As content marketing becomes more ubiquitous, a few challenges are emerging. Perhaps the most compelling for many is how to make sure that they get the content that they want and need. With much content being written or produced by subject-matter experts or PR teams, rather than marketers, the brief is crucial. But how can you create a great content brief? 

Start off by understanding what you mean by ‘content brief’

The content brief is what the marketing team uses to explain to the content creator what is required. There are no absolute rules about length or scope, but it needs to ensure that both marketers and writers or creatives know what is wanted. It therefore needs to include enough detail for the writer to really understand what is wanted. Although 20 pages for a 500-word article might be excessive, less is not necessarily more when creating a good content brief, and a certain level of detail is helpful.

Be absolutely clear what you want to achieve

Set out the goals that you want to achieve using your content, and the audience that you wish to reach. Be as specific as possible for both, because this makes it much easier for the writer or creative team to suggest ideas that will work. It is also helpful to give the main messages that you want readers/viewers/your audience in general to take away, including any ‘call to action’. And if you have a preference, specify the content medium e.g. copy, video, infographic etc

If there are things that you want included or done, say so

For example, if you want a particular article or website referenced, or mention of a white paper, include that information—and a link—in the brief. You should also say if you have a particular type of content in mind. However, it is best to leave your writer or creative team some scope for creativity. After all, that is what you are paying them for.

Give your writer the context

Your writer may well be a subject-matter expert and know a lot more than you about what they are writing. However, they are unlikely to have your broad understanding of the market, because this is something that is peculiar to marketers. Use the content brief to provide that context so that they can set their writing in a solid and grounded view of the world that will be shared by your audience.  

It can be helpful to include a story arc, especially for written content

A good writer will provide a story arc, but it may not be the one that you had in mind. If you don’t mind that—for example, if you just want an article that will provide an opinion about a particular subject—then that’s fine. However, if you have a story arc in mind, outline it in the brief. To avoid sounding like you are teaching your writer their job, you could say something like ‘I thought perhaps start with x, then touch on y, before concluding with z, but feel free to vary this if you see a better story’.

Include the emotional subtext

Good content makes people think. A really great piece of content, however, also invokes emotions. It makes people feel something as well. If you are aiming for ‘really great’, rather than just average, it is therefore worth considering what emotions you want to invoke, and in whom. It follows that you should also include this information in your content brief. 

Use simple language at all times in the content brief

Avoid jargon. It’s that simple. Say exactly what you want to achieve, in the simplest possible terms. Keep your sentences short, and use words with fewer syllables wherever possible. Then review the brief, and consider whether there is a simpler way to put each sentence. Remember that subject-matter experts and creative agencies do not necessarily ‘speak marketing’, and that you may need to ‘translate’ terms that you consider standard. 

Finally, keep your communication channels open throughout the process

The creation of a content brief is not the end of the commissioning process. It is helpful to make clear to your writer or creatives that you are happy to clarify points, or discuss ideas, and also that you would be pleased to see early drafts or outlines of content. They will almost certainly be delighted to work like this because it saves doing too much work on the wrong thing. 


What have you typically included in your content briefs?

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