As a freelancer who was a commissioning editor for over a decade, I spend a lot of my week rolling my eyes at briefs from other commissioning editors.
Not my regular lovely ones, of course, who are brilliant and even pay me on time.
But people I’ve not worked with before. Lots of whom, and this is not their fault, have less experience than me.
The two main problems that there can be with briefs for a story are a) not enough information and b) too much information.
It’s the same thing with press releases or emails from PRs to journalists. Getting just the right amount of information about your story is crucial. Send too much in an initial email and you risk overwhelming (i.e. boring) your target journalist.
While too little could lead to the recipient feeling baffled – which could mean ignoring your potentially fantastic story.
Or result in a ream of back-and-forth emails with follow-up question from them that annoy both parties and could have been avoided if you’d just made your original missive a bit more informative.
In both cases – briefs and releases – the same 5 things I was taught as a rookie journalist are still required and the best rule of thumb: who, what, when, where and why? Before you send a release, make sure you’ve covered all of these. They’re rules because they work.