Have you ever tried to drive somewhere unfamiliar without a map? If so, then you know exactly what it’s like to write web copy without a content brief.
It’s a common misconception that all you have to do to get great copy is to throw a topic at your writer and walk away. While that might result in a blog post you can publish on your website, it isn’t the way to get high-quality content that delivers value to your audience. And it won’t happen without intense frustration for your writer.
In content marketing, content briefs should be non-negotiable—they’re the foundation for every piece of content.
What Is a Content Brief?
A content brief is a document that explains the purpose and direction of a piece of content. Look at it like the roadmap for your blog posts, whitepapers, case studies and beyond.
Content briefs ensure your writer knows with 100% certainty what they should say, how they should say it and to whom. In-depth content briefs can help you:
- Gain back more time for other work: A content brief has a funny way of eliminating numerous email threads and phone calls. Giving all of your information at once saves you time and enables you to focus on other more important tasks.
- Eliminate needless revisions: A lack of information often leads to extra rounds of revisions which can eat up time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
- Improve SEO: Including keywords you wish to target can help your writer optimize the content before sending it your way.
- Create content that speaks directly to your target audience: Effective content speaks directly to those that matter most to your business—your target audience. A brief that includes audience details results in content that hits the bullseye.
What Should Be Included Inside of a Content Brief?
Ready to build your first content brief? Here, you’ll find a list of the nine things you should include in every brief you create from here on out.
1. Client Name & URL
You might think this is obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s forgotten. This is important whether you’re the client or an agency sending client work to writers. Also, include a URL to your website or the client’s website so your writer can gain additional information by simply clicking a link.
2. Topic or Working Title
In most cases, the title won’t be solidified until after the piece is written. By providing a working title or topic with a few sentences, you clearly identify the goal of the piece at the outset.
3. Content Type
Is the piece of content supposed to be a blog post? A case study? A downloadable guide? A writer will approach each of these differently during the planning and writing process.
Some sample content types beyond the above include:
- Web page
- Sell sheet
Identify SEO keywords you would like the content to rank for. And, if you like, include direction as to where you’d prefer these keywords to go. For example, in the first paragraph of the introduction, in headers, etc.
5. Topic Background & Applicable Research
Now, this is the meat of the brief. This is the place where you’ll explain all of the necessary details of the content piece, including talking points and your (or your client’s) unique perspective about a topic.
In this section, aim to answer questions such as:
- What’s important about the topic?
- What specific talking points should this piece cover?
- Is there a stance the writer should take about the topic?
- What is the most important message that needs to come through in the piece above all else?
After answering these questions, include applicable research. For example, you could provide links to sources from other websites, current marketing materials and more.
6. Target Audience
This section is critical to the success of any content piece. After all, for content to work, it must speak to and connect with the target audience. In each brief, answer questions such as:
- Who is the primary audience for this piece?
- Why is the audience seeking out this information?
- What are the audience’s pain points or desires to speak to in this piece?
If this content is for you and your writer knows your business well, you might be tempted to skip this section. Don’t. If anything, it’s a great reminder of who you’re targeting.
7. Point of View & Voice
Next, include the point of view (POV) you want the writer to work from. Typically, this means choosing between:
- First-person singular (I, me, my)
- First-person plural (we, us, our)
- Third-person (they, them)
To round out this section of your brief, include your brand voice. Your voice is the impression you want to make on your audience about who you are. In another way, it’s your business personality. For example, you might want to be:
- The trusted guide
- The knowledgeable best friend
- The mom of the group
- The strategic advisor
- The thought leader
8. Call to Action
No content piece is complete without a compelling call to action. What should your audience do after reading your content? Should they contact you? Download a lead magnet? Read more blog posts? Share with their networks?
Include the CTA in your brief so your writer knows where to direct your audience next.
9. Helpful Resources
Finally, finish your brief with any additional resources that might be helpful for your writer. For example, you can include brand style guides, links to industry insights and/or links to content inspiration.
Reminder: There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Information
After compiling all of this info, you may think you’ll bombard your writer or confuse them. This isn’t true. A writer craves information, especially when it comes to creating content that reads and sounds exactly how you envision it.
A lack of information leads to a lack of clarity. And that lack of clarity leads to subpar content.
Trust us when we say, send the info. Everything you’ve got. Send the stuff you don’t even think they’ll need (as long as it pertains to the content topic). An experienced writer will ask for clarification if they have questions. You don’t have to have it all figured out—just be willing to share!
How to Use the Content Brief Template
To make it simple to create content briefs, we’ve included a template for you to use. All you have to do is download, edit and send off. Or, you can use the template as a framework to build your own internal content brief.
Before using the template for the first time, we recommend saving it with a filename such as “Content Brief Template” for use over and over again. When you need a brief, make a copy of the file (or Save As with another name) and edit.
But Wait, I Don’t Have Time to Create All These Content Briefs
If this is you, we see you. Taking time to create in-depth content briefs can feel impossible when you have so many other things on your plate. There are some things you can do though:
- Batch your content briefs: If you publish content on a weekly basis, schedule an hour each Monday, or the previous Friday, to batch create your content briefs for the upcoming week. Or, schedule a day near the beginning of each month to develop the briefs for each month’s content.
- Take a tech tool for a spin: “There’s an app for that.” Truly. There are content tools out there meant specifically for generating content briefs such as Content Harmony.
- Schedule content interviews: If you’d rather discuss the content project and allow your writer to fill out their own brief during a call, let your writer know! Just be prepared to spend 30-60 minutes talking through your pieces so your writer gets everything they need for success.
Struggling With the Content Creation Process? We Can Help!
The content creation process can feel overwhelming. And it’s not just the writing part. Creating briefs, managing content projects, editing work and more can take some serious time.
Luckily, there’s a solution: working with content creation experts who can handle it all. If you’re struggling, reach out to us Word Nerds today to learn how we can help.