Whether you are a marketing manager or the owner of a webshop, it is highly likely you do not write your content yourself. You have people for that. Maybe in-house or an agency. Or freelancers. Or aunt Annabel’s eldest, who has a knack for this kind of thing…
How many times have you muttered underneath your breath: “If I only had time, I could do a lot better than that.”
A content writer of a certain level is a professional with knowledge of marketing, SEO, and many other things. One of them might even be your specialty.
But he needs your help.
It pays off to put some effort into a good content brief for several reasons. Though it may be time-consuming, it’s more efficient than facing repeated discussions and revisions later on. And if updates and edits are required, a good brief provides a reference point. Writing a comprehensive brief also helps you to keep an eye on the bigger picture. Where does this piece of content fit in your marketing strategy? Asking yourself questions like this helps to crystallize your ideas and objectives.
Here are some suggestions on vital information to include in your brief and other tips to get the best out of your content writers. I’ll keep it simple. That’s how your content writers like it too.
The first thing a content writer will want to know: for whom am I going to write? If you use buyer personas, ensure the persona you intend this piece of content for is clear. What stage is the consumer at in their buyer’s journey? What kind of action do we want him to take?
Whether you give your content writers a topic or a list of topics to choose from, go one step further and include an angle in your brief: how do we want to approach this subject? One good way to find an angle is by looking for the questions people ask about the topic. There is probably a number among them that you can answer satisfactorily.
Since much content is intended to improve organic search results, a brief will often include keywords that you want to rank on. But you won’t help your content writers with instructions that demand a keyword to be used x times. There’s no magic number of keywords that makes your content rank for them. Google favors content that answers the query instead of just repeating it. Therefore, answering the searcher’s question should be the intent of your content and the assignment to your writers. Choose the keywords or phrases that match this intent instead of just picking the keywords with the highest search volume. Your professional content writer will know how to use these terms logically and creatively.
Your brief — the first one anyway — should include instructions for the tone of voice or a style guide if you have such a document. The way you talk to people is part of your brand personality and has to be defined and protected. But it must also be applied with enthusiasm, and that calls for freedom and inspiration. Read how the tone of voice instructions can stimulate creativity in Tone of voice: the best writing tips for your brand.
Adding the number of words to a brief can be helpful. But the word count should not be an arbitrary requirement as the length of a piece of content is often dictated by the topic. Content writers prefer workable instructions like ‘in the range of 800 – 1,000 words’.
Both internal and external links are good for SEO, so ask your writers to include somewhere they think is appropriate and helpful for readers. If you have suggestions, make sure to include them in the brief.
An article, or any piece of content, is only finished when it’s published. Before it reaches this final stage, it can improve by comments, questions, and suggestions of all those involved. A content-sharing platform is an ideal place to let your content grow up. We use GatherContent, but there are many alternatives.
This goes without saying. Results are the best incentive. Let your content writers know how their articles rank and share other results that can stimulate them to keep up the good work.
At PAN, we brief content writers daily in many different countries. One thing we’ve learned is to respect their expertise. This implies, among other things, that we prefer transcreation to simply translating the content for our clients. Over the years, we have built an international team of content writers who produce the quality we aim for and only need half a word to do so. If you’re interested in what they can do for you, let’s talk.