What your content brief says about you

Why clients send bad briefs is beyond me. Garbage out = garbage in when you send a bad brief.

I’ve worked from all sorts of content briefs. Some are lists sent in an email, others are docs with sections, and yet others are full on templatized tables that are used for everyone from the graphic designer to the VP of marketing.

While I appreciate it when a client sends me any kind of brief, they’re not all made the same.

What a content brief is

A content brief is a simple document that tells a writer what to write about. They provide the info and context writers need to understand the goal of the project, ensure all key points are covered, includes any CTAs, and defines key messaging they should include.

They can also include a short keyword SEO list, the names of competitors to avoid, and any URLs they want backlinked in it.

What content briefs are not

It’s right there in the name. A content brief should be brief.

They’re not:

  • a brain dump or content outline. If you do this, you might as well just write the piece yourself. 🤦🏽‍♀️
  • a one-line email that says, “Look at our website for details.” 🔎
  • a link 🔗to an online folder with all your research info and no instructions.
  • an email with 20+ attachments and a turnaround time of 24 hours. ⏲
  • a content planner doc that’s used by everyone from graphic design to management and everyone in between. 📚

What your content brief says about your business

After 20+ years as a professional writer, the state of a client’s content brief tells me everything I need to know about them.

Too long = You’re worried about covering every. single. contingency. You risk confusing your writer by including irrelevant information.

Too short = You don’t know how to delegate work and aren’t used to working with freelance writers.

Heavy on the SEO = You don’t understand how people find & consume your content.

Too technical = You’re not used to dealing with non-tech people in your company like product managers, marketers, and sales teams.

Too many reviewers = Your managers & business leaders don’t trust you to get the messaging correct or accurate.

Trying to copy others = When you send links to other content you like and say, “I want it to look like this,” you have no idea how content marketing works and what a copywriter does.

Here’s what you need to include in your brief for it to be useful and reusable by your outside/freelance writer.


How to create a content brief for your outside writers

  1. Working title: While not always necessary, having a working title gives your writer an idea of the approach or “angle” for the content.
  2. End goal: Explain the end goal of the content. Is it to get a sale, a click, more subscribers? Or is it to educate and inform?
  3. Audience: This helps your writer choose the right level of language for the content .Who’ll be consuming this content? It doesn’t need to be named persona level of info, some high-level info about the main audience is fine. E.g., are they beginners or veterans? Are they already aware of the brand or is it all new to them?
  4. CTA: What do you want the audience to do at the end? Should they download something? Pass along their contact info?

The format for your content brief

How you send your writer the brief is up to you. As I mentioned, I’ve had emails with all this info and shared GDocs with this info.

Whatever is easiest for you to communicate is going to be the best way. Your freelance writer is adaptable enough to figure it out, even if they have their preferences.

They might even have a quick template you can use to create a brief for them. I do. 😀

When you create good content briefs, your freelance copywriters give you what you want. There’s less friction for them and less editing for you.