Set writers up to succeed — give them a clear brief

Diana Burns | June 2, 2016

I’ve changed my mind about the writing process.

In workshops, I suggest writers follow a 5-step writing process that starts with thinking and finishes with proofreading.

But the more workshops I deliver, the more I’m interested in what happens before the writing process starts.

In business, managers brief writers to produce documents. And that brief sets writers up to succeed, or sets them off in the wrong direction.

Image, Compass.

Set your writer off in the right direction. Image by Internet Archive Book Images / No known copyright restrictions

A brief is more than a topic and a deadline

Writers tell me that briefs often include the topic and the deadline, and perhaps suggest a template — but not much else.

Then this happens: the manager gets a draft that doesn’t do the job. Writers see their draft covered in red pen, or they see the manager take over the document.

Briefs should give writers direction

A brief is the manager’s chance to show why they’re a manager, by giving direction.  A clear brief will explain the context of the document, its purpose, and the desired result. The writer should understand why the document is important to the business.

A brief should include:

Some businesses have briefing sheets that managers fill in. If you’re a manager, challenge yourself to complete the sheet every time.

In other businesses, the manager and the writer create a brief together.

However it’s created, a brief becomes a reference point until the document is complete.

Writers need a chance to check they understand the brief

Once a writer has a brief, they can begin to follow the 5-step process. When they’ve completed step 2, a plan or outline, they need to check in with the manager. The manager can then make sure the writer has understood and is fulfilling the brief.

Managers show leadership by making time for writers at this step. They can confirm the writer is heading in the right direction, or fill gaps in the brief so the writer can get back on course.

Try our briefing sheet

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