Typically, when approaching an author to write a blog post for you, there’s a lot of information to share, and the best way to share it is in a content brief.
You need to guide the writer regarding your vision for this blog post. To ensure that your requirements are conveyed clearly, the best solution is to capture all the information in a document – a content brief.
In this article, we share a list of key points to include in your content brief. If building your own content brief seems like a lot of work, I’ll provide a free template at the end of this blog post.
What Is a Content Brief?
A content brief is a document in which detailed information is shared with a writer, to ensure the writer can create an article that meets your needs exactly.
A content brief can be as detailed as instructing the writer exactly how many times a keyword has to be used, and what competitors there are that this blog post needs to outperform.
There are simpler forms of content briefs too, especially if you have a team of quality writers who already understand your audience and your blog’s message.
The Benefits of a Content Brief
When dealing with a new writer, having a clear and detailed content brief is a sure-fire way to ensure you are satisfied with the end result, eliminates rewrites and is a great timesaving approach.
No need for constant back-and-forth communication for guidance, as the writer will continue almost autonomously while creating the top quality content you require.
If you have to adhere to a strict publication schedule, you cannot risk a writer having to do rewrites, as this could have a snowball impact on your publication schedule. Rewrites also cause friction and dissatisfaction from both parties.
Clear, detailed, documented instructions avoid these risks and facilitate clear communication. It also places you in a position of control, as you know exactly what to expect, and the direction of the article is pre-determined and based on your own research and preferences.
Pitfalls are avoided by clarifying dislikes, things to avoid, and most importantly your ‘voice.’
How to Complete a Content Brief
Start by making use of a content brief template. It will save you time and also remind you of all the information that is required.
Do your keyword and competitor research and use the results to complete the content brief template.
For a therapist blog, my recommendation would be to keep to a manual process. It gives you a personal touch, and for a very important reason.
As a healthcare professional, the purpose of your blog is to build a connection with potential clients. This is where you will showcase your expertise and demonstrate yourself as a thought leader in your particular field.
Your blog is also where a potential client would get some insight into what type of person you are and whether it would be a good match. Software tools cannot convey your personal voice in a content brief.
To complete your content brief, focus on one section at a time. In the free content brief template I share, the first section focuses on the structure of the blog post. The second section reveals the purpose of the article and the intended audience. The last section is about you, your practice and your preferences.
If you struggle with any section, perhaps it is easiest to work from the bottom up. First describe your preferences and brand identity, then move to describing the audience, and lastly the structure of the article.
What Should a Content Brief Include?
Below is a list of elements to include in a content brief, with a few pointers for each. Pick the ones you find most appropriate and add it into your own content brief template.
The title is based on your keyword research and the purpose of the article.
Personally I often leave the title until last when completing a content brief template. Sometimes inspiration strikes while doing research! For more info on constructing a good title, read our blog post How to Write Perfect Headlines.
Your key ‘phrase’ determines the focus of the article and the direction the writer needs to take. As an example, the keyword for this article is ‘what is a content brief.’
3. Keyword frequency
The number of times the keyword must be repeated in the article. This has to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and there is an optimal number of times the keyword should be repeated. But beware of keyword stuffing, which is overusing your keyword!
Complete this section in advance as it is a snapshot of what the article should illustrate.
5. Related keywords
List related terms that supplement the main keyword. As an example, for the keyword ‘content brief’ related keywords are ‘what is a content brief’ and ‘how to make a content brief.’
Related keywords are important to give the right direction for your article and create the differentiation Google needs.
Words the writer should mention related to the main keyword. These are usually singular words that provide more context to the article. As an example, for an article on ‘content brief’ I also need to mention the words:
Reason being is that the term ‘content brief’ can also apply to project management, and to make it clear to search engines we are discussing blog writing and content creation, the above words must be used in this article.
7. Content outline
Creating a content outline with H2 and H3 headings will give your article the ‘skeleton’ it needs, allowing the writer to focus on ‘adding meat to the bones.’
Creating this outline ensures the right keywords are used, leading the reader along a logical path and conclusion.
8. FAQ – Questions that should be answered
Having a frequently asked questions section in a blog post is excellent for SEO, as it allows you to answer questions that would not easily fit into the normal copy. It also makes it easier for Google to highlight parts of your blog posts.
Create a list of at least three questions that the writer must repeat and answer.
Both internal link and external link suggestions. Create a list of published articles this article must link to, and if you have a list of external link suggestions as well, include them here.
10. Word count
The writer will need to know what the goal post is for this article. In addition, the word count indicates how in-depth the article must be.
11. Readability level
Decide in advance what readability level this article must attain. According to Readable, it is best to aim for Grade 8 to ensure your content can be read by 80% of Americans. This Readable article further explains readability levels.
12. Who is my reader?
Explain who your target audience is and what their expectations will be. Explain it as ‘People who are looking to…’
You need to match your blog topic with the search intent of the reader. When searches are made on a search engine, they usually have one of four purposes. Show which search intent matches this article.
Does the reader wish to find information? An answer to a question? Then the intent is informative.
Does the reader wish to investigate a brand or type of service? Perhaps a comparison between financial coaching and financial counseling? Or a university to study at? For these kinds of searches, the intent is commercial.
The search would either be a brand name or a URL, such as PositivePsychology.com.
If the person is ready to buy, then the intent is transactional. Searches would typically be ‘best hiking boots’ or ‘occupational therapist near me’ as the searcher has decided what they want, and am now looking to purchase or sign up.
Clearly define the goal of the article so the writer can use the right verbiage. If your article is merely informative and you want the reader to sign up to your newsletter, clarify that in the goal section. If you want to build trust, or encourage engagement in the comments section, let the writer know about these points as well.
Clarify your scripted Call to Action and its placement.
You can include links to three competitors for the same keyword if you feel this gives the writer additional guidance. Some blog owners add this information, with instructions to the writer to write a better article than all three competitors. Although it is an interesting approach, I suggest if you wish to follow it, first clarify what ‘better than’ means for you.
17. Tone, voice & brand
Provide the writer with insight into your practice and your preferred voice in all content to be created. Explain your brand, and what it represents. Use expressions such as ‘conversational’ ‘clear’ ‘professional’ ‘to the point.’
For those in the healthcare profession, the tone is important to create a close relationship with the reader. Let’s look at two examples:
Your New Life is a group of 20-something coaches who provide life coaching, executive coaching and digital coaching. We are an energetic bunch and want that energy in our blog posts. We appreciate light-hearted humor in our posts, as it reflects our joy for life. Our brand icon, which is a jumping jack in a box, illustrates our energy, humor, and desire to help people get out of their boxes, overcome their challenges and enjoy life.
I am a registered psychotherapist, and I talk straight. People know me as a serious, no fluff kind of person. I deal with trauma and psychological challenges daily, and the tone of voice in my blog posts should have equal gravitas, but be helpful and informative at the same time. I have zero tolerance for humor or fluff and seek to educate and inform my readers in a succinct and professional manner.
18. Brand viewpoint
To be seen as a thought leader, share your viewpoints on specific topics. Include those here, so the writer knows from which perspective to write the article. If you have strong viewpoints regarding anything related to this topic, this is where you would share it to ensure the writer writes with the same voice and conviction.
A great spot to add pitfalls that the writer won’t know about. An apt example is a past client who forbade us to use the word ‘top’ as that was closely related to their strongest competitor’s name.
20. Background research
If possible, provide pertinent background information, especially those that are not in the public domain. If you’ve been to a recent seminar and this article pertains to the seminar topic, provide the PowerPoint notes or other material to the writer. List specific items you want included in the article, such as recent research or a new publication.
21. Creative brief
Share the details of graphics that a designer might create to add to this post. You can either add a link to the creative brief, or briefly describe what the designer will create. If the designer is creating graphs or charts, you would want the images and content to work well together.
22. Style & format
Add a link to your style guide here. Your style guide should clarify which referencing style must be used, so no need to mention it here.
23. Example post
If you have a specific article you are happy for the writer to model, include a link to it here.
If anything has not been covered above, you can include this in the notes section.
The date the brief has been compiled and the due date. A due date is always helpful to include in a content brief, even if in pencil, so to speak.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below we share a few short answers to regular FAQ’s we’ve come across.
Conclusion to What Is a Content Brief
A content brief can be seen as your instruction manual to a writer, to create the perfect blog post.
It is a document that describes every aspect the writer needs to know to follow your instructions. It is an important tool in the content creation process, and not something that can be replaced with a quick meeting or phone call.
A good content brief will take some time to create, including research and completing the content brief template. But it will be well worth the effort!
The best is to create your content briefs well in advance and include them in your content calendar. By the time you need to assign a topic to a writer, everything is already in your planner, ensuring there are no delays and your publications stay on schedule.
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