In travel writing, as in all content production, a clear and unambiguous brief should always be the starting point. For writers, knowing the brief inside out before you start typing is key to knowing exactly what the client or editor expects and meeting their expectations. From the perspective of clients and editors, meanwhile, getting the brief right will mean less editing work, a quicker writer delivery and – most importantly of all – a better finished product.
So how can clients craft the perfect travel content brief? And, from the other point of view, how can writers ensure they answer it in the intended way? Scroll down to read top tips from our staff content editor – and writer – Eilidh.
Writing a brief
The points you’ll need to hit when you’re creating your brief will depend on a wide number of variables, like the content format you want, where it will he appearing and your existing relationship with the writer. If you’re working with a writer who is new to you, you’ll want to go into more detail as your standards won’t be known to them yet.
Envision the end result
Make sure you have a clear vision of how and where the finished content will appear and what the desired result will be. For online content, you should consider how often the page will need to be updated. If avoiding certain facts or topics will mean the content stays accurate and relevant for longer, put this in the brief.
Address the practicalities
If you have particular preferences for file format, naming and layout, specifying these in the brief will save you from doing the work yourself. However, consider which elements are really crucial here. If there’s no good reason to request a particular font, then don’t; adding arbitrary instructions will mean the key points get lost in the brief.
Set carefully considered word limits
For a traditional piece of travel writing or journalism, it should be easy enough to estimate an appropriate length. In the case of web copy, though, it’s not always simple to gauge how much text is required. Too much text on a page can turn visitors away. Try finding a site that you think has a good level of copy on each page and use this as a guide for your writer. Keep in mind, also, any space limitations created by the layout of your specific site.
Make your SEO needs clear
If the content is destined for a website, specify the types of SEO keywords that would be most relevant and make it clear how frequently these should appear. Over-zealous SEO can ruin a great piece of content; but conversely, forgetting about keywords means missing an opportunity to potentially boost your traffic. A subjective statement like “include a reasonable amount of keywords” is unhelpful as it’s open to interpretation. Be as clear as you can.
If other writers have already completed work to a similar format for you, be sure to include links to these examples in the brief. If there are no direct examples yet, try to include links to – or even just extracts from – pieces of copy that follow your desired style and tone. Describing tone using words like “informal”, “upbeat” or “professional” is helpful, but showing examples of what this looks like in practice is the surest way to convey your requirements.
Prioritise your points
In an ideal world, the writer should take everything you have included in the brief on board. However, the fact is that oversights do happen, particularly in long and complicated briefs. If there are particular elements to the brief that you consider more important than others, don’t be afraid to highlight these to make sure they aren’t missed.
Write a comprehensive style guide
Having a style guide that details your policy on tone of voice as well as common spelling, punctuation and word choice issues will prevent you from having to go over these points repeatedly for each new project. Include a link to your style guide in each brief. You can read more about style guides in this previous blog.
Following a brief
Receiving a long and detailed brief from a client can sometimes feel a little intimidating. But trust us – it’s a good thing. The more you know about the wants and needs of your clients, the more likely you will deliver work they’re satisfied with first time. Providing you know how to follow a brief, that is. Here are our top five brief-following tips.
Read, read and read again
The most useful thing a writer can do when faced with a new brief is quite simple: read it. Ideally multiple times. As you go through it, highlight any points you think might be likely to slip your mind during the writing process. Once you’ve written the content, read it again to make sure you have included all of the points requested by the client.
Look beyond the brief
Clients are generally not writers. If they were, they wouldn’t be hiring you. So bear in mind that the brief may not outline all their ideas and objectives perfectly. Use some critical thinking to consider what the client is trying to achieve and how the content will be used. Keeping this in mind will give your writing a real sense of purpose.
It’s not always easy to switch off your own stylistic quirks, but as a travel writer you may often end up writing to a brief that requires precisely that. The key is to be hyper-aware of your own writing idiosyncrasies. If some of your favourite phrases would be out of place in the kind of content requested in the brief, be vigilant to prevent them creeping into your writing. You can even do a search for specific words or phrases once you’ve finished writing.
Take style guides seriously
A company style guide can be every bit as important as the brief itself when it comes to meeting the client’s expectations. Before you begin, read the style guide through at least once and make a note of any preferred spellings or style requirements that wouldn’t be instinctive to you. If you know in advance where you’re most likely to trip up, it will make your final proofreading that much simpler.
Learn from others
If links to examples of existing work have been included in the brief, follow them very carefully. In cases where a complex content structure is involved, you might find it easiest to open one of the provided examples in Word and just type your new piece over the top of it. That way, you know you’re delivering work in a format the client knows.
Want to find out more about producing great travel content? Check out the other posts in our travel writing advice section. Or else keep up to date with our latest tips and tricks by following World Words on Twitter.