If you produce content, you know the challenge of communicating your goals to a team of writers, editors, and more. But that’s why content briefs are an indispensable tool for creating high-quality content that hits on all levels, from brand voice and optimization to search intent and optimal length.
But what is a content brief exactly, and how can it help you create better content? Learn all about this helpful content marketing tool, including the benefits it offers, as well as how to create one.
- A content brief is a document that outlines expectations for a content project, whether it’s a blog post, ebook, or another piece of content.
- If you produce content, especially at scale, briefs are extremely helpful in keeping everyone aligned and ensuring the final product is publish-ready.
- A content marketing strategy should include the creation of content briefs to help streamline the process for freelance writers, editors, and stakeholders.
- Content briefs should include SEO content guidelines (meta descriptions/titles), a suggested outline, intended audience, word count, and suggested title.
- Creating content briefs offers many benefits, including providing clarity, saving time and money, improving quality, and meeting search intent for readers.
- What Does a Content Brief Mean?
- When Should You Create a Content Brief?
- Benefits of Using Content Briefs
- Risks of Not Using a Content Brief
- What Should a Content Brief Include?
- Popular Content Brief Templates and Tools
- Features to Look for in a Content Brief Tool
- Content Briefs vs. Creative Briefs — What’s the Difference?
What Does a Content Brief Mean?
A content brief is a document that outlines expectations for a content project, whether it’s a blog post or ebook. It helps guide the entire content creation process — from long-tail keywords and competitors to the intended audience and desired word count.
By having all of this information in one easy-to-reference spot, everyone involved in the content marketing project — researchers, writers, editors, and stakeholders — knows exactly what’s expected from them at each stage of the process.
While it takes time to write a content brief (especially if you have a lot of articles), it will, ultimately, save you time and money. A more detailed brief improves the chances of the writer — whether an in-house or freelance writer — delivering what you wanted.
When Should You Create a Content Brief?
Content briefs are ideal for any content project involving multiple people. So if you are outsourcing the research, writing, and/or editing of a content marketing project, you and your team would benefit greatly from a content brief.
The more people involved, the more detailed the brief should be. That way, you create a clear outline to increase your chances of getting quality content that’s publish ready (or at least requires only minimal revisions).
A content brief is not only for teams, though. Individuals working alone on content can also find them helpful. It can help you create a structure for your blog post and organize your ideas, keywords, and research. Adding brief creation to your content strategy is a smart move for any brand, business owner, or marketer.
Benefits of Using Content Briefs
Using detailed content briefs offers many benefits for those in content marketing:
Content briefs provide clarity on what needs to be accomplished at each step of the creative process — from idea generation through final execution — making it easier for team members to stay focused on their individual roles while still understanding how their contributions fit into the larger picture.
Saves Time and Money
Having all of your project details laid out clearly in one place helps take some of the guesswork out of content so you can avoid costly delays or miscommunication errors that can lead to expensive revisions or missed deadlines.
When everyone involved has access to clear parameters for success before beginning work on a project, they can focus on producing quality content that meets all expectations from the outset rather than having to go back and make adjustments after the fact due to unclear expectations or lack of direction upfront.
Helps Align Your Content Team
When everyone is aligned, thanks to clearly communicated goals, instructions, and guidelines, your project will go smoothly. The team could include marketing managers, strategists, clients, content creators, editors, and project managers.
Provides Clear Direction
The more specific the directions, the less the content writer must assume. While you rely on the writer’s creativity and skill, the content must still fit its purpose, be optimized for SEO, and meet user intent. Content briefs also create uniformity in the quality, formatting, and expectations of all your content.
If the content writer knows what is expected of them, their work can be more on point. An article that meets the expectations of the content brief should need less editing. This means the blog can be published sooner because less time has been spent on editing, formatting, or rewriting.
Risks of Not Using a Content Brief
Without a plan, content creation can be time consuming and end up being much lower quality. This is why it’s essential to use content briefs when creating content. Here’s a look at what can happen if you skip this step:
Poor Quality Content
When you don’t use a content brief during the creation process, the writer might not understand what you’re looking for or know how to choose the best H2s and H3s for your article. This means you might get a low-quality piece of content that doesn’t meet user intent or beat your competitors’ articles on the same topic, which can mean low rankings in search engines.
Because there’s no clear plan in place and no criteria for measuring success, it becomes difficult to create effective and engaging pieces of content that tie into your overall strategy.
Wasted Time and Money
Without a plan or briefing document in place, you may find yourself wasting both time and money as writers attempt to create content without any focus or direction.
Without a clear understanding of what type of content needs creating and what goals need achieving, you might find that your content needs multiple revisions — or even a full rewrite. This could end up costing you more in the long run and leave you with frustrated writers and editors.
When starting out on any project with an unclear vision or plan in place, it’s almost certain that your desired outcomes won’t be achieved as easily as they would when armed with a content brief. Without clear goals, you might not reach your desired target audience. That, again, is a waste of time and money.
Without this vital step taken before beginning any project marketing related (or otherwise), there’s no surefire way of ensuring that objectives will be met — which means expectations won’t either.
Delays in Production
Most of the risks mentioned will result in slowed productivity. Writers will need to do more research, editors will have to send back for more revisions (or tackle the rewriting and research themselves), and you’ll have to do more optimization if you don’t present this information and instruction upfront.
What Should a Content Brief Include?
Content briefs are an essential part of any content creation process. They help businesses stay organized and ensure that their content is always on-brand, on-point, and optimized for success. But what should you include in a content brief? Let’s break it down into the key components.
First and foremost, your content brief should outline the project objectives. What do you want to achieve with this piece of content? Are you trying to raise brand awareness? Increase website traffic? Generate more leads? It’s important to be as specific as possible when defining your project objectives; the clearer you are about the purpose of the project, the better prepared you will be to create effective content.
Your brief should also provide detailed information about the type of content you’re creating. What format will it take — a blog post, an infographic, a podcast, etc.? Additionally, consider including details that will help the writer and editor create your ideal piece of content, including the following:
- Word count
- Topic clarification and editorial direction
- Article point of view (first person, second person, or third person)
- Suggested headline and character count guidelines
- Suggested H2s and H3s
- Deadlines for drafts and edits
- Delivery method (email vs. CMS platform)
- Links to competitor articles for inspiration
- Primary keyword and secondary keywords
- Meta description and meta title lengths
- External and internal links
- Anchor text guidelines
- Call to action to include
Defining your target market is another key component of creating effective content. Who are you writing for? How old are they? What interests do they have? Knowing who your readers are can profoundly influence how you write (and even what topics you choose). So don’t forget to include information about your ideal reader in your brief.
In addition to outlining specific goals for each piece of content you create, it’s also important to consider how it fits into the larger competitive landscape. Who else is creating similar types of content within your industry? How do their efforts compare with yours in terms of quality and reach? By understanding what kind of competition exists in your space — and by staying up-to-date on emerging trends — you can make sure that your own efforts stand out from the crowd.
If you have in-depth SEO content guidelines, you will want to include a section of information for your writers and editors to follow. Maybe you want the primary keyword used within the first 30 words of the intro or require the writers to use an SEO tool for guidance, like SurferSEO. You may also have specific recommendations for internal links and anchor text to use. Include these pertinent details to help guide your team to success.
Finally, the content brief should guide the type of visual elements in the post. This could include tables, graphs, infographics (and copy direction if you’re having the writer or editor provide it), graphics, videos, and illustrations. Include login information if you want your team to select photos from stock sites.
Popular Content Brief Templates and Tools
There are many popular content brief template options online, both free and paid, that can help you get started creating briefs for your business needs. The paid content brief template options, like Content Harmony and MarketMuse, generate an outline for you, saving you the time of creating a full brief on your own.
Some of the most popular content brief templates and tools are from the following companies:
- Content Marketing Institute (offers free templates)
- HubSpot (offers free templates)
- CoSchedule (offers free templates)
- Content Harmony (paid AI-generated tool)
- MarketMuse (paid AI-generated tool)
- SurferSEO (paid AI-generated tool)
Manual Versus AI-Generated Content Briefs
Instead of making your own template, you can save yourself time by using an AI-generated content brief template, like the tools mentioned above (Content Harmony, MarketMuse, and SurferSEO).
These handy SaaS tools will create a content brief with suggested titles, content strategy, keywords, and descriptions for you. It’s a fast and efficient way to guide writers, and it can help your written content perform favorably in search engine algorithms.
AI-generated briefs assist you in meeting the criteria for search engines by providing the following:
- Content marketing strategy
- Keyword research tools
- Target keyword(s) and secondary keywords
- Heading suggestions
- Terms to use
- Search intent
- Suggested word count
- Suggested links
You might consider trying different brief templates to figure out what works best for you.
Features to Look for in a Content Brief Tool
When selecting a content brief tool, there are several features you should look out for in order to ensure it meets all of your needs.
When choosing a content brief tool, it is important to find one that offers customization options that are tailored to your specific needs. This means being able to add additional sections, headings, and questions. You’ll also want to be able to change formatting to fit your content’s style.
Clear, user-friendly instructions are crucial to ensure your writers understand how to fill out each section accurately and effectively without wasting time (this is especially important if multiple people will be using the same template).
It’s important to find a content brief tool that has collaboration features built-in. This will enable multiple team members or clients to provide feedback quickly and easily, streamlining the entire process from start to finish. You should also look for tools with version control capabilities so any changes made are saved automatically, allowing everyone involved in the project to stay up-to-date on its progress.
A big perk of using AI content briefs is that many of them include helpful SEO content tools, like keyword research, primary keywords, long-tail keywords, suggested terms to use, meta descriptions, internal and external links, and more. This can help you rank higher and get more organic traffic.
Content Briefs vs. Creative Briefs — What’s the Difference?
A content brief is similar to a creative brief, but it differs in these respects:
- Content briefs are more commonly used for long-form written content, such as landing pages, articles, ebooks, white papers, case studies, web copy, or blog posts.
- Creative briefs are typically used as an internal document among members of a marketing team. They communicate information such as brand objectives, target audience, tone, and style to guide the creation of ad campaigns or other materials.
The aim of a creative brief is to ensure everyone involved in the project is on the same page in terms of what needs to be achieved and how it should look. They are commonly used for web and creative design projects, ad campaigns, and other copywriting projects.
Streamline Your Process
Now that you know what a content brief is and how to create one, you can streamline your content marketing projects and improve communications with your team. Everyone can benefit from using a brief, whether you’re a content creator, freelance writer, content marketer, editor, researcher, or stakeholder.
Using a detailed content brief will help you produce content that will rank higher in search results and ensure all guidelines are met. What are you waiting for? Please the search engines and your team at the same time by adding brief creation to your content strategy — it’ll be a win-win for everyone!