As the saying goes: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. A strong, strategic brief is vital for effective content.
The importance of a strong brief in for content
Great marketing content doesn’t happen by accident. Whether you’re working on a helpful how-to video series, a new online hub to launch a product, or a PDF guide to your range, you’ll need to create a strong, strategic brief in order to achieve the best outcome.
This applies equally to internally and externally facing content. Some assets will find their audience within the company, for example product information packs, messaging guides, and persona playbooks. It’s just as crucial to define a clear and comprehensive brief for these outputs to ensure they deliver fully on their purpose.
How to produce awesome content briefs
In this guide, we’ll provide a step-by-step rundown of how to build out a highly effective brief for any content marketing asset.
1. Establish the strategic context
Explain clearly what the purpose of the content will be and how it fits into a wider marketing strategy. Define why it is being produced in the first place. What role will it play on its own, and what do you want users to do after consuming it? What comes next? Just as important, what comes before? What content will lead users to this item, and where will their journey continue afterwards?
Answering these questions serves two purposes. It will ensure that everyone involved with producing the final output is working towards the same goals and objectives. But it will also act as an exercise in clear thinking. Any half-baked or purely tactical ideas will either get developed properly, or canned, as you realise they are not worth pursuing in the cold light of day. Either way, you will avoid wasting precious time and resources later.
2. Outline the marketing and promotional plan
It should be very clear exactly who this asset is aimed at. This needs to be as detailed as possible, referring to your marketing personas for external content, or to specific teams and roles if internally facing. In either case, include pertinent information on the audience characteristics, challenges, and priorities, as well as how you intend them to use this asset.
Next, outline how the asset will reach this audience — the promotional plan. For example, will it be shared on social media, if so via which channels and will this be paid activity, organic, or both? If publishing on the website, where exactly will it appear? Having a clear idea of how the asset will be promoted will influence the production and bring to light other supporting assets that may also need to be included, for example banner adverts, social copy, landing pages, and emails.
3. Provide editorial direction
Now, we come to what exactly the asset itself needs to include, and how you want this to be communicated. What are the strong key messages, features, benefits, or ideas that need to be conveyed? Setting out a suggested structure or linking to a template is very useful, outlining desired sections or segments to include. In written content, SEO will very often play a role — what are the keywords? You should also bring in guidance on tone of voice, messaging, and style here. This can include target language and territory information e.g. US English.
Give examples of internal or external assets that are similar to the asset being produced, and include links to sources of key information that can be indirectly used or directly referenced. Lastly, include any further detailed notes, comments, dos and dont’s to help accurately steer the final output to where you want it.
4. Communicate the design vision
What does the final asset need to look like (or in the case of audio content, sound like)? The aesthetic vision for the asset needs to be thought about and agreed before it gets to the design stage. Think about how you want the users to feel when consuming this content. Will it be in line with established guidelines, or is there scope for a more adventurous approach?
Putting this information down in advance will make things easier for your creative team, by providing helpful parameters to channel their creativity and produce great ideas.
5. Don’t forget technical details and ‘housekeeping’
Lastly, just make sure all the basic information needed to ensure the smooth rollout of the content is included. The name and contact details of the person ‘owning’ the project should be clear, so that they can act as a point of reference for any queries by members of the team as the asset moves through the production process.
Communicating deadlines, any relevant budget allocations, and other constraints is essential, to keep everyone on the same page and ensure the project stays on track. Finally, all requirements and specifications relating to format and setup should be recorded. For example, word count, video length, image size, and so on.
Conclusion and takeaways
The difference between a poorly executed piece of marketing content and a successful very often comes down to the quality of the brief.
Don’t be tempted to fudge, rush, or even skip this process. See it as integral to the production of great content: a chance to iron out the important issues and ensure a kickass final output that delivers on your marketing goals.
- Establish the strategic context including the purpose of the content and how it fits into your wider marketing strategy.
- Outline the marketing and promotional plan, covering who the target audience is, what drives them, and how this asset will be promoted to them.
- Provide strong editorial direction, specifying what content and key messages the asset should include, and how this will be communicated, including tone of voice.
- Communicate the design and aesthetic vision for the asset, including the scope for innovation and departure from established guidelines.
- Ensure all technical and practical details are clear in the brief, including format and technical specifications, relevant budget information, and deadlines.