Good writing is like good architecture. Eye-catching buildings boast thoughtful design and careful attention to detail.
To make this happen, architects create blueprints that help guide construction and determine the building's overall shape and aesthetic.
A well-crafted content brief does the same thing for content.
A content brief is a document that outlines the specific details and requirements for an article. It includes information such as the article's purpose, target audience, tone, and desired outcomes. This helps writers understand your expectations and provides them with essential information for crafting impactful content—and delivering it on schedule.
As a writer, editor, and account manager at a writing agency, I've worked with hundreds of briefs. I've also helped businesses craft briefs for their content and offered suggestions on how existing briefs can be improved.
In this article, I'll explain what makes a strong brief and why it's so essential. I'll also look at some of the most important elements of a strong brief and provide step-by-step instructions on how to write one.
Anatomy of the Perfect Content Brief
When creating a brief, be sure to include the following elements:
This is a high-level description of what you hope to achieve with the article. What problem is the article meant to solve for your readers? Is it educational, informational or promotional in nature? Who is the article for?
For example, check out this Purpose section from a brief for an article entitled How long should a blog post be in 2023 (Backed by Research):
There are a few things to notice here.
- First, we start by stating who the article is for (blog publishers) and what problem we plan to solve (not knowing the right blog article length).
- Then, it goes on to provide a description of how we'll do that (by breaking down the average length by niche and post type and providing instructions).
- Finally, we finish with the overall goal: help them better plan their content.
To recap, the purpose includes: WHO it's for, WHAT it does, HOW it does it, and WHY.
Right off the bat, this gives the writer a very clear indication of what you hope to achieve. It acts like a compass, keeping the writer on track and ensuring the language and content support your objectives.
Communication is key here, so make full use of the tools at your disposal. Wordtune, for example, can help you write concise sentences that clearly express the article's Purpose. The 'Explain' and 'Emphasize' Spices are especially great for this. The Spices feature offers written suggestions that you can add to your writing directly or use for inspiration.
Speaking of how long a blog post should be...
You can provide an exact word count or a range in your brief. A range is often better, as this gives the writer some flexibility and creative freedom.
A (very) common mistake is to mismatch the word count with the outline (see below) or purpose—usually by going too low. Different topics will require articles of different lengths, and your blog will be more successful if you allow for a range of article lengths.
What's the best way to know how long your article should be? Check out the competition.
Search for your main keyword(s) or article title on Google and check out how long the top three or four articles are.
If they're each 2,500-3,000 words and you're trying to approach the same topic with just 1,500 words, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. Conversely, if the most successful articles are just 600 or 700 words in length, writing (or paying) for a 1,500-word article may be overkill.
You may already have a specific title for your article based on keyword and competitor research, or maybe just a rough idea.
Either way, take advantage of the experience writers have with titles by offering them the opportunity to suggest variations. Experienced writers have been exposed to hundreds of briefs and titles. Very often, they can offer insightful comments and suggest strong titles.
When it comes to writing a good title, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be specific and direct. Tell readers what to expect.
- Use story elements to draw readers in. (What happened to whom, when and where?)
- Promise to solve some kind of problem—Just be sure to deliver on it.
- Use numbers and statistics. According to a study of 150,000 headlines, odd numbers work better than even ones.
- Include relevant keywords you want to rank for.
- Don't exceed 65 characters in length. Use metatags.io to check title length.
- Use language consistent with your target audience.
Use brackets to tease readers with practical takeaways: [5 Templates] [15 Examples] [7 Simple Steps]
Specify which keywords you want included in the article.
You can break these down into:
- Primary keywords (appear in the title, meta description, introduction);
- Secondary keywords (appear 2-3 times throughout the article); and
- Semantic keywords or related words (appear once throughout the article, as appropriate).
This not only ensures the article meets your specific SEO guidelines, it helps inform the writer of your target audience and further clarifies the article's purpose.
Outline or Structure
Finally, include an outline of the article: the headings and subheadings, as well as key points you'd like the writer to touch on.
For example, the brief for the article How long should a blog post be offered the writer this outline:
If you're not sure what to include in your article structure, check out the competition. Search for your keywords or article title in Google and look at the first few articles. What structure have they adopted? What headings have been included?
An approach known as the “skyscraper method” is especially useful here. It involves combining the best aspects of the top-ranking articles and then building upon these in some way, such as by offering more detail or a more enjoyable or simpler read. By doing this, you can create a better article than all of your competitors.
While not strictly necessary, a few additional elements can be helpful.
- Sources and examples. Include sources for research and examples of articles you want to emulate. These help the writer understand your perspective on the topic and what you want to achieve.
Meta content. If there is specific meta content you need from the writer, like a meta title and meta description, be sure to ask for these. Be sure to include specific SEO requirements, like keeping your meta description under 155 characters and including the main keyword.
The Importance of a Good Content Brief
A good content brief ensures the writer (even if that writer is your future self!) has a clear understanding of the goals and requirements of the article.
It provides clarity on the key message, target audience, and tone that should be used throughout the article. Having this information upfront allows for more efficient research and brainstorming, leading to better-quality content.
In turn, all of this reduces the need for back-and-forth and multiple rounds of revisions. You’ll save time and money, and significantly reduce delays. It also makes it easier to ask the writer for revisions if the content isn't in line with your brief.
How to Write a Content Brief
It's time to put everything together.
Step one: Clearly define your purpose
Remember to use clear, simple, and unambiguous language. Wordtune can help you achieve this and offer examples if you get stuck.
Think carefully about what you hope to achieve with the article and who your target audience is. What solution will you have offered, and what behavior do you hope to see from your readers?
Step two: Conduct keyword and competitor research
Keyword research allows you to identify the search terms most often associated with your article's topic. Including these within the title, body, and meta data of your article helps ensure it is visible to potential readers and that search engines like Google understand its contents and purpose.
There are many excellent tools out there for keyword research, including Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs and Semrush. There are also many excellent guides on how to do it, like this one from Yoast and this one from Semrush.
In addition, perform competitor research by looking at the top Google results for your keyword and article title. Use these to guide your word count, working title, and outline. Find out what top publishers are doing and then improve on it.
Step three: Outline your article
Using your keyword and competitor research, create an outline for the article. Break it down into sections (topics) and subsections (subtopics). Ensure all the most pertinent angles of your article topic have been covered. Remember to include space for a compelling introduction.
Including approximate word counts per section provides the writer with a good structure and lets them know which sections you feel deserve the greatest detail.
Likewise, don't hesitate to add short notes, keywords, and key points. In our example above, we added the following points under the "Long Form Vs Short Form Content" section:
This ensured the writer covered each of these important points in that section.
A good brief is an essential first step to publishing a great article. It helps the writer understand your intentions and expectations. This not only reduces delays and tedious back-and-forths, it ensures your brand's voice, perspective, and expertise come across clear and strong.
Clearly explaining the article's purpose and all the subsequent sections of the brief is critical. Use a tool like Wordtune to write with precision and set your editorial team up for success.
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.