There’s a big difference between content that needs a few tweaks and content that falls short of expectations. Before you criticize your writer for producing off-the-mark content, ask yourself; did they have enough information to meet your expectations, to begin with?

Enter the content brief.

Content briefs make sure writers have access to all the information they need to create content that goes above and beyond your expectations. They save you from the stress of receiving low-quality content as well as the slew of emails, meetings, rewrites, and frustrations that come with it. Pair an ace content brief with an easy-to-use content creation template and you’ll get content that fits the bill every time.

woman bored at her desk

Before we get into how to create a content brief, let’s explore what a content brief is, why it’s so important, and how it fits into a broader content marketing strategy.

What is a content brief?

A content brief is a set of requirements that guide the writer through the content creation process. The document presents them with the scope of the project as well as other necessary information like word count, keywords, target audience, etc.

By all means, content briefs align your content creation with your content strategy, aiding the speedy production of content that consistently meets goals.

As you rush to add the newest SEO automation tool or enhanced signature system to your process-optimizing toolkit, take a step back and consider whether something as simple as a content brief can enhance your content production strategy.

How a good content brief can improve content creation

Every team should be using briefs to refine their content creation process. Here’s why:

✍️ Content briefs streamline the writing process

Writers who haven’t been sufficiently briefed are going to ask questions – and lots of them.

We all know what this means; Tedious back-and-forths, impromptu meetings, rewrites resulting in jarred workflows, and dulled creativity. All this does is make the writing process longer, and waste both their time and yours.

Content briefs arm your team with the answers to all of their questions before they’ve even asked them. Word count, topic depth, story angle – it’s all in one easily-accessible document. They can plan better, research better, and write to a higher quality with fewer workflow disruptions.

✂️ Content briefs ease the editing process

Extensive rewrites and revisions cost your business time and money. But whose fault is it when it happens?

It’s easy to blame the writer for content that isn’t up to scratch. But if you don’t provide your writers with enough information, they’re going to struggle to create content that meets requirements.

A comprehensive content brief provides clarity and guidance throughout the entire writing process. They’ll understand the angle you want, anything you especially need, and should be able to turn out a solid piece the first time. This means that you can spend less time rewriting weak content and more time fine-tuning great content.

And say it is an error on the writer’s side – you can go back to the communications and expectations set out in your content brief to back up your feedback. Perhaps it can help you negotiate further editing costs, eliminate wasted time, or just save some embarrassment on your end.

💻 Content briefs improve consistency in remote and hybrid workforces

Remote work is booming in the creative industry. Evidently, according to Upwork, writing and creative design are the two leading types of freelance job positions.

Semrush content marketing report 2021 showing that content quality is most important

However, consistency issues can arise when you have a team of globally dispersed writers and no internal resources for unified instructions for content creation. Without content briefs, individuals working on the same project can produce material that simply doesn’t match up.

Content briefs act as a single source of knowledge for your employees – freelance or otherwise – laying down the law for everything from tone of voice to image specifications. As a result, all of your writers can create consistent, unified content.

⏰ Content briefs ensure deadline delivery

Unbriefed writers are going to struggle to meet deadlines. If they have to ask lots of questions or perform extensive independent research, it’s going to eat into their writing time. So, naturally, they’re either going to miss deadlines or else frantically rush to meet them, resulting in the submission of low-quality content.

Writers armed with a content brief can jump into the writing process without needing clarification. And, unhindered by confusion, they can produce high-quality drafts by the deadlines you set.

This ultimately improves your lead time. Generally speaking, the lead time definition is the time of any given process from beginning to end. Being able to provide accurate lead times is a great way to improve your content creation process overall.

What should your content brief include?

Are you creating dynamic digital documents or static content? A blog post or a video? A whitepaper or a listicle?

woman at a desk in an office

While the type of content you’re creating will determine what goes into your content brief, here are four essential elements to include.

1. Basic requirements

Typical basic requirements are as follows:

  • Title: Always include a title, even if it’s only a working one.
  • Client: Note who the client is, what they do, and what their brand message is. Yes, even if that client is you!
  • Project summary: What is the editorial purpose of the content? What angle should the writer take? What message should the audience take away?
  • Word count: How long does the content need to be? What leeway is there?
  • Formatting: Yes – your content format matters, not just for design consistency but for reader engagement. Include fonts, sizes, layouts, etc.
  • Outline: If you’re focused on a specific angle or have multiple keywords, an outline can guide the creative process.
  • Examples: This could be anything from the highest-ranking search engine results for your chosen keyword to examples of your brand’s writing style.
  • Deadline: Be clear about the time (and timezone!) as well as the date of submission.

2. Target audience

Who is the content for? Knowing the target audience can help writers sculpt their tone of voice, content structure, and content depth to suit audience preferences, pain points, and motivations.

Say you want a writer to create a blog post on how to make an electronic signature. Now, this simple topic can be approached in different ways depending on the target audience and their search intent.

people working from a whiteboard with post-it notes

A blog post targeting business owners might deep dive into the different types of e-signatures and how different solutions suit different purposes. A blog post targeting job seekers, however, may take a beginner-friendly approach and focus on using a simple tool like Microsoft Word to sign contracts.

Some businesses have more than one target audience. So, make it clear in the content brief which audience your specific piece of content is targeting.

3. SEO requirements

According to a recent SEMrush study, SEO and content quality are the two most essential ingredients for a successful content creation strategy. For writers, this generally means juggling the creation of engaging content with the inclusion of required keywords, which can be hard to pull off.

chart of top jobs by talent

To ease this process for your writers, provide them with the SEO information they need to succeed. This includes:

  • Primary keywords: Always make it clear what keyword you’re ranking for.
  • Secondary keywords: Whether you’re targeting two keywords or 20, ensure that you list them all down in the brief.
  • Primary keyword and secondary keyword placements: For example, you might want certain keywords to be placed under specific H2s, or your primary keyword to feature in the first 50 words.
  • Word count: A recommended word count helps writers determine content structure and depth.
  • Internal and external links: Include must-have links, recommended links, the number of links needed, and any link distribution specs.
  • Anchor texts: These could be recommended suggestions or strict requirements.

By being as clear and helpful as possible, you can make the process of on-page optimization run much smoother.

4. Style and communication requirements

Regardless of whether you’re creating content for your own business or a client, you need to ensure that each piece of content fits authentically with the brand style.

  • Tone of voice: Is it formal or informal? Authoritative or conversational? Consider providing examples.
  • Visuals: Include specifications like image types, formats, color schemes, and distributions. By investing in Turtl’s content creation software, you can create unified, on-brand interactive content, from blog posts and newsletters to ebooks and presentations.
  • Style specifications: For example, do you use numerals or words? ‘%’ or ‘percent’? They might be tiny things, but they can be time-consuming to correct. You may wish to create a separate style guide that you can link to from all briefs.

2 top tips for creating an effective content brief for your business

Creating a content brief is a skill in itself. There are two things that you can do to ease the creation process.

  1. Create a content brief template that you can use over and over again. A template acts as a point of reference for all of your critical content information. It reduces the risk of you forgetting to include something important and makes writing content briefs much quicker to do. Plus, templates streamline processes and optimize workflows (something that you can incorporate into many areas of your business. For instance, you might use email design templates to produce on-band email newsletters, or a non-disclosure agreement template to ease the partnership process.
  2. Like a lot of things, remember to keep it short and clear. A convoluted content brief is likely to cause confusion, hinder creativity, and even border on micromanagement. Try to only include information that is relevant to the task at hand. Be specific, omit any fluff, and link out to other resources (like your brand style guide) where necessary.

Long term growth is always the goal

It’s one thing to develop a killer content strategy. But putting it into action is another thing entirely. In the end, if done right, a comprehensive content brief will:

  • Unite your content strategy with your content creation process.
  • Provide writers with a foundation to produce consistently accurate, effective, and timely content without workflow disruptions.
  • Lastly, reduce the volume of large-scale editorial reviews and revisions.

Above all, content briefs are an integral part of the content production process. We see this all the time at Turtl and PandaDoc, where a good brief is the difference between okay writing and a brilliant piece.

But a thorough brief is just the start. As mentioned earlier, investing in your content’s format can elevate your content and its engagement performance to an even higher level. Publishing your work using Turtl’s brain-friendly, interactive platform ensures it gets the attention it deserves. Turtl Docs are even editable after publication, for when that key detail gets left out of the brief!

So, what are you waiting for? Write up a content brief and book a demo to see how your digital documents could look in Turtl to give you an edge over your competition.

Meet the writer: Yauhen Zaremba


Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc, all-in-one document management tool for almost all types of documents, including this California bill of sale template. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

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