Content writers, no matter how good they are at their job, aren’t mind readers.
When you’re assigning work for them, there’s no guarantee that they will produce exactly the type of article you were looking for.
That is, unless you provide them with ample information on everything you want or don’t want to see in the resulting blog post.
You can do that by composing a clear and comprehensive content brief that’s going to guide their work and ensure you get the perfect article on the first try.
Read on and learn how to create the perfect content brief for your next blog post.
Table of Contents
Leave No Room for Guesswork
The very purpose of the content brief is to guide writers in their work and make their job as easy as possible.
In order to do that, you should focus on preparing a brief that provides all the information your writer needs to write the article you want.
There should be no room left for improvisation or guesswork.
That should be a guiding principle for anyone considering creating a brief for writers. All our other tips in this article stem from this principle.
And from personal experience, we can tell you that this works. Thorough briefs make writers happy and help them do their best work.
So, let’s talk about how much information is enough when you’re putting together a brief for new blog content.
According to research, marketers like to include several pointers in their briefs to make it more likely that the resulting article will fit their needs and be good enough to publish on their blog.
As you can see, four or five pieces of information are widely considered the minimum that should be included in every brief. But six or seven isn’t that much off the mark either.
The kind of information that’s going to wind up in the brief is up to the person or organization writing it.
However, in the general sense, these pointers should answer some of the following questions:
- What is the topic of the article?
- From which angle should the topic be approached?
- What do we want to achieve with this article?
- Who is this article meant for?
- How long should the article be?
We’re going to talk much more about each of these questions in the following sections.
But for now, suffice it to say that a good brief is rich with information and leaves little room for doubt on the part of the writer.
Use a Simple Format for Your Briefs
The contents of the brief aren’t the only thing that’s important to the writer. The format matters as well.
The best practice is to use a simple, repeatable format that makes key information easy to find.
The truth is, your briefs are always going to contain the same information categories. Therefore, it doesn’t make much sense to draft your briefs in the form of full sentences and textual blocks.
Not only will that obscure important information, but it will also cause you to omit crucial details out of sheer forgetfulness.
A much better way to organize the information would be to provide labels for each key part of the brief. These labels can look something like this:
- Target audience:
- Target word count:
What we’re actually proposing here is that you create a template for all of your content briefs.
You can have a one general template, or prepare a template for each project you are working on —so it contains the metadata that is always applicable to that project.
Now, there are a lot of tools you can use to create and share your brief template.
For example, if you’re working with an internal team of writers, you can use your project management or collaboration software of choice to work on briefs with your colleagues.
Here’s a template created in Miro, for example:
Documentation software like Confluence is equally suited to the task:
These are both good choices. However, for the sake of simplicity, we recommend using a good old Google Doc.
That’s a format that anyone can instantly access, whether they’re your internal writers or freelancers outside of the company.
Here’s a segment of one of our own content brief templates, made with Google Docs:
Remember, writers need easily accessible information and scannable briefs that will tell them everything they need to know at a glance.
So make their job easier by using a simple, repeatable format for all of your briefs.
Share the Headline, Keyword, Word Count, and Target Audience
The article headline, keywords, word count, and target audience are bits of information no blog post brief should be without.
Without this information, the writer could create an article that differs very significantly from what you had in mind.
So let’s have a look at each feature individually.
The topic you want the writer to write about is most often expressed as the title/headline of the article. A well-crafted title will give the writer a good idea of what their assignment is.
Here’s a quick example of article titles:
If you told the writer “Write an article about employee onboarding,” the writer could do it in a million different ways.
They could cover the best practices, or perhaps the most common mistakes. Or, they could write about one specific onboarding method.
That’s why providing them with a focused and descriptive headline matters a lot.
If you can’t think of a good title, you can also give the writer a detailed description of what you’d like them to write about.
In that case, they will match your desired angle, but come up with the article title themselves.
The keyword of the article represents its focal point, the concept the entire piece is written around. It’s the keyword you aim the blog post to rank for on search engines.
The target keyword can (and should) almost always be found in the article title.
Writers need to know what your target keyword is, as it will be the starting point for their topic research, and because then they know which phrasing to use contextually in their article.
So don’t forget to include this information in your brief because without it, the writer might create content that isn’t going to help you achieve your goals.
Desired Word Count
Different marketers have different preferences when it comes to content length.
In addition, if you’re working with freelancers, there is the question of budget, as longer articles cost more than short ones because freelancers charge by the word.
However, content quality should always be more important than the sheer word count.
That’s why we found that the best practice is to provide a range rather than an exact number to give the writers enough space to express themselves. For instance:
Target word count: 2,000 – 2,500 words
Providing this information will give the writer a good sense of how deep they should dive into the topic, without them worrying about matching the exact number of words.
Quality content always speaks to just one type of audience and solves a specific problem they’re facing.
Therefore, make sure the writer knows who they should be addressing and from which angle to approach the topic.
In the above article, it’s obvious that the writer focuses on managers or team leads and not on software developers.
With all of this information clearly defined, your writer will know the parameters for their work.
Such as the level of expertise they can expect from their readers and exactly what those readers need from the content, making it much more likely they’ll deliver a focused, valuable article for your blog section.
Mention the Content’s Goals
You can achieve great things with your content, but you can’t accomplish every one of your content marketing goals in a single blog post.
Trying to do so may confuse both your writers and your audience because there are too many tasks to complete.
Therefore, a good practice is to decide ahead what the specific goal of the article is and then include it in the brief so that the writer can find a good way to motivate the reader to complete the desired action.
Here are a few goal examples to illustrate what we’re talking about:
- Subscribing for a free trial
- Sending an inquiry via email
- Getting the reader to explore more of your content
- Visiting the homepage and finding out more about the product
If you want a quality article, provide the writer with just one or two goals for them to work into the piece.
With these goals in mind, the writer can take action. For example, they might include a subtle plug for the product and supply a link to the home page:
They might also work in some internal links to other content on the blog so that the reader can effortlessly explore related articles and stay on the blog longer.
A good writer will know how to help you achieve your content goals. However, they can’t do that unless they’re clear on what those goals are.
That’s why content goals should definitely have a place in your brief.
Note Which Elements You Want to See in the Article
Every content writer has their own writing style.
However, it’s important for every piece of content on your blog to reflect your company and include elements that you consider vital to your message.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to be conscious of those elements and include them in your brief.
We’ll give you a couple of examples from our own expectations from writers.
Some of the elements that help us write convincing, relatable, engaging content are:
- Quotes from experts and industry professionals
- Data from relevant research and surveys
- Images (screenshots, photos, diagrams, infographics)
- Verified industry examples
We consider this so important that we coined the term QRIES (pronounced curious), which contains all these elements.
We make sure the writers know these elements should be interwoven with the arguments that end up in the article, and that makes every article on-brand and as close to our unique style as possible.
Long story short, try to figure out what the elements of your own style are and include them in the brief to make the finished article on-brand and true to your company’s voice.
Propose an Outline
To ensure that the writer structures the blog post in the best possible way, it’s a good idea to propose an outline in the content brief.
Providing an outline can make the writer’s job much easier as well as increase the likelihood that the article will do well on the search engine results page (SERP).
This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually quite easy if you apply the skyscraper method.
All you have to do is google the topic you want to create a blog post about and look at some of the top-ranking results.
Once you find a high-ranking article you like that matches your intent, you can simply use its outline as a role model for your own post.
It is advisable, however, to use the other articles from the SERP to create a unique outline as well as to add some sections you feel are missing from your role model.
And presto, the outline of your article is done and ready to be included in the brief.
The great thing about this method is that it’s not only relatively quick, but you’re also using an outline that has a proven track record of getting results with readers and search engine algorithms.
All your writer has to do now is provide some fresh perspective and write a better article than the role model it was based on.
And just like that, they’re very likely to deliver an article that will get results once it’s published on your blog.
All in all, it doesn’t take much effort to create the outline of your future article as you’re writing the brief.
Doing so will guide the writer’s work and increase the chances that the article will be exactly what you were looking for.
Provide Information About What Not to Include
Certain things can harm the performance of your article and jeopardize the reader’s experience.
Or they can simply go against your business. In any case, you should mention the elements you don’t want in your article when you’re composing the brief.
This is important because undesirable elements are not universal, and your writer might not instinctively know they should leave something out.
Here’s an example.
We avoid using stock images in articles. We just feel they don’t add any educational value to the blog post, and we prefer using contextual images in the form of screenshots or graphs.
Many other content creators don’t have this rule and supply their articles with this kind of media.
The same goes for memes, puns, jokes, personal anecdotes, and other content that doesn’t educate the reader but rather takes away from the seriousness of what is being talked about.
As such, we make sure to tell our writers not to use any of these elements in their writing.
Bottom line, where blogging and content marketing are considered, the things you don’t say can be just as important as the things you do say.
So if you have a firm stance on what you don’t want to see in your blog content, make sure to mention it. Otherwise, the writer will not know.
Writers need information and guidance to do their best work.
That means that providing a detailed content brief will not only increase your chances of getting the blog post you wanted but also make the writer’s job much easier.
Good content briefs are your way of securing excellent content for your blog and nurturing positive relationships with your writers, so apply the lessons you learned in our guide and start creating content worthy of your blog.