HOW TO WRITE AN EFFECTIVE CONTENT BRIEF IN 8 EASY STEPS

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When it comes to producing any content, spending an extra 20 minutes upfront detailing the goal and desired outcome for a piece can save a bunch of time for you, your team, and your writers.

Enter – the content brief.

Without a content brief to lay the groundwork for writers, a simple blog post can take excruciatingly longer than desired to complete. Not to mention, the finished product can be off-target, under-performing, and out of place with your content marketing strategy. 

Successful content must be written from a well-planned content brief.

In this post, I’ll be sharing the eight elements effective content briefs have in common as well as how to draft high-performing briefs of your own. 

WHAT IS A CONTENT BRIEF? 

A content brief is like a work order for content creators. It outlines the problem, the solution, and any resources or tools that will be needed. An effective content brief also includes key elements such as who the content is for, what keywords should be included (if applicable), and what the overall business objective is. 

Whether you’ll be executing the content yourself or delegating the task to a writer, the elements you choose to include and how you structure your brief will directly impact the success of whatever you publish. 

For content to best fit its ideal purpose, these eight elements should be covered in your content brief.

1. CONTENT TYPE  

A well-balanced content marketing strategy should involve a variety of content types from long-form thought leadership pieces and data-driven content to podcast show notes and case studies.

However, how a writer approaches a blog post greatly differs from how one would approach a case study. Not to mention, the word count and formatting among different pieces vary drastically. 

This is why a content brief is essential. To eliminate any potential confusion, always begin your content brief by specifying your desired content type.

This will immediately set expectations for a content creator and will sum up the basics of what you’re looking for at first glance. Once you’ve specified the content type, you can begin filling out the target industry.

2. TARGET Persona

The goal of effective content is to speak the same language as the reader. Including details about your target customer persona influences a writer’s word choice, tone, and overall style. So, having a thorough understanding of how they communicate will greatly impact the success of content. 

For instance, if you are a SaaS company that sells SEO tools to SEO agencies, you probably shouldn’t be writing an article about the top 3 SEO benefits. This will fall flat if your target audience has 10+ years of SEO experience.

You need to make sure that your content meets the audience where they are currently at.

In the SEO article example, this either means using writers that are subject matter experts and know the ins and outs about SEO. Or, be prepared to provide your write with experts to interview, who have this subject matter expertise. 

3. CONTENT TOPIC

The content topic is a brief description of what the content will be about.

Let’s use an example topic of the best indoor plants for low light areas of your home. Right off the bat, a writer can deduce that they will be working on a piece that details the best foliage options for low light spaces. 

If you want to go a bit more niche and only cover the best indoor plants that require minimal upkeep, include that specification within the content topic as well. This will help a writer pinpoint what they will be covering and will form the basis of the desired content.

4. CONTENT OVERVIEW

This is the section to detail all essential components of the content, including the purpose of the piece, how it should be positioned, and the brand’s unique angle or insights for the particular topic.

The content overview is also the place to specify any audience focus within the target industry.

For instance, if you’re writing an advanced level guide for purchasing software in the web development industry, your target reader is likely not a novice within the space. Therefore, the content should be geared towards web development specialists, managers, or company owners. In this case, a writer wouldn’t need to spell out common web development terms, since the reader is already familiar with them.

Similarly, the content overview is the place to note any specifics that should be included in the content. For example, if the content brief is for an article listing the top web development software, use the content overview to highlight any brands or features that must be noted in the piece.

5. STYLE AND FORMATTING

While a freelancer can infer details like verbiage and jargon from the above sections, use the style and formatting section to detail any specific requirements. This could include specifications for headings or section lengths, or a request to use bulleted lists over numbered lists. 

Likewise, this is where you should include your brand style guidelines. This would include preferences such as usingl Oxford commas, omitting buzzwords, or using active voice instead of passive voice.

Additionally, include requirements for overall tone and style. Perhaps an article should be conversational, or maybe you’re looking for a straightforward piece with absolutely no fluff.

By setting these expectations with the content creator before the piece is written, you can save tons of time on edits and back-and-forth communication.

6. RELEVANT Research 

Is there any specific research you should complete before beginning this piece? Did any internal or external research drive the creation of this brief? Let your writer know in the relevant links section. 

By providing specific links to relevant articles or content with a similar feel, they will have a much easier time picking up the style of content you’re trying to execute. The more aligned you and your team are before content development, the more cohesive the content will feel.

7. WORD COUNT

Of course, every content brief requires a section for word count. When assigning a word count, always consider supplying a range that the writer should fulfill but do indicate when or if there is a hard stop on text length.

8. DEADLINE 

If you’ll be executing the content yourself or will be passing the writing duties to someone on your team, you may only need to include the due date for the draft. In other cases, you can bulk this section out to include a draft review date, a date to complete any revisions, and the target date for when the content will go live. 

Without a clear direction, there will be a disconnect between the content you envision and the content you receive. In my experience, the best way to bridge this gap is to templatize your content brief. This ensures all directions are uniform and takes the guesswork out of what to include in a successful brief.

By including these eight essential elements in routine content briefs, you can transform each new piece of content into a powerful and valuable marketing asset.

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About the author

Jessica Malnik

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