You’ve got a new inbound marketing campaign to roll out and a hard deadline because the campaign is associated with a set event. You need to brief the content writer or your regular article writing service. But there are so many things to organise – the eBook, some related blog posts, landing pages, automated workflows and email copy. As always, you’ll have to fit it in around the other content marketing activities and internal meetings on your calendar.
You think: that’s OK…the writer is switched on. I’ll just send a quick email letting him/her know what I need, and then I won’t have to think about it again until the content comes back. To be on the safe side, you leave a good few days between the content writer’s deadline and launch date, in case amendments are needed.
Stop! If it all goes horribly wrong and ends up in a last-minute panic to make it right, chances are it will be because the writer didn’t understand your brief. Because there wasn’t one. Sure, you ‘briefed’ the writer, but you didn’t create a clear brief for the content.
A clear writer brief saves time – and amendments
Assign a clear content brief to a competent journalist and the first draft you receive is likely to be very close to the mark. Give the same writer a poorly thought out brief, and the result can be a frustrating series of amendments, as draft by draft you add instructions and information that really should have been communicated in the initial brief.
Writers need a good brief, whether you’re outsourcing to a content marketing agency or freelance journalist, or asking your in-house writer to prepare it.
Providing a solid writer brief doesn’t have to be time consuming. With a good brief template, there’ll be some information you can leave in the template for almost every job, and other information you can update each time. Best of all, you’ll have cues in the template that will help ensure you don’t leave out crucial information.
What to include when you brief a content writer
- Campaign context
Even if a writer is only preparing part of the campaign content, provide some context about the nature of the campaign. This gives the writer a better understanding of the purpose behind the piece of content they’ve been asked to create.
This doesn’t have to be long. It might be as simple as saying: This blog post is part of a campaign designed to highlight [broad topic concept] ….to [purpose].
- Audience/buyer persona
During conversation, we change our tone, choice of words, and manner of speaking to suit the people we’re with at any time. A writer must do this without the benefit of seeing the audience, which is why it’s important to include this information. At very least, describe the broad audience, but it’s even better to give your writer buyer persona information to work with. If the audience has a better than average grasp of the topic area, the writer needs to know to adjust the language and tone.
- All items of content required
Specify all the items of content you’d like the writer to create. Do this close to the top of the brief, so it’s clear if multiple items are required. The last thing you want when you’re on a tight deadline, is for the writer to miss something altogether.
- The details for each item
If you’re requesting multiple items, separate the instructions so that it’s clear which instructions relate to which piece of content.
The details for each item should include:
- Desired action for the closing call to action
- Any preferences on the inclusion of links and citations
- Any requirements relating to SEO
- Any company specific requirements
- Any personal preferences (such as formatting) that you want to be sure the writer incorporates
- Resources (attach documents or mention links to material that should guide the writer)
Does your company have a communications style guide? Make sure the writer has it, or has a copy of the relevant section.
If part of the writer’s task will be to localise content created by your company’s US marketing team, you might like to read our recent post Australianising US Content: a guide for AU marketing managers which looks at some of the less obvious issues, as well as the obvious ones like spelling differences.
Examples save you time and give the writer clarity
Previously created examples that match your requirements are a fast and efficient way to convey some information to a writer. This is certainly the case when it comes to formatting requirements, the layout of a landing page or the preferred structure and format for an eBook. Writers can view and immediately grasp the requirements, and it will take less of your time to type ‘see example’ in the brief, than to describe it in words.
If you’re dealing with a writer or content agency for the first time, it’s also a good idea to provide an example that illustrates the depth and style of content you expect to receive. It will help the agency to choose the best writer for the task, and for the writer, it provides a benchmark for quality and depth, and a clear illustration of style.
Sharpen your saw for a clean cut every time
You’ve probably read Stephen Covey’s famous example of a chap spending hours cutting a tree with a blunt saw. Asked why he doesn’t sharpen it to make the task faster and easier, he responds “I don’t have time”.
I think we’re all guilty of this approach from time to time. There’s that one small thing we can do once at the front end of a process to make the process more efficient every time, but we’re in such a hurry to get on with it that we skip that vital step.
In the case of arranging content creation, that small step is creating a writer brief template that you can use over and over to provide exceptionally clear instructions. Whether you’re briefing a writer for multiple items, or for a single blog post, a good brief will save you time, minimise the amendments required, and make it almost impossible for a writer to misunderstand your requirements.
Don’t forget, if you’d like a ready-to-use template, you can download our writer brief template by clicking the image below. Feel free to adjust it to suit your projects!