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How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Brief

Successful content pieces don’t just happen by accident. They always start with a strategy – specifically, a great content brief. Brief creation is the unsung art of content marketing. Once you get good at it, you will dramatically increase your odds of reaching your marketing goals. 

The idea of a content brief sounds simple, but it’s not easy to write down your vision for a content piece in just a few pages. Each brief might even vary slightly depending on the needs and preferences of your project or client. But one thing remains the same – a content brief serves as your team’s source of truth. If questions come up or things start to get overwhelming, a detailed content brief will bring everyone back to the same page.

How to Add Content Briefs to Your Content Creation Process

1) Create a Content Brief Template

First things first, you need to decide on a name for your content marketing project. This may sound simple, but it’s a crucial step as it will most probably be the first line of text that your audience reads (and you don’t get a second chance at a first impression). Be creative. Keep it brief. And make sure it encapsulates the essence of your message.

Say, for instance, if you were to create a blog post, check if other websites are using the exact same title that you have in mind. You want to cut through the noise. If you have the same title, primary and secondary keywords, as well as headings as everyone else, what makes you different? Why should users click on your page?

When crafting a content brief template, begin with your end goal in mind then work backwards. Drill down the details. Lay out sections for your SWOT analysis, deliverables, target audience, competitors, and deadlines, among others. Here’s a simple example:

Suggested title How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Brief
Primary keywordcontent brief
Secondary keywordscontent marketingsearch intenttarget keywordssocial media postsGoogle Docs
Meta descriptionA content brief adds structure to the content creation process.
Target audienceFreelance writer, content creator, content marketers, marketing teams, SEO content strategists, marketing managers
Target word count2,200 to 2,600 words
DeadlineSunday, 11:59 pm

2) Include Client Guidelines

Detailed content briefs include an editorial style guide, and a rulebook that the content writer needs to follow to ensure that the blog post – or any content marketing project for that matter – sounds authentic for the client. This saves you significantly more time on editing.

a) Brand Tone of Voice

Describe the ideal brand voice in three words, overarching themes that describe the “attitude” of the project. While you could start off with vague adjectives like “casual,” “friendly,” or phrases such as “explain to a 12-year-old,” you also need to substantiate your decision. Do you want a formal tone because you want to attract those from the business world? Is it a carefree tone so that your content resonates with a Gen Z audience?

Pro tip: Use a thesaurus to find the right words, especially for targeted campaigns. You could always revise as you go along the content creation process.

Now, don’t just settle for these words. It is much easier for writers to mimic specific examples, so gather the best sample content pieces that represent your brand or clients’ qualities, values, and mission. These would also come in handy when writing meta descriptions, captions, and so on.

b) Reference Materials

Speaking of inspiration, you can include internal and external links in your content brief to be used as reference. These could be case studies, industry reports, book recommendations, videos, articles, transcripts, and marketing claims.

c) Competitive Analysis

No matter how many times you’ve created a content brief, you should never overlook the importance of competitor content analysis to your content marketing approach. Identify content gaps. Differentiate your competitors’ top-performing and low-performing content, then see which ones you could put a spin on and do better.

Don’t forget to benchmark your own content marketing efforts. You need to understand how your content fares against other campaigns in your industry. Innovate when you can, so that your content stands out from the crowd.

d) Products and Services

Whatever the case may be, strive to create a content brief that clearly describes the solution your brand is offering for your client’s most pressing needs. Incorporate product mentions into the content piece as seamlessly as possible.

3) Provide Audience Intel

Aside from gathering intel from your competitors for your content brief, you also need to a section dedicated to details about your audience. What are their pain points? Their passions and pet peeves? Their daily routines, favorite experiences, and budget? When you nail the demographics and psychographics in your content brief, your writers and content creators will know what types of content will resonate with the intended audience.

You can take this component a step further by implementing audience segmentation. Divide your target market into subgroups to give your content team more freedom to explore creative ideas and deliver more personalized messaging.

This section can take up a lot of space in your content brief. Your marketing team may even opt to make it a separate document. Word of advice: Create a buyer persona for each subgroup to make this section more organized and digestible.

4) Highlight Article Specs and Details

An effective content brief is all about clarity. If you have a certain vision for a piece of content – say, a blog post – you need to guide your writer by providing article specs and guidelines:

a) SEO Content

If your main objective is to generate organic traffic from search engines, your content brief should have all the on-page SEO requirements that you expect your writer to meet including:

  • Primary and secondary keywords
  • Meta descriptions
  • Heading titles
  • Specific internal links
  • Number of external links
  • Word count

SEO-focused content relies on keyword research; you can’t have one without the other. Keyword research gives you insights regarding search volume, long-tail keywords for search intent, optimal word count of the competition’s content, as well as domain authority.

Pro tip: Don’t even try keyword-stuffing your articles. If anything, you want to write for humans first, and search engines second. And people can sense when you’re desperately trying to increase your ranking in SERPs.

b) Overall Purpose and Goals

Ambition is what separates an ordinary content brief from a home-run content brief. Your content marketing strategy should have a North Star, the key message, the happily ever after of a story arc – because after all, the best content tells a story.

You can’t leave your story arc up to chance. You need it to outline it in your content brief in order to steer your content in the right direction. Your content team needs to know what you want your readers to feel.

A simple method of coming up with the overall goals of your content is by asking your content marketer (which may as well be you) “So what? We’re producing this piece of content, so what?” The answer should put your customer at the core of the content’s purpose. Position your customer as the main character, and your business offerings are the solution to their problem.

c) Call to Action (CTA)

A call to action can make or break the success of your content marketing projects. If you use the right combination of words, your CTA should inspire your audience to take action, whatever it may be – whether it’s clicking the like button, downloading your lead magnet, adding an item to their cart, and so forth. Otherwise, if your CTA doesn’t evoke an emotional response from users, they’ll just simply scroll past it.

CTAs usually start with strong action verbs such as buy, subscribe, sign up, download, take advantage of, learn more, donate, swipe up, and start, among others. Don’t worry – nobody gets their CTA right the first time around. It takes a lot of trial and error. You can experiment with different prompts along the lines of “Limited time offer,” “Fulfill your dreams in just 2 weeks,” or “Get free shipping today!”

Why You Need a Content Marketing Brief

1) Meet Content Demands

To set up your content brief for success, you need to have a documented content strategy – a central instruction set that creatives can continually refer back to – as its foundation. This promotes conscientiousness as it ensures basic alignment for marketing goals, suggested keywords, and explanations of the buyer’s journey.

You want to get everyone on the same page. Content briefs help writers, content creators, and editors consistently produce quality content that meets your expectations and client standards. Regardless of the types of content you choose to create, content briefs serve as a blueprint that is integral to the content production process.

2) Streamline Workflows

Scope creep tends to happen to a lot of us, creatives. If you’re creating a content brief for a blog post, you might notice that there’s so much you want to say. So you start straying from the search indent and the objective of the article morphs as you keep writing. A content brief also serves as a content outline that sharpens the angle and structures the narrative of your article. Going back to our example:

H1: How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Brief

Why should the reader care about your blog post? 

H2: How to Add Content Briefs to Your Content Creation Process

Focus on how creating content briefs can streamline the marketing team’s workflow.

H2: Why You Need a Content Marketing Brief

Write a short explanation for each subheading (100 to 150 words). Look into case studies and pointers from experts.

H3: 1) Meet Content Demands

H3: 2) Streamline Workflows

H3: 3) Reach Your Target Audience

H3: 4) Ensure Delivery Deadlines

H3: 5) Save Time and Money

H2: X Content Brief Template Ideas

Provide a quick overview of different platforms that offer content brief templates.

H2: Scale Your Content Production With a Content Marketing Project Brief

This is a short summary of the article. Add a compelling call to action.

3) Reach Your Target Audience

Creative briefs are a great first step to navigating the sea of content options you could make for your target market. It involves a series of tasks such as defining what topics to touch base on, brand tone of voice, content format, frequency of publishing, and figuring out what the preferred platforms of your ideal buyer. 

Pro tip: Buyer personas are not always about your ideal customer. It can also include influencers, industry thought leaders and even employees from your organization.

4) Ensure Delivery Deadlines

Creating a content brief means ensuring that you meet the deadliest of deadlines. When a content marketer handles a filled-up editorial calendar, a missed deadline can instigate a domino effect that results in late deliverables and unhappy clients. A well-informed content team knows exactly what they need to create and what can be achieved within a reasonable timeframe.

5) Save Time and Money

Time is work is money. A detailed brief makes your content marketing initiatives more efficient as it provides writers with clarity before they even start their first draft. It gives them the details they need to focus on and guides them throughout the writing process. You’d be making great content in half the time because major changes would hardly be necessary.

4 Content Brief Template Ideas

Every editor knows what it feels like to stare at a draft on their screens, with a sinking feeling and whispering to themselves, “This would’ve been easier if I did it myself.” It’s obvious that the creator didn’t understand a single detail about the task. 

You could give them the benefit of the doubt, but you may also need to double-check your brief if you gave clear instructions and proper editorial direction. A thorough content brief is the best investment you could make to save time and your sanity. Here, we’ve compiled a collection of content brief templates you could use as inspiration or perhaps you want to reinvent the wheel:

  • Content Harmony: The Google Docs template of this website optimizes the content creation process but still gives the writer creative freedom and flexibility. It starts with a big-picture overview (e.g., headers, word count, meta description) at a glance then goes into detail about brand essentials such as keyword suggestions, FAQs, website elements, link suggestions, and other resources.
  • Content Marketing Institute: A creative brief checklist synthesizes the most essential information for your project. They recommend inter-departmental cooperation when it comes to developing your briefs and strategies.
  • Asana: This brief template incorporates “stakeholders, “assets and deliverables,” as well as “distribution process.” These are crucial elements to have as they reduce the risk of having to circle back to concerns that were not addressed in the brief.
  • ClickUp: This content brief is optimized for search engines as it outlines on-page elements needed to ensure that the content piece will rank high on SERPs.

Improve Your Content Production Process With a Content Brief

With content marketing briefs, a writer is practically blind. It’s a blueprint – which contains angle, keywords, goal, and tone, among others – that gets the writer to buy into the vision of the article. You have to give them as many breadcrumbs to follow, so that they could create content that is valuable, relevant, and high-quality.

Brevity is beautiful. Don’t be so detailed to the point of micromanaging that you end up stifling your content creator’s creativity. Give the who, and why, but not the entire how. Prioritize the most important details, then let your content team work their magic.

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