January 14, 2022
Learn how to create content briefs that save time and money, ensuring clear communication with writers and better content outcomes.
Before you even think about creating content, you need a plan. It can be challenging to determine what type of content to create, how long it should be, tone to use, or answer the tens of other questions that can come up when your writer puts pen to paper. That’s where a content brief comes in.
What is a content brief?
A content brief is a document that outlines the essential information a writer needs to create a piece of content. It typically includes the goals, target audience, and expectations of the work. A brief can be as long or as short as you want, but should always answer these essential elements.
Your content brief template can make or break your content or marketing program. What separates a good brief from a bad one is its level of detail.
The more specific you can be about your goals, target audience, and expected outcomes, the better equipped your writers are to create content that hits the mark. There are many ways to make a content brief, but we’ve found a fill-in-the-blank template is the best way to ensure your briefs are thorough, consistent, and clear.
How content briefs impact results
Creating a content brief is important for a few reasons. First, it ensures everyone involved in the content creation process is on the same page. Constantly going back and forth with your content writer to figure out the goals of a particular piece, will waste a lot of time and energy. Good content briefs save time on revisions by making expectations clear from the start.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, good briefs help you create better content. When you take the time to sit down and think about your goals, target audience, and what you want to achieve with your content, you naturally start to generate ideas for how to make that happen. This leads to better topics, headlines, and calls to action, all of which help you get better results from your content.
Anatomy of an effective content brief
With all this in mind, here’s what goes in a content brief:
1 . Objective
The objective is arguably the most important parts of your content brief. It outlines the specific goal(s) you want to achieve with your content. If you’re trying to help your audience understand a complex topic, your objective might be just that–to make the topic more digestible. If you’re trying to increase brand awareness, your objective might be to get your audience to take a specific action, like signing up for your newsletter.
Whatever it is, make sure your objective is clear, concise, and achievable. This helps the writer understand what they need to do and makes measuring the piece’s success easier.
2. Content length
As straightforward as it sounds, you also need to specify the length of content you’re looking for. While you might think any length will work, establishing a word count–or depending on the format, the number of pages–helps the writer understand the scope of the project. If you’re looking for a 2,000-word blog post, the flow will be very different from a 20-page white paper.
Generally speaking, the more complex the topic, the longer the piece should be. For example, many fintech topics require a lot of explanation and background before they can be adequately covered. On the other hand, a social post doesn’t need to be very long. Your audience’s attention span and the depth of the topic will play a role in determining the ideal length of your content.
3. Topic details
Here’s where most of the heavy lifting happens. It’s important to be as specific as possible about what you want the content to cover. You can start by providing a general overview of the topic and then get into more specific subtopics that you’d like the writer to address.
If you have any particular points that you absolutely want covered or specific questions that you want to answer, this is also the place to include them. The more guidance you can provide, the easier it will be for the writer to complete the project. You can also add relevant industry-specific information like statistics or data points for additional context.
Some marketers prefer to let the writer come up with the topics, while others like to have a bit more control. If you’re unsure what topics would be best, consider doing some research on your audience’s needs and pain points or use an AI-powered tool to generate content ideas. You can also look at what’s performing well for your competitors and try to develop something similar.
One tactic for detailing your content topic is to think through all of your H2s first, then H3s, then H4s, and create an outline. This method allows you to start with your overarching narrative and flow before digging into the specifics of the content for each section.
4. Keyword suggestions
During your research, you might come across a few keywords that are relevant to your topic. If so, include them in your content brief! It helps the writer optimize the content for search engines and helps the right audience find your content. Keyword research can be a full-time job, so if you’re unsure which keywords to use, consider working with a marketing or SEO expert.
In short, you want to include keywords that are:
Relevant to your topic
Likely to be used by people who are searching for this kind of content
Achievable and not too competitive
5. Tone of voice
Brand identity is essential for many companies, including the tone your content reflects. For example, your brand might leverage humor to entertain leads. Or you maybe part of a traditionally more serious industry where an authoritative tone makes more sense.
Your brand’s tone should be relatively consistent across all channels, especially in your written content. The written word is often people’s first and strongest impression of a brand.
Your tone of voice should be reflective of your brand’s overall identity. If you’re not sure what your brand’s tone is, see if you can identify any patterns in your existing content. You can also ask yourself how you want people to feel after reading your content. For example, if you want people to feel like they can trust your brand, a more serious and formal tone might be appropriate.
6. Audience Information
Your writer needs (and wants!) to know who they’re writing for. After all, the whole point of creating content is to reach a specific audience, so tell your writer who you’re targeting.
You might already have customer personas for your business, so you can include them in your brief or link to your existing documentation. If not, that’s okay – just provide some basic information about your target audience.
Audience information can include:
Demographic information (age, location, gender, income, job title)
Psychographic information (interests, values, lifestyle, etc.)
What kind of problems do they have that your product or service can help with?
What are their pain points?
What are their aspirations?
Your writer will use this information to tailor the content to your specific audience to ensure it resonates with them.
7. Internal links
At this point, your writer has everything they need to complete your blog post on their own. However, there’s more to consider when it comes to your on-page SEO strategy. For your blog post to be effective, it’s best to link to other relevant pages on your website.
Known as internal linking or interlinking, this helps Google (and other search engines) index your site and understand the structure of your content. It also helps keep visitors on your site for longer, which is also good for SEO.
When creating a content brief that incorporates SEO, it’s a good idea to include a few suggestions for links to other priority pages on your website. These could include your pricing page or key product and service pages. Let the writer know which pages you want them to link to and why. This will help them create a more practical piece of content that drives traffic where you need it to.
For example, a blog post about the benefits of meditation might link to a page about how to get started meditating or a page about the different types of meditation courses you offer.
8. External links
External links in a content brief are not to be confused with backlinks that everyone’s always talking about. Where backlinks try to earn you a link on someone else’s website to your own pages, external links are pages on other websites that you might link to from your own blog.
These external links simply point to other websites that might be relevant to the topic at hand. For example, you might want your writer to link out to a partner site or to the data sources you want used in your content.
replicate a successful blog post from another site or link to an industry article that provides more context for the topic.
When adding external links to a content brief, include the URL and a short description of why it’s relevant. In certain industries, you need research pieces or official studies to support your claims. If that’s the case for your business, include those links as well! This practice is widespread in medical writing, for instance.
9. Research links
Research links can be examples of well-done content by other brands as well as websites that provide useful insight related to your content brief. When adding research links to a content brief, include the URL and a short description of why it’s relevant.
In certain industries, you need to provide research or official studies to support your claims. If that’s the case for your business, include those links as well. This practice is widespread in medical writing, for instance.
10. Competitor links
Linking to successful competitors is another great way to show the writer what kind of content performs well in your industry. If there’s a specific piece of content that you really like, send it over to the writer and ask them to take inspiration from it.
Of course, you don’t want your writer to simply copy what your competitors are doing. Draft content is always checked for plagiarism before getting sent your way so you never have to worry about that from our writers. But looking at what kinds of content is performing well for competitors can give your writers some ideas for making your content stand out.
Competitor research is also an excellent way to begin the skyscraper technique, which is a content marketing strategy that involves taking an already successful piece of content and making it even better. Look for gaps in your competitor’s content and ask the writer to fill them when writing your own content.
Visuals might not be necessary depending on the format of the content you’re commissioning. However, if you’re creating a blog post, for instance, it’s always a good idea to include at least one complementary image. When requesting visuals in your content brief, specify what kind of visual you would like and where it will go.
Not every writer is also a designer, so if you want something specific, it’s best to either provide a link to comparable image you like or hire a separate visual designer to create images for your content.
Royalty-free images are a great way to get high-quality visuals without spending too much money. At Draft, we offer up to five royalty-free images with every written piece, by requested, so you don’t have to worry about sourcing visuals yourself.
12. CTAs and next steps
Finally, every effective content brief should include a call to action (CTA) or next steps for the reader. What do you want them to do after they finish reading the piece? This is closely related to the objective you set at the beginning of the brief.
If you’re commissioning a blog post, for instance, you might want the writer to include a CTA at the end of the post that points readers to your contact page or encourages them to sign up for your newsletter.
CTAs can also be included in the form of a link. If you have an ebook that you want to promote, you can ask the writer to include a link to the ebook in their article. The CTA would then encourage readers to click through and download the ebook.
Different types of content briefs
Now that we’ve gone over the essential elements of an effective content brief, let’s look at some different types of briefs you might encounter. Since there are many content formats out there, there are nuances to content briefs to match. Here are a few examples:
Blog content briefs
Blog content briefs are some of the most common types of briefs that you’ll come across. Blog posts live on a website and typically center around a handful of strategically valuable topics.
For example, if you run a software company, you might blog about the problems that your software solves.
Blog posts work best as pieces of a larger content strategy so there may be additional context you provide in a brief that you might not include in, say, and email content brief. For example, if your content strategy is all about retaining your existing customers, this is important context to provide so your writers keep that objective in mind.
Ebook content briefs
Ebooks are a great way to show off your company’s expertise and thought leadership. Marketing ebooks are usually longer than blog posts, with the average word count falling somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000+ words. In some cases, ebooks need a specific number of pages instead of a word count.
When writing a white paper brief, it’s important to specify the target audience. For example, ebooks are usually written for a certain decision-maker or C-suite executives looking for detailed, in-depth information.
Landing page content briefs
Landing pages should also have a clear purpose, which is usually to increase conversions and drive sales. When commissioning a landing page, you must include a strong call to action (CTA) in your content brief. A CTA is a statement or button that encourages the reader to act, such as signing up for a trial or making a purchase.
Your CTA should be specific, clear, and direct. It should also be relevant to the product or service that you’re promoting.
Newsletter content briefs
Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your audience and keep them up to date on what’s going on with your company. The most important things to include in a newsletter brief are the target audience, the timeframe, and the format.
Target audience: Email efficacy is typically measured by open rates, click rates and results (sales, sign-ups, etc.). To maximize these outcomes, your writer needs to know whose inbox the newsletter is going to.
Time frame: Newsletters are newsworthy because they’re time bound. Some newsletters cover highlights from the previous month, week, or day, while other newsletters cover updates from the current period. Make sure to clarify this to your writer in the brief so they know how recent the content should be.
Format: Newsletters typically include a headline and hyperlink for every topic covered. But some newsletters also include a brief summary of the topic an/or a representative image. Let your writer know the exact format or structure of your newsletter so you have copy for the appropriate email template you’ll be using.
Social media content briefs
Social media is a great way to connect with your audience and promote your brand. A qualified writer can take care of all your social media captions and posts, so you don’t have to worry about daily. When writing a social media content brief, it’s crucial to specify the platforms you want to use.
Each platform has a different character limit, format, and even its own culture. Your content should reflect that. For example, if you’re targeting a more professional audience on LinkedIn, your content writer will craft it to be more formal compared to, say, content that aims to reach younger audiences on TikTok.
In a nutshell, the more detail you provide in your content brief, the more likely your content writer will get it right on the first draft. That said, professional content writers can fill in any gaps you leave.
For example, writers on Draft’s marketplace do research for every piece and are likely to identify competitors and seek to better understand your specific industry or market before they start writing. If you want a template to get started, Draft’s brief builder makes it easy to create the perfect brief for your writers, based on the specific type of content you need.
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