Creating good content starts with a well-crafted content brief.
Such a document guides your content creation efforts, aligning you and your team from start to finish.
Who uses content briefs?
Content briefs aren’t just for large corporations or specialized marketing teams.
A content marketing brief is useful for anyone who coordinates a lot of content at the same time — especially SEO content.
Types of teams that need content briefs
- Content marketing teams: These teams use content briefs the most. They use them to make sure content production aligns with the company’s bigger goals.
- Freelancers and agencies: Working with different clients as a freelance writer or marketing agency makes having a detailed content brief template useful. You can use content briefs to understand what each client needs and deliver great content each time.
- Editorial teams: In places like newsrooms or publishing companies, content briefs help writers and reporters make great content people will want to read and that are worth reporting.
- Product teams: These teams can use content briefs when they’re writing about a product. This could be for a product description, a guide for users, or even internal documents.
- Educational institutions: Teachers and people who make educational content can use content briefs to plan lessons or educational materials. This makes sure they’re meeting educational standards and goals for learning.
- Influencer agencies: Influencer marketing involves lots of content creation. A content brief can be created together with (or as part of) a project brief, marketing brief, or influencer brief. This aligns every content creator with the brand’s goals.
Benefits of using content briefs
- Alignment: One of the biggest benefits of using a content brief is that everyone is on the same page. Whether it’s the writers, designers, or the people in charge, everyone on the content team knows what the article is supposed to do.
- Efficiency: Having a good content brief takes away the guesswork. This makes it quicker and easier to create written content.
- Quality: The content brief acts like a checklist for quality content creation. It makes sure the final article checks all the boxes, whether that’s being easy to find in search, keeping readers interested, or being accurate.
- Measurability: When you put your goals and how you’ll measure success right in the content brief, it’s much easier to see how well your blog post does later on.
Drawbacks of not having content briefs
- Lack of direction: Without a content brief, you might end up creating articles or other content marketing assets that don’t have a clear goal. This can make your work feel aimless.
- Inconsistency: If you don’t have a guide to follow, different people on your content team might have different ideas about what the article should do. This can make your message confusing and prevent content harmony.
- Wasted resources: If you spend time and effort on content that doesn’t fit with your goals, you’re basically wasting those resources.
- Difficulty in measuring success: If you don’t set clear goals from the start, it’s hard to tell later on if your article did what it was supposed to do.
Not having a content brief can lead to problems that make your content less effective and can waste both time and resources.
What to include in a content brief
A content brief or creative brief template (depending on where you work) has several standard sections. I’ve outlined them below in no particular order.
The title is the first thing people see when they come across your content. It needs to grab attention while also giving a clear idea of what the article is about.
Your content brief should include a working title to guide the content creation process. Keep in mind that the title may evolve as the content takes shape.
Ideally provide 2-3 titles the writer can choose from, and be open to suggestions.
How long your article should be depends on two things: how complicated the topic is and what your audience needs.
A complicated topic might need a longer article to cover everything (2,000+ words). A simpler topic might be fine with a shorter article (800-1200 words).
Your content brief should say how long the article should be. This helps both the writer and the people editing the article know what to expect.
Setting a clear deadline in your content brief is important.
Knowing the deadline helps the writer, editor, and anyone else involved stay focused and manage their time better.
For editors, a set deadline makes it easier to plan other steps in the content creation process, like reviewing, editing, and publishing.
Deadlines also reduce the chances of last-minute rushes, which can hurt the quality of the article.
Funnel position (TOFU, MOFU, BOFU)
Each article you write has a role in your marketing plan. It could be at the top of the funnel (TOFU), in the middle (MOFU), or at the bottom (BOFU).
TOFU articles, like blog posts, are usually about getting people’s attention.
MOFU articles, like case studies, go deeper into a topic.
BOFU articles, like product demos, are for people ready to make a decision.
Your content brief should say where this article fits in. For example, if you’re writing a how-to guide, it’s probably a TOFU article meant to reach a lot of people.
Different groups of people have different needs and ways of talking about things.
For example, if you’re writing for experts in a field, you might use more specialized words and go into more detail.
But if you’re writing for beginners or a general audience, you’ll need to make things easy to understand and avoid using complicated terms.
Your content brief should have a section that describes who your audience is.
This can include things like age, interests, and other traits that matter.
Your target audience typically has a specific pain point they’re trying to solve. That’s where your content comes in.
For example, sales leaders may be looking for ways to coach and mentor their teams, while CEOs may be looking for advice on how to fundraise.
You can elicit these pain points by reviewing customer interviews, social media platforms, customer reviews, and community forums.
Search intent is about understanding what people are really looking for when they type something into a search engine.
Are they looking for an answer to a question, a specific product, or just general information?
Knowing this helps you shape your content strategy to better meet those needs. This is key for two reasons:
- Understanding search intent helps you create content that gives people what they’re actually looking for.
- When your content closely matches user intent, it’s more likely to rank higher in search results.
Simple keyword research can help you elicit the main search intent of your intended blog post or content piece.
This element is more relevant when creating an SEO focused content brief.
Once you know the problem you’re tackling, the next step is to find the words your audience uses to talk about it.
This includes your target keyword (sometimes called “focus keyword”) and other related keywords.
A focus keyword is the main word or phrase you want your article to show up for in search engine results.
This word should be closely related to your article’s search intent and be something your target audience often searches for.
You’ll need to use this primary keyword in important parts of your article like the title, headings, and throughout the article itself.
But make sure it fits naturally and adds value for the reader.
For example, if your article is about “how to train for a marathon,” your main keyword could be “marathon training.”
This is what you think people will search for when they want information on this topic.
You can use tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush to find your main keyword.
But don’t forget the simple method of just asking your audience what they’re looking for.
Sometimes the best ideas come from talking directly to people or scanning social media for common phrases.
Once you know your main keyword, it’s good to see how your competitors are using it.
This helps you understand what you’re up against and how you can make your article stand out.
Besides the main keyword you’re focusing on, there are other words and phrases that can make your article better.
These are called secondary or semantic keywords. They’re words that naturally go with your main keyword.
For example, if your main keyword is “data protection,” your secondary keyword list could include “encryption,” “firewall,” and “two-factor authentication.”
You can find these words using the same tools you used to find your focus keyword.
Adding these related words helps your article show up in search results and makes it more complete and helpful for the reader.
Main takeaways & CTA
The main takeaways are the key points you want your readers to remember after they’ve read your blog post.
Listing the main takeaways helps make sure your article has a clear point.
A good CTA tells the reader what step to take next, like signing up for a newsletter or checking out a product.
Your content outline should list the main sections and smaller parts of your article, along with a short explanation for each.
For example, if your article is about “The benefits of eating more plants,” the content outline might have parts like “What is plant-based eating,” “Health benefits,” “How it helps the planet,” and “Common myths.”
Having a content outline helps in a few ways:
- Clear guide for the writer: It gives the content writer a clear plan to follow, making it easier to write the article.
- Easier editing: It helps the editing team quickly check if the article fits what the brief asked for.
- Better for readers: A well-planned article is easier for readers to follow, which means they’re more likely to stay engaged and get something out of it.
The content outline isn’t just a list of headings; it’s the backbone of your argument.
You should know what each section is going to say and how it contributes to your overall message.
Visuals like images, videos, or charts can make your content more engaging and easier to understand.
Your content brief should include guidelines on the types of visuals to include and where to place them in the content.
Good visuals can catch people’s attention and make them more likely to read your article. And sometimes, a picture can explain something better than words can.
You might use a separate design brief template for your creative team, or incorporate it into your main SEO content brief template.
Links are like signposts that help your readers find their way through your article.
But they do more than just help with navigation; they’re also good for making your article show up in search results.
Search engines love good internal linking. Even better if you hyperlink your blog post or article using the right primary keyword.
When you’re planning your article, think about other articles you’ve written that are related.
Maybe you’ve covered similar topics or gone into more detail on certain points.
Adding links to these articles is a good way to give your readers more to think about and keep them interested in what you have to say.
Your content brief should have a part that lists good sources the content writer can use for research.
These can be things like:
- Academic papers or white papers
- Reports from trusted organizations
- Credible news from reliable outlets
- Expert interviews
Having this list ready ahead of time helps the writer a lot. It makes sure the article will be well-researched and trustworthy.
It also makes writing faster because the writer doesn’t have to spend extra time looking for good sources.
Competitors to avoid
It’s normal to add links to other websites in your article to give more information or back up what you’re saying.
But linking to websites that are your direct competition could work against you.
Your content brief should clearly say which competitors or kinds of websites you shouldn’t link to.
This way, you won’t accidentally send your readers to a competing website.
A content brief is a strategic document that guides your content creation process from start to finish.
It helps you stay focused, ensures you’re addressing the needs of your audience, and ultimately, makes your content more effective.
Follow the above best practices for content briefs that make life easier for you and your team.
Free content brief template
Grab our free content brief template today — simply make a copy and start filling it in.