A good chunk of our jobs as marketers (or any function, really) involves communicating content ideas to those who can bring them to life. This applies whether you work with in-house strategists, agencies like Omniscient Digital, or freelance writers.
This is where content briefs come into play. They bridge the gap between skill and product, audience, and market knowledge. But great content briefs can’t compensate for poor writing skills, just as the most talented writers can’t do much (read: drive not only traffic but also conversions and revenue) without solid client and product knowledge.
When I was a freelance writer (pre-content briefing), my clients provided a keyword or general topic—or asked that I identify and pitch my own. B2B content marketing doesn’t really work this way anymore, and I have mixed feelings about that.
Looking back, that working style gave me creative freedom and helped me rapidly grow as a content marketer—I quickly learned what set my content apart from others and how to guarantee myself more work (and higher rates).
But there was a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth due to the lack of context. Had my clients better communicated their expectations and the product information I lacked as a contractor, our lives would have been easier for sure. I would’ve also been able to tie my work to growth metrics beyond traffic and engagement.
So there’s a part of me that’s happy content briefs are commonplace. The other part of me wonders if longer, more in-depth content briefs have contributed to the rise of copycat content and the homogeneity of page one.
Anyway, now that I’m assigning briefs, I understand the importance of providing writers with strategic guardrails that don’t eliminate the space to exercise creative and editorial judgment. Achieving this balance has been tough but necessary.
Content briefs are especially important for our work with clients, given that our writers don’t always have a direct line. Content briefs also help writers understand where they can say no. Depending on how a piece is goaled, targeted, and written, the lack of a content brief can mean endless possibilities. (This isn’t always a good thing, especially if you’re working with a new writer or one you don’t yet trust.)
Yes, content briefs take time to build, but time invested in briefing an article can save days of changing content, requesting product information, or rebuilding the entire article narrative.
Here are a few helpful tips for writing content briefs that I’ve learned through trial and error:
1. Treat your content brief as a one-stop shop for each assignment
I like to include some extra reminders and information so that when writers open their brief, they have everything they need (sans topic research and expert interviews) to do their best work—and not ping you in the process.
This includes an SEO checklist, a roundup of helpful resource links, and important client information.
2. Leverage your brief for some promotional copy
My years of being a writer have taught me that once I’m in the “bubble” of a topic, it’s much easier to pull out the compelling and interesting threads.
With the writer’s permission (as they may charge more for this), include prompts for LinkedIn posts, Twitter threads, and even Quora questions for them to answer within your brief. It may be as simple as repurposing the best paragraphs, but it’ll be much easier for them to complete while writing the article instead of you going back and doing it yourself.
3. Don’t forget the content elements that convert
Briefs have the power to transform a piece of content into a marketing asset.
Guidance on internal and external linking, what conversion assets to promote, what feature or use case pages are relevant, and how the topic ties into your core product or service will help your writer know how to wield their writing to encourage a certain behavior or action from your reader.
Content briefs are living documents. Omniscient Digital (and our super resilient content team) has seen six different versions of our content briefs. I’ve updated and improved each one based on feedback from writers, patterns in editing, and new ideas we’ve had about our production process.
Don’t hesitate to change your briefs—and ask your writers along the way.
1. Redefining thought leadership with Ryan McCready from Reforge. Ryan, the Managing Editor at Reforge, shared some hot takes about hot takes on this podcast episode.
2. A peek into our work with AI tool Jasper. AI and AI writers are a trendy topic right now, and our team is helping the best AI tool grow…rapidly. Over the last year, we’ve grown Jasper’s blog traffic by 415% and blog-attributed product signups by 121x. Yeah, I had to brag on my team a bit.
3. Embrace the chaos of content marketing. This is another great Tracey Wallace piece she wrote as part of her Contentment newsletter with Workweek. Enjoy this piece—it made me feel better about my own brand of content chaos (namely, how long it took me to write this damn newsletter).