime having recently launched his start-up business Simon Grant Comms. He was invited to help organise ‘A Fresh Start’ and will be exhibiting and fielding questions at the event.

Simon said, “I’ve not long gone through the process of starting up a business myself and I can vividly remember how laborious it was trying to find all the knowledge and paperwork I needed. There’s plenty out there on the internet but trawling through it all is like wading through treacle in the dark initially.”

LemonyLime Directors Ged Whittle (L) and Kevin Long (R)

Make ‘A Fresh Start’ in business with LemonyLime

He continues, “Joining LemonyLime put me in contact with a range of like-minded professionals who had all the knowledge I was looking for in one room. Now ‘A Fresh Start’ will give other new start-ups and fledgling business owners that instant helping hand that I was searching for and I’m delighted to be able to pass on some of my skills and experiences to them.”

Human Resources Specialist, Debra Lee, from Mitchell and Lee People Consulting is also an organiser and exhibitor at ‘A Fresh Start.’ Over the course of her 20-years in HR, Debra has guided countless businesses and personnel to perform at their best and she recognises the value of having first rate advice from the offset.

Debra said, “It’s been a tough time to start a business over the last couple of years. All of us at LemonyLime have been there and we know what it’s like to set up a business. It can be a really daunting experience and that’s where we think we can make a difference with ‘A Fresh Start.’

“We want to see Southport’s businesses thrive, not just survive, and those first few years are critical. So we hope to see plenty of start-up and new business owners coming along to pick our brains, build new relationships, and hopefully come away feeling really clued up and buoyed to take the next steps in their business journeys.”

‘A Fresh Start’ takes place on Thursday 22 May from 5.30-7.30pm at The Kitchen Sink in Southport, which can be found at 111b Eastbank Street.

For more information please visit www.lemonylime.co.uk or check out the official LemonyLime Facebook page and Twitter feed. You can also email info@lemonylime.co.uk with any enquiries.

Great Expectations

Ferris Wheel

Avoid project outcomes becoming blurred.

So, you’ve bitten the bullet; you’ve hired a copywriter to overhaul your marketing content. But before you wave them on their merry way, and leave them to their highly professional devices, there’s a few bits of info you’ll want to convey. Follow these pointers to get the best out of your tame copywriter.

#1 Objectives

What are you hoping to gain from your project? Are you seeking to drive more traffic to your website? Do you want to position your business as an industry expert in your field? Or are you hoping to engage with potential customers in a less formalised context, to show the human side of your business? Perhaps you’re aiming to achieve all of those things. That’s fine, sure you can have your cake and eat it. If you can convey your objectives as clearly as possible to your copywriter they’ll be delivering against those targets in no time and you can rest easy knowing that you’re singing from the same hymn sheet.

#2 Realistic deadlines

Copywriters are adept at meeting deadlines. It’s what we do. In fact, it’s essential when juggling several different clients and their projects at any given time. We understand that you’ve got deadlines too. So, whether you need a quick turnaround within 24 hours or you’re going to print with that important document in two months time; be clear with your timelines. Ultimately, if you and your copywriter know exactly what timeframe to work towards (ideally with a bit of a cushion for any last minute changes) the project will undoubtedly come in on time, with zero stress.

#3 Know your audience 

It’s good practice to know your target audience regardless but for a copywriter it makes all the difference. That’s the sort of nugget of information that can dramatically alter the approach and tone applied to your project. Hipster references and light-hearted quips aren’t necessarily appropriate for a professional services firm’s communications. Unless of course that’s part of the brief. If you know who your core nucleus of patrons might be, it’s a good idea to give your copywriter the nod and they’ll tailor your prose sharper than a Savile Row three-piece suit.

#4 Give feedback

Your constructive feedback is the barometer by which your copywriter will hone your content. Hopefully by this stage they’ll have met your objectives as closely as possible, on time, with your audience effectively engaged. It’s your project though. And if there’s a sudden brainwave you’d like to include, or a tweak here and there to make, then pass that on to your copywriter. Being precious doesn’t come in to it. We want it to be right for you. That’s what you’re paying for and that’s what we take pride in.

So there you have it. Four easy steps to shape the way you engage your copywriter. Follow these tips and you’ll be helping you, and your writer, to execute winning results each and every time.