If you are thinking of outsourcing your content marketing, you’re going to hopefully spend some time briefing your copywriter and providing them with everything they need to create excellent content. An excellent brief produces good results every time. It can be nerve-wracking entrusting your content marketing to another person but so long as you provide a detailed brief you have no need to worry.
In this post, I’m going to give you absolutely everything you should include to create the best-ever content brief for a writer. I know it looks a lot but there are some very good reasons to create a detailed brief when working with copywriters, the main one being that it will save you time in the long run. If you don’t give your copywriter enough information beforehand, you’re going to spend more time requesting edits, or even wasting content because it didn’t meet your expectations.
It’s a fact that the more detailed a brief is, the less likely the chances are the final piece will need to be edited. I have a unique perspective on this topic too as I have employed copywriters and had to create briefs – I’m also a content marketer myself and receive briefs. Working from both sides I understand how frustrating it can be to be inadequately briefed and how annoying it is when I’ve had to make lots of edits to a piece of work I paid someone else to create!
So, here is everything you should include in a brief to make your copywriter love you and to make sure you get back exactly what you expected.
General Things You Should Include In A Content Brief
This one is simple but give your copywriter an expected word count. Now, we normally say that a piece of content will be as many words as it takes to explain something well…but when you’re outsourcing work it’s best to give a guide on word count. Don’t be too strict though – give guidelines for a blog post, for example, of between 1500 – 2000 words so that your writer has some room to play around. Different pieces of content will vary – an eBook and a bit of copy for a newsletter are two vastly different things so just make it clear how many words you expect as a minimum.
Again, another obvious and simple thing but make sure you give your writer deadlines. This is particularly important for time-sensitive pieces or content you need for campaigns. If you are giving your writer content briefs in batches, maybe order them by priority and put expected dates on them. It’s also important to work around the possibility of edits. If your content brief is clear enough, you hopefully won’t have to request edits, but it happens sometimes, and you don’t want a time-sensitive piece to be delayed by edits. I recommend setting the deadline well before you need the piece of content! For big pieces of work that are going to take some time, you may want to request a halfway ‘check-in’ with your copywriter so you can see what they have down so far. This isn’t an unreasonable request for pieces such as guides, white papers or ebooks.
Suggested title and headers
I say suggested because as a copywriter myself I really don’t like it when I’m feeling very restricted by titles! Sometimes, once I’ve written something, the title could even change slightly! There is a balance to be had though between what you expect and giving your writer a little bit of freedom – so suggest titles but let your copywriter know they’re ok to change them up a bit and of course, that you trust their expertise to generate better titles 😉
Content structure and sections
Personally, I think this is one of the best things a client can do for a copywriter! Yes, it’s more work for you but creating a detailed brief really does mean you get content back that you are super happy with! When I write a blog post, for example, I like to get the structure down first, and add little notes under each section that detail what to include in that part. Bullet points will do – it just makes writing a piece much easier and faster! However, don’t be too rigid with the structure either…let your copywriter know they are free to change it up if they find it isn’t working and you trust their judgement.
Key questions to answer
All good content answers questions. Content can delight, be entertaining, be sad, funny – all those things but it will also answer questions readers have. Even if they didn’t know they had those questions before they started reading! When you’re planning content, you need to always ask yourself ‘what is this answering?’. If you don’t know the answer, go back to the drawing board! When it comes to briefing your copywriter, make sure you let them know what questions you want the content to answer.
The tone of voice and style
One of the biggest issues businesses often have with outsourcing content is the feeling that a stranger just won’t be able to pick up on the right tone of voice for the brand or company. However, when you’re working with a professional copywriter you don’t need to worry about this so long as you brief your writer on your style! It’s really helpful to send a copywriter example pieces that demonstrate your tone of voice. It’s also not unreasonable to ask for a sample of writing before your writer goes on to work on more projects. At GrowTraffic we do this for all of our new clients – we will write one piece and let them review it for tone of voice and style. Of course, this is presuming you have a tone of voice, if you are outsourcing content for the first time and haven’t produced an awful lot in-house, you might not be certain what your tone of voice is! You should discuss this with your copywriter and whether they are up for helping you develop a style. You can also find a really helpful guide here.
A unique POV
It’s important that content is helpful and answers questions, but it also needs to be unique…yes, a tall order! Making your content unique is a great way to stand out from your competitors and please the Google algorithm overlords too. In each piece of content, you need to be adding something new to the conversation to make it your own. One of the easiest ways to do this is by adding personal experience, anecdotes, your own examples, research and data only you have access to. Of course, if you’re outsourcing content creation you need to ensure your copywriter is equipped with the right information. For example, if you’re asking your writer to create a piece of content on an already widely discussed topic, make sure your brief includes your brand’s take on the topic, you can even provide quotes from key members of staff and to be controversial…why you may disagree with what others are saying on the topic!
Target audience/buyer persona
A copywriter can’t create content (that’s any good anyway!) without knowing who the reader is. Understanding the target audience means a writer knows at what level to pitch ideas and concepts, what questions the reader is likely to have, what makes them tick and what will motivate them to take action. A good understanding of your target audience is something you will likely already have so stick it in a document and share it with your copywriter. For each of our clients at GrowTraffic, we create buyer personas that we can refer to when writing for individual clients, they’re really useful – shoot us an email if you would like a buyer persona template!
Call to action and aim
Every piece of content should have a call to action (CTA), for pieces like blogs it might not necessarily be a sales message but could be to read another piece of content or try to entice the reader to enter their email for more information. Whatever action you want your end customer to take, make sure you relay this to your copywriter so they can include it. This ties into the bigger picture of what the aim is for the content you want to produce – don’t throw out content just for the sake of it, carefully consider “what is the point of this?” when you’re planning content and then share your reasoning with your copywriter. If the point is simply to entertain, that’s fine! Some content is just brilliant for boosting engagement but doesn’t necessarily have a serious point to get across.
If you mean for your final piece of content to include images or graphics, share these assets with your copywriter beforehand. This is particularly important if you want the content to reference the assets and they aren’t just being added for decoration. You can also ask your copywriter to let you know what photographs and graphics they think you need to help illustrate key points.
SEO Stuff You Should Include In A Content Brief
This next part is dependent on the type of content your copywriter is producing and their understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO). It’s important to remember that not all copywriters are experts in SEO. They might well be excellent writers but have very little understanding of how to optimise content for search engines like Google. If you are looking for an SEO copywriter or someone that knows how to write website content for search, get in touch! 😊
Back to the point, if your copywriter isn’t clued up on SEO and you want them to produce content like blogs for your website, you will need to guide them on a few elements:
Primary and long tail keywords
Make it clear in your brief what keywords the content needs to contain, where they should go and even give your copywriter a bit of guidance on what not to do when using keywords (for example, you don’t want them to get carried away and start keyword stuffing). If you aren’t 100% certain where keywords should go in a piece of content, you may find our Keyword Pyramid helpful! You could even share it with your copywriter.
Internal and external links
Your website should be a nice little network of links that ties all your pages together, so you need to let your copywriter know about internal linking. This is as simple as letting them know what existing web pages you want them to refer to in the piece they are producing. If you’re being super helpful provide them with the URL and suggest the anchor text. Blogs should ideally have a couple of external links too. These should be links to relevant websites that have a decent domain authority – you can help by sending your copywriter links to websites you think they will be able to find information that is relevant to the piece they are creating and could link to.
Phew. I hope this has covered everything you need to include in a content brief. If you have any questions or think I’ve missed anything, let me know!