A content brief is the DNA if content itself is the lifeblood of the internet.
Without the right content strategy, you can’t position yourself as a thought-leader, or gain traction in the search engines. The CMI says content is the best way to market a business.
However, not just any content will do.
You need pieces that connect with your audience and follow the guidelines of SEO at the same time. That means working with a professional.
The only problem? When you’re not writing your own content, you need to ensure that the people who are writing it for you, understand your goals and expectations.
That means writing a brief that conveys what you need in a clear and concise way.
So, how do you do that?
Why Are Content Briefs Important?
If your writer doesn’t understand what you want in your content, how can they deliver results?
Just because your vision seems clear in your head doesn’t mean that anyone else sees it. While any writer or content creator can have a bad day and turn in a poor piece of work, if you haven’t provided the right brief, some of the wasted time will be your fault.
Your content brief is a simple document that you use to convey all the crucial information about your blog post or article. You hand the brief to your writer, and it answers any questions your professional has. A good content brief:
- Sets out your expectations
- Focuses the creator’s mind on the most important areas
- Encourages a thorough and relevant outcome
- Reduces the amount of time spent editing and re-writing
- Prevents you from wasting money on poor content
Arming your content creators with the right brief gives them the best chance of creating something suitable for your needs. Here’s what you need to know.
The Critical Elements of an Effective Content Brief
Over time, you’ll figure out what kind of content briefs work best for you and your writers. Your contractors, freelancers, or in-house creators might have specific requirements that we don’t mention here. Building a relationship with your team long-term will help you to eliminate any problems.
However, in the meantime, some crucial components need to appear in all content briefs. We’ve identified a handful for you here, and split them into three sections:
- The overview
- The details
- The expectations
Section 1: The Overview
The overview in your content brief is all about introducing your writer to your brand, your needs, and your audience. This is where you highlight the critical components of the task at hand.
- The Target Audience
There are two audiences that might be worth mentioning in your content brief. The first person your writer needs to know is you. What kind of business are you running? What do you do, and what can you sell? What pain points do you address, and values do you deliver? Knowing a little about your business will make it easier for your writer to step into your shoes.
The primary target audience for your content brief, however, is who you’re writing the content for. You’ll need at least a paragraph or two of information about your intended audience. If you have multiple audiences, then be specific about who you’re reaching out to. User personas might be helpful if you have them ready, but either way, make sure you cover:
- Age range
- Location (region)
- Pain points and requirements
- Goals and Objectives
The over-arching goal of your content is to build your brand. But what are you trying to do with this precise piece? Do you need to answer a customer’s question in-depth, and provide the audience with more valuable information so they can use your product or service?
Maybe you want to cover a trending topic and highlight your thought leadership at the same time. If so, this could mean that your writer needs to reference authorities, and even quote members of your team. Make sure that your content creator knows what you’re trying to accomplish. What’s the last thought you want your reader to have with your blog?
- Background Context
What pushed you to develop this content in the first place?
All of the pieces you publish on your website or blog should have a clear purpose. Is there a trending issue happening in your industry that you feel you should take a stance on? If so, let your writer know. They might need to do more research on that topic.
Have you noticed a consistent pain point for your customers that you need to address? Maybe you can give your writers some examples of feedback you’ve seen. Provide an overview of how this article will serve a need and fit into your content strategy.
- Tone and Brand Voice
Finally, this is where you come back to that first audience we mentioned above: your business. Your writer needs to know how you position yourself online so that they can mimic your unique personality. Are you friendly or formal? Do you use colloquialisms and slang?
If you have examples of previous pieces of content that you’ve published, this will be helpful. Brand voice style guides are especially useful too. If you’re starting from scratch, try providing your writer with some links to content that has a similar style to what you need.
Section 2: The Details
Now that we have the main overview of your content ironed out, it’s time to get into the smaller details. Remember, the more information you give your writer, the more likely they are to create the content that you have in mind.
- What are your must-haves?
If you already have some no-compromise ideas in your mind, then make sure you share them with your writer. For instance, maybe you have a specific idea of what the title should be, or an insight into the headers and call to action content.
If you don’t have any direct demands, highlight the message you want to leave your audience too, and make sure your writer knows the basics of what you’re looking for. You may suggest a title, for instance, to give them a starting point, but ask them to improve it themselves.
- A Skeleton Covering Possible Sections
Give a rough sample or outline of the sections that you might want to cover. For instance, if you’re writing an article about social media marketing, you might start with an introduction, go into a discussion of the benefits, and so on.
Try to be reasonably flexible here. Your writer might discover that switching sections around in a final piece makes the content flow more smoothly. Trust that your professional knows what they’re doing. It’s also essential to let writers add and adjust sections wherever necessary.
Try and provide an insight into how long each section should be too. This will help your writer to avoid spending too much time on the wrong thing.
Remember to cover if you want your writer to add a CTA to the content too. If a Call to Action is necessary, what will your writer be asking the reader to do?
- What research is required?
With a little luck, you’ll be able to provide your writer with a lot of the information they need to write your content. This might include information about your business, overviews of your product or service, and even links to reports.
However, your professional also needs to be willing to do their own research too. Ask them to do read up on some other valuable articles about the topic you want to cover. This will help them to see which points other competitors aren’t covering.
If you’re writing a piece that has something to do with a crucial tool or piece of software, make sure that your writer is prepared to experiment with that technology first too.
- What SEO strategies are you using?
SEO might not be the most exciting part of a content brief, but it’s a critical part of getting the most out of your articles. With that in mind, ensure your writer is aware of which strategies to use.
Do you need your content expert to include relevant internal and external links to show your authority? What kind of keywords will you be using, and how frequently do you want your writer to embed them into the content?
If you have any specific tools that you want your writer to use for keyword research, give them access to that software. For instance, you may use Ahrefs or SEMrush.
One valuable aspect of SEO that many companies overlook when writing a content brief – is the length of the content. Although your writer doesn’t necessarily need to stick to an exact word count, they do need a guideline. There’s a big difference between researching and writing for a 750-word blog and creating a 3000-word piece.
Remember, longer content usually leads to better results with SEO.
Visuals are essential to good content these days. Your customers need something to catch their eye other than just a block of text. Many companies prefer to provide the images for content themselves, as this ensures that they’re not using any pictures with copyright issues.
However, if you want your writer to provide images, make sure that they know how to capture those images. Maybe you want them to take plenty of screenshots, which could mean using a tool like Lightshot. Alternatively, if you want free-to-use images, let your writer know which resources you use, such as:
What kind of images do you prefer? Are you fond of hand-drawn illustrations or pictures that include people? Do you have a specific set of brand guidelines for the images you use? If so, share them with your writer, along with any size or aspect ratio requirements.
If you need your content creator to edit the pictures they’re going to send, provide them with the right tools to do so, such as Canva.
Section 3: Expectations
Finally we come to the expectations part of the brief. This is where you make sure that everything is absolutely clear for your writer on what you want.
- Resources and References
If you have any links or case studies that might help your writer to create the perfect piece, include them here. Blogs, PDFs, downloads, videos, and anything else that you can think of will all contribute to a more informed article.
It’s also worth including any references that you want your writer to specifically talk about in the piece. For instance, if you’re writing a blog that’s going to promote a new eBook you have available for download, make sure that your writer has access to that eBook, and insights into what they can and can’t reveal about it.
Aside from telling your writer what they absolutely must include in the content, you also need to inform them of what they shouldn’t include. This means that if you want to avoid talking about other competitors or linking out to different sites, your writer needs to know.
If there are any topics that are particularly touchy in your industry right now, it might be best to stay away from them if you don’t want to take a specific stance. It’s also important to let your writer know if you want to avoid any specific terms or words that might have the wrong impression on your audience.
- Deadlines and timelines
How long do you have to bring this content together?
Try to get the content back from your writer a little while before you want it to go live. This will provide some extra time for edits, proof-reading, and even sourcing original images if you want to take that route.
To ensure that everything goes smoothly, make sure your writer knows what their deadline is for:
- A first draft
- Feedback from you
- A final draft
- Publishing (in case they want to share on social media)
- Additional notes
Are there any last things that you want your writer to keep in mind when they’re producing this content? For instance, maybe you really want to use a lot of bullet points to break up the page?
Perhaps you’re thinking of converting the article into an eBook and you need your writer to keep that in mind when they’re thinking about the structure of the content.
If you know your audience is going to be reading your content from a smartphone, it’s often helpful to ask your writer to stick to short paragraphs.
Finally, make sure that your writer knows what kind of process you’re going to be using for them to submit this content. Where will they send the writing to you? Are they going to attach a document to an email, upload something straight to WordPress, or provide a Google doc?
Provide contact information for everyone your writer needs to know about, including an editor or publisher. Additionally, make sure that you agree in advance on a price or rate for the piece.
If you have file naming conventions, include those too, so you can save your editor some time.
There you have it, everything you need to know about writing a fantastic content brief.
Remember, an incredible writer can produce amazing content for your site. The right content marketing strategy drives new customers and exciting opportunities to your business. However, a writer is only as good as the brief they get.
If you can’t tell your employee what you want, then you have to expect mistakes.