Before I answer, let me ask you a question.
Have you ever worked on a complex content project with a marketing team and one of the members said, “Oh, I thought you were going to take care of that”?
I heard it more than a few times early in my career.
It’s especially heart sinking to hear when you’re approaching a deadline, and the forgotten task is key to the content’s success.
This confusion happens because the project didn’t have a plan on who was responsible for each of the details.
Before I describe a content brief, let me answer my question about the need for a brief. No, not every piece content needs it because…well…it could be too brief. For example, a content plan for a blog entry might be overkill; it’s probably better to use an outline (see below). But for long content, a brief is ideal.
The difference between an outline and a brief
I define an outline as a planning document for an individual, such as a writer, designer, or project manager. It’s useful for simple, short content or
breaking down a large project into smaller chunks. But an outline is not for circulation to other team members.
A brief is more detailed. It specifies the purpose, format and audience, as well as the goals for the content produced. Unlike an outline, a brief is for distribution to all the content team, so each person knows his responsibilities.
What should a content brief contain?
The complexity of the content project will determine what you include in your brief.
At a minimum, a content brief should have the following information:
Team Leader: The person who is steering the project. This could be a project manager, marketing director, or even a contractor. This person should also be responsible for revising the brief if necessary. While the team leader may be evident to company employees, outside vendors and contractors may not know the person in charge. It’s good to include the team leader’s contact information for those outside the company.
Content Team: A list of the people (staff, contractors) involved in the content creation and production. As with the leader, include contact information for team members and who is responsible for what.
Title of Content: You’re completing this document at the start of a content project. At this point, it’s fine to use a placeholder title if you haven’t finalized the official name.
Description: A brief summary of the content and the form it will take (pdf, web page, video).
Main Objective: Establish what you want the customer to learn after consuming the content and the next step you want him to take.
Target Audience: Define whether this content is for customers, prospects, or both. Drill down further if you serve multiple markets and include a summary from relevant buyer personas that form the content’s primary audience.
Measurement: List methods to track the response to the content once it’s released.
Graphics: The photos and graphics used in the content, including file names. Don’t forget about additional graphics you may need for content promotion (see below).
(TIP: Freedigitalphotos.net has a nice variety of pictures. You can purchase them outright or give the photographer or designer credit free use).
Promotion: This activity doesn’t get enough attention from content producers. What’s the point of creating content if your audience never knows about it? List the methods you’ll employ to promote the content, such as a news release, an announcement on the company blog, and posts on social media channels.
Proofreading: Ideally, the team leader and one other person should proof the content before distribution (preferably not the writer, who has read the text too often to see it fresh). You may want to outsource this task to a professional proofreader. Be careful: getting too many people involved in the process can produce confusion.
Corporate / Legal Sign Off: Some content may require review by your company’s attorney or legal department. Be sure to keep your legal advisor in the loop on the content timeline. Ask how much time she requires reviewing content and include ample time to make any required revisions.
Deadline: Date of project completion. Not every project has a hard deadline to meet, but I believe it’s still better to list a particular date rather than a vague description like “early next month.” The latter slows momentum and distracts team members from completing project tasks.
After two decades in marketing, I have worked on projects with and without a content brief. I can tell you a brief delivers a smoother process for every person involved. It takes a bit of time to plug in the details, but a brief provides a host of benefits, including keeping your team focused, reducing miscommunication (and blame!) and achieving deadlines.
In fact, I can even save you time producing a brief. Copy and paste the categories above into Word and save. Now you have a content brief template for your next project.
Sign image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Before I answer, let me ask you a question.