A detailed content brief is the key to making a great piece of copywriting come to life.
In the content marketing process – and in most things in life – you won’t get what you don’t ask for. While you may have a vision for the perfect blog post or webpage in your head, if you don’t communicate what you’re looking for well to your writer, then the deliverable won’t match your vision.
We’re stepping in to save the day and help you prepare more effective content briefs. In this article you’ll:
- Learn what a content brief is
- Find out what to include in an SEO-focused brief
- Get access to our free content brief template
Let’s start with the basics: What is a content brief?
A content brief is a document that communicates the direction a piece of marketing content – like a case study, report, or blog post – should take. Content marketing managers, editors, and clients use them to tell writers, creatives, and agencies exactly what they’re looking for from a piece of content.
A brief typically contains details about the topic and format of the piece, search engine optimization keywords (if applicable), information about the intended audience, resources the writer can reference, and guidelines for the style, tone, and voice of the piece.
Briefs are important because they inform and align stakeholders, and help you create the best content in as few edits as possible.
Must haves: What to include in an SEO content brief
Content briefs can be used for all kinds of creative works, including videos and graphics. However, to keep things simple we’re focusing on the cornerstone of content marketing: search engine optimized blog content.
We’re using an example about fictitious productivity software company Fokusly to explain what you should include in each section of the content brief. In our example, Fokusly’s content marketing manager is briefing a freelance writer on a blog post about tips for working from home.
This example will be written in italics to differentiate it from our advice.
Without further ado, a content brief for an SEO blog post should include:
Provide your content writer with a working title or several title options for the blog post. You can also ask the writer to provide alternative suggestions.
Working Title: 10 Tips for Having a Productive Work Day While Working From Home
Alternatives: How to Be More Productive While Working from Home, How to Maximize Work-From-Home Productivity
In this section of the content brief you should provide details like:
Writer: Who will be writing the blog post? Whether they’re an in-house or freelance writer, include contact information so all parties involved in the project can get in touch if needed.
Writer: John Jones, email@example.com
Editor: Who will be reviewing the blog post? It’s also helpful to include contact information here if working with external content marketers.
Editor: Kelly Kahn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Client: If you work for an agency, you should note which client this blog post is being written for. If your content team serves as an internal agency, note which department you’re writing this blog post for.
Client: Demand Gen Department
Byline: Some organizations like to give writers credit for their work, while others prefer to have their writers ghostwrite on behalf of the company or a more senior member of the team. Spell out who will be receiving the byline to avoid confusion and frustration.
Deadlines: Share deadlines for every step of your workflow, from reviewing an outline to publishing the post.
Outline due: 4/1
Rough draft due: 4/10
Final draft due: 4/15
Taxonomy: Describe the blog category(ies) that this piece of content will fall under and any tags you will attribute to it.
Tags: remote work, work from home, home office
Length: Explain the scope of the blog post. While word count is the most common metric for blog posts, other pieces of written content, like reports or white papers, could also be described by the number of pages they’ll contain.
Length: 1500 words
This section is the most important part of any content brief. It’s where you share your vision with your writers and others who are involved in the project.
The more detailed your brief, the more informed your content creators will be, and the better they’ll be able to execute your vision. Follow this formula to write a brief that will produce high-quality results:
Direction of the post: Write several sentences about what you want the blog post to convey. Mention any points or subtopics that you want covered.
This blog should cover a number of productivity tips that will help people who have transitioned from working in an office to working from home be more focused and get more done in less time. The majority of the tips should be related to Fokusly’s features, so please weave in those mentions as naturally as possible. You could have subheadings about time management tips, how to structure your day for maximum focus, how to accomplish more during virtual meetings, where and how to set up your home office, and more.
Key message: Describe what you want readers to take away from reading this blog post. Think of this as the thesis of the blog.
Working from home isn’t easy, but Fokusly can help you maximize your productivity.
Purpose: Explain why you’re creating this type of content now and what purpose it will serve in your content marketing strategy.
Many white collar professionals are working from home full-time for the first time ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them are struggling as they adjust from working in an office to working at home. This blog will capture web traffic from people searching for work-from-home productivity tips and will help establish Fokusly as a thought leader in the productivity space.
Point of view: Share insights on the angle the writer should use to convey the message.
Technology can make the transition from working in an office to working from home easier.
What to include: Beyond key points you want the blog to hit on, you can use this section to instruct the writer to mention relevant products or services you offer.
Include internal links to Fokusly’s Kanban boards, to do lists, and calendar reminder features.
What to exclude: Also describe anything you don’t want mentioned in this blog post.
We haven’t publicly released our new timer product yet, so while you can tease it, don’t mention it by name. Also, please don’t use external links that lead to competitors’ websites.
CTA: What action do you want the reader to take after reading this blog?
Encourage readers to sign up for a seven-day free trial of Fokusly at the end of the blog post.
Rewrite instructions: If the brief is for a rewrite, explain how you want the original piece to change. You can leave out this section when producing new content.
This is an update of a post we wrote at the start of the pandemic, so feel free to use the tips that are still relevant, but add more that incorporate the new features Fokusly has released since last year.
While the previous section of your content brief describes what you want your blog post to say, this section describes how your writer should say it. We recommend previewing style, voice, and tone guidelines in the brief and linking out to your full style guide.
Be sure to mention:
Style: Summarize the technical aspects of the writing style your brand uses and include highlights of what that includes.
We follow the AP Stylebook. We use the Oxford comma. We spell out numbers one through nine and use numerals for 10 and beyond.
Tone and voice: Explain how you want the piece to come off to readers. Should the writing be energetic and conversational, or academic and formal? Do you want it to be written in second or third person? Include examples to illustrate.
Write how you speak and engage readers by referring to them in the second person. Use only active voice. Contractions are encouraged!
Good: You’ll love our to-do list tool.
Bad: Our to-do list tool is appreciated by many professionals.
Font and structure: Let your writers know of any font face, size, and header formatting preferences your brand has to save you time in the editing process.
Font and structure:
Titles: Arial, size 18, bold
H2: Arial, size 16, bold
H3: Arial, size 14, bold
Body text: Arial, size 11
Let your writer know who they’re speaking to. Briefly describe the buyer persona, demographics, and pain points of the target audience you want this piece to resonate with.
This blog post is meant for young professionals in their 20s and 30s who work at white collar companies and struggle with maintaining work-life balance while temporarily working from home.
Include keyword research and other critical SEO details in your brief to produce a blog post that ranks.
Primary and secondary keywords: What are the main SEO keywords this piece should incorporate? Include search volume information.
Primary keyword: work from home productivity tips (1,200 searches/month)
Related keywords: remote work productivity (400 searches/month), remote work life balance (200 searches/month)
Competitive research: List the top ranking articles for your target keyword to serve as inspiration. Study them and provide ways your new piece of content can outrank the competition.
The top 3 ranking articles for the keyword “work from home productivity tips” are:
20 Productivity Tips for Working From Home from Indeed
10 Productivity Tips for Working From Home from the Blissful Mind
20 Tips for Working From Home from PC Magazine
We can outrank them if we include 25+ productivity tips.
Meta description: Give your writer guidelines for crafting an effective meta description.
Please write a meta description that includes the primary keyword, previews the article, and has an enticing call to action. It should be between 155 and 160 characters long.
SEO title: Provide guidelines for the SEO title tag you want your writer to create.
The SEO title should be 50-60 characters long, incorporate the primary keyword, and include our company’s name. For example: “25 Amazing Work From Home Productivity Tips | Fokusly.”
Tell writers what relevant internal content and products or services pages they should link to, and mention what anchor text they should use.
Related blog posts to link to:
- How to Build A Home Office on the Cheap; anchor text: home office setup
- 5 Productivity Tools For Better Work-Life Balance; anchor text: productivity tools
- Kanban Board by Fokusly; anchor text: Kanban board
- To-Do List by Fokusly; anchor text: digital to-do list
Let writers know what resources are available to help them conduct research. Include relevant examples of past content that your company has created and links to technical resources like documentation and product demos.
Please refer to Fokusly’s blog for inspiration. You can find a video demo of our product here, and product documentation here.
SEO content brief template
Here’s a blank content brief template you can copy, paste, and customize. By removing or adding certain sections, you can adapt this template for all kinds of content.
Alternative title ideas:
Point of view
Don’t forget to include:
Do not mention:
Tone and voice:
Font and structure:
Who is this content for?
Internal content to link to + anchor text:
Products/services to mention + anchor text:
Detailed content briefs make for better content marketing
The more thorough your content briefs are, the easier it’ll be for you to get the content you want from your writers.
Welcome’s marketing orchestration platform can help you produce content from brief to publication. Get started for free today.