Many writers feel this way when receiving content writing instructions from their clients or bosses — confused, or even clueless. The writer is not sure what it is required and how to proceed.
There are three scenarios that could arise from this problem:
- Writers waste time trying to understand what you want and as a result, they miss the deadline.
- You spend a lot of time communicating going back and forth with writers, resulting in frustration on both ends.
- The writers just create content based on how they interpret your brief, even if they don’t 100% understand the requirements. As a result, you receive mediocre content or content that is totally off the mark.
Whether you’re working with a content marketing agency, freelancers, or in-house writers, the quality of your content brief greatly influences the quality of work you get.
Grist founder Andrew Rogerson put it perfectly: “Why is the article brief such an essential tool? Because it leaves no room for doubt and only as much room for interpretation as you see fit. As a marketer, you may have a very clear idea of what you want the final feature, blog post, or infographic to look like but don’t assume the writer will share that idea without a written brief. The more time spent up front defining what you want, the less will be spent fixing it to match what you need.”
Your brief should be detailed enough so whoever is writing the content has sufficient information to produce the quality of content you want to achieve. Additionally, your brief should also be concise enough as not to overload content creators with too much unnecessary data that might confuse them.
Here are 10 key elements your content brief should include (plus a useful BONUS template at the end). To give it more clarity, we will be using this post that you’re reading right now to develop a content brief example.
1. Working Title
It’s called a working title because you’re giving your writers some leeway to change the headline for a better, more attention-grabbing version. It also allows them to adjust the number of items for list posts depending on the amount of information they were able to research.
Example: X Key Elements to Providing Clear Content Briefs to Writers
2. Target Audience/Readers
A lot has been said regarding the importance of creating content avatars. To reiterate, your writers need to know who they are writing for in order for them to write content that fulfills a marketing purpose. They need to be able to match the expectations of the target readers for the content to be valuable and effective. Providing this information in your content brief is crucial for the content to have a solid marketing backbone.
Example: Target audience is business owners and content marketers who are working with an internal team of writers or outsourcing for content agencies/freelancers. They are experiencing some difficulty getting the content they want and oftentimes, they experience miscommunication with their writers.
3. Brief Overview/Storyline
Include a few sentences of what you expect the content to talk about — the overall concept. In 2-3 sentences, what is the main storyline of the content?
Example: This post should talk about the important things that an effective content brief should contain. What information do business owners or content marketers need to provide to a writer to achieve high-quality written and marketing-aligned content? Provide examples to make it clearer.
What results are you trying to achieve? Do you just want to provide value to readers? Are you trying to generate more leads by having a content offer within the article or blog post? Do you want readers to buy something after reading the post?
Provide clear objectives so your writers will know the end goal of the content.
Example: This post is aimed to provide value for the readers to reinforce our company’s positioning as a leader in content marketing. There will also be an opt-in offer at the end to download a template to get more leads.
Depending on the topic, you can instruct your writers to use a specific tone or voice. You also need to specify whether you want them to use the first, second, or third person to write the piece.
Example: The article should be conversational and casual. Feel free to use humor. Write the article in the second person.
Your content will vary in length. For evergreen content that you want to rank high on search engine results pages, the ideal length should be between 1,000 to 2,000 words. However, for trending or breaking news topics, it could be lower. Your content brief should specify the range in terms of the number of words you require so your writers will know whether they’re writing long-form or short-form content. This also affects the amount of research your writers need to do as well as estimating the time required to write the content.
Example: 1,000 – 1,500 words
7. Target Keywords
Contrary to popular belief, search engine optimization is not dead. It just evolved from the black hat SEO of the past to the content-driven search engine marketing practices of today. Make sure you know what keywords you’re targeting for every content and communicate these keywords to your writers so they can incorporate them appropriately.
Example: content success, content brief, content marketing
8. Call to Action
This is closely tied to item #4 in the brief which is your objectives. Every content should have a call to action. Without it, the content will just go to waste as it doesn’t prompt your readers to do something that is in line with your business or marketing objectives.
Every content should have a primary and a secondary CTA. The primary CTA should be in line with your main objective. The secondary CTA should be related to content engagement (i.e. share the content on social media or leave a comment).
Example: Primary CTA: Download your content brief template. Secondary CTA: Share the content on social media
9 & 10: Deadline & Other Guidelines
We just combined these last two items as they are pretty straightforward.
Of course, you need to specify a reasonable deadline. If you’re requesting a 5,000-word well-researched article, don’t expect that your writer can deliver it the following day.
As for the other guidelines, if there are any dos and don’ts that the writer needs to be aware of, specify these pointers under this section.
Bringing It All Together
So, to summarize, a complete marketing brief for the post you’re reading right now could look like this:
|Working Title:||X Key Elements to Giving and Clear Content Briefs for Writer|
|Target Audience:||Business owners and content marketers who are working with an internal team of writers or outsourcing for content agencies/freelancers. They are experiencing some difficulty getting the content they want and oftentimes, they experience miscommunication with their writers.|
|Overview/Storyline:||This post should talk about the important things that an effective content brief should contain. What information do business owners or content marketers need to provide to a writer to achieve high-quality written and marketing-aligned content? Provide examples to make it clearer.|
|Objectives:||This post is aimed to provide value for the readers to reinforce our company’s positioning as a leader in content marketing. There will also be an opt-in offer at the end to download a template to get more leads.|
|Tone/Personality/Style:||The article should be conversational and casual. Feel free to use humor. Write the article in the second person.|
|Length:||1,000 – 1,500 words|
|Target Keywords:||content success, content brief, content marketing|
|Call to Action:||Primary CTA: Download your content brief template
Secondary CTA: Share the content on social media
|Deadline:||December 25, 2020|
|Other Guidelines:||Use the example of the post you’re writing for a content brief to give the readers a better idea of how it works. Provide a summary at the end of the post.|
Having a clear and concise content brief is a crucial element in content marketing success. A content brief forces you and your team to think hard about all aspects of a content concept. It serves as an SOP on how you want something written. At the same time, it functions as an early warning device because you’re going to immediately see whether a content idea is feasible or not.
A clear-cut content brief provides a solid framework for your content to ensure that you and your writers are on the same page. The more thought you put into creating the brief, the less stressful the actual content development is going to be for both you and your writing team.
You can download the content brief template here. In the meantime, we would like to hear your ideas on how you think this template could be better. Also, if you found this blog post useful, please give us a shout out in social media.