Seven key things your content brief needs to include

Jan 9th, 2014

You are in need of top quality content and have writers waiting for your brief, keyboards at the ready and raring to go!

But your ideas will not magically appear in the writer’s mind. You need to explain clearly and concisely what you need from them to ensure the copy is top-notch and meets your expectations.

Here are seven tips to make it clear to your writers – agency or otherwise – what you want:

1. It’s all about you

You need to tell your writer who you are, what your company does, and what its values are. If you want your copy to tell your message, it has to be as close to your business’s philosophies and values as possible. Personalities bring traffic and your content writer needs to get yours across as perfectly as possible.

2. Give them a style guide

A creative content writer must adhere to your style so that it fits consistently with your other content – and bear in mind the specific audience for this type of piece e.g. blogs can often be more informal in tone than web copy. Provide your writers with an easy-to-understand grammar guide outlining things like how to write dates, numbers, job titles and anything else relevant to your business.

3. Who is their audience?

Good content is written in a way that speaks directly to the target audience in tone, style and information. You need to let your writer know who their audience is. Show them demographics, personalities and types of people who will be reading the content so that it can be tailored to suit them. Many businesses have more than one type of audience, and several stages of the sales funnel – so specify which this individual piece is aimed at.

4. What is the content’s goal?

What do you want from this content specifically? Is it designed to bring traffic to your website or to act as a PR exercise to increase your business’s visibility and standing with your customers? It is there to simply entertain the reader and encourage social sharing. Maybe you want informative content for people seeking accurate or technical information on a topic? Your content brief should include the end goal of the content so that the writer knows how to direct the reader. If there are any examples of similar content that you’ve found elsewhere online when planning this piece then pass details of this on too – not so the writer can copy it, but so that they can see what inspired your ideas for this content originally.

5. Key messages?

You may want to sing from the rooftops about your business and its many brilliant features at the same time as answering a user’s questions about a specific topic. However, this can complicate things and dilute the impact of your content. Not only does self-promotional content act as a turn-off to users most of the time, it will also decrease the chances of this content being shared by readers. A good content brief will have one key point; the main morsel of information the business wants to get across. This is the hook that will attract readers and then it’s down to the rest of the piece to keep that attention and back up the message with useful copy.

6. Keywords

A good SEO writer will be able to insert relevant keywords into content in a way that  will ensure it doesn’t detract from the quality of the piece in the slightest. Your content brief should include all the keywords you wish to be included (which will automatically be relevant to the subject matter if you’ve planned this piece into your editorial calendar) and information about whether any internal or external hyperlinks within the content are required, and detail the appropriate use of anchor text when linking.

7. Deadline

Finally, a content brief should include all the nitty-gritty needed to complete the article in a timely manner. For example, what is the writer’s deadline? The brief should also include the length of the article and whether the writer has to include a title, source images, include subheadings or meta data etc.

The brief should also outline a delivery method. It should specify how the file should be formatted and saved, for example as a PDF or Word document, and how it should be sent. Options include via email, in person on a USB stick or hard drive or through a cloud service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

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