If you’re making something then it’s essential you have some kind of plan. Otherwise you could end up with an Adam Sandler film (zing), and it’s safe to say the world would be a much happier place without any more of those.
It doesn’t even really matter what it is that you’re doing – writing a novel, building a house, organising an event – having a plan is invaluable to ensure you stay on track and at least have an idea what your end result should be. In the case of digital and content marketing, that plan is often in the form of a content brief.
Now, that content brief may be written by the author of the content, the person commissioning the content or the person who will be hosting the content – those can all be different people, and if they are then there should be some communication from all parties to ensure everyone is happy with the final brief.
Start with the basics
A content brief should explain what type of content is needed, why it’s being created and the audience at whom the content is aimed. These are arguably the most important points to consider.
There is no point in creating content for the sake of it. Google is pretty adept at ignoring ‘churnalism’ and focusing on worthwhile content from which people actually take value. Also, if it doesn’t actually help anyone in any way, then no-one’s going to shout about it and share it. So you need to think about what it is you’re actually producing. Is an infographic something your audience will want to read? Or do you think an in-depth white paper will provide more value? Maybe some cat gifs will do the job.
This ties in nicely with identifying your audience. If you sell industrial cleaning equipment, then a quiz on ‘which Game of Thrones character are you?’ isn’t really appropriate, but a detailed article on keg washing in micro-breweries might be more in line with your target demographic. And be specific if you can. Are you aiming to appeal to working mums? Or maybe to teenage boys in secondary school? Specify that. Understanding who you’re writing for is essential in creating that killer piece of content.
Put all of this in your content brief. Whether you’re writing the brief for yourself or for someone else, the more information contained in it, the better.
What else can you include?
So what else should be included in the brief? Well, anything that you feel is important in helping to make a worthwhile piece of content. If you’re writing the brief for someone else, then you could list similar pieces of content from which to take inspiration. You could also include a style guide so that the writer knows what tone to take when writing, how formal to be, whether to steer clear of certain terms, etc.
Similarly, you should be clear if there’s anything you want to avoid in the content, whether that be in terms of style, particular types of content, references to certain companies; whatever. The last thing you want is for someone to produce a piece of content for you only to find they’ve included loads of stuff you hate.
I’ll wrap up with an analogy. Think of your piece of content as a prospective new house and the content writer as the builder. Sure, the builder might have the tools for the job, but without a detailed plan, your beautiful new conservatory might end up as an en-suite bathroom. It might be very nice but perhaps not what you wanted or needed. However, provide a detailed brief and you’re much more likely to be thrilled with the end product.
Content brief checklist
In true TL:DR fashion, here’s a checklist of what to think about and include on your content brief…
- Who is the content aimed at? For example, what industry are you working in? Are you targeting a particular group of people?
- What type of content is to be created? e.g. an infographic, white paper, etc.
- What is the purpose of the content? e.g. is it to raise brand awareness? Increase social following?
- Where is the content going to go?
- Are there any other similar pieces of content that you like?
- Is a style guide needed in order to get the tone of voice right? For example, is it to be formal or informal? American or British English?
- Are there any industry specific terms that need explaining?
- Are there any keywords/phrases to include?
- Is there anything that should be avoided within the content? e.g. particular terms or references to other companies.
If you can think of anything else important that you feel should be included in a content brief, feel free to pop it in the comments section.