How to Create an Effective Content Brief (with Examples and Templates)

Let’s look at a few of the essential elements that make for a comprehensive and actionable content brief.

Published on Jun 15, 2024

A well-crafted content brief is at the heart of a successful content strategy

Why? For the writer, it’s a documented point of reference they can refer to at any time. And as a marketer or client, you’ll spend less time editing and providing feedback and get better ROI on your content

Whether your goal is to rank for keywords, get new email sign-ups, or simply to entertain your readers, a solid writing brief helps ensure the most important boxes are ticked as you work toward objectives. 

What is a content brief?

A content brief outlines the requirements and guidelines for a specific piece of content. Think of it as a strategic tool or detailed roadmap that ensures everyone involved in content creation is aligned with the project's goals. 

A content brief sets the right expectations for everyone working on the project from the get-go. With clear objectives and deliverables for the assigned content, it streamlines and optimizes the content creation process, reduces time spent editing, and enhances efficiency overall.

Most importantly, it works to help improve the content’s quality, ensures it’s in sync with the content strategy, and meets the content team's business objectives — increasing engagement, driving traffic, and/or encouraging conversions.  

Key components of an effective content brief 

Let’s look at a few of the essential elements that make for a comprehensive and actionable content brief.

1. Project overview & objectives

The project overview describes the project's purpose and significance. This section sets the stage for the details that follow. Here, be sure to clearly state what the content aims to achieve. Objectives could include educating the audience on driving sales, improving SEO rankings, or increasing user engagement. 

2. Audience

Your content brief should also include detailed information about the target audience, including their demographics, interests, pain points, and where they’re at in the customer journey. Surveys, focus groups, and competitor research are some time-tested ways to gather insights about your target market: who they are, what they want, and how they make decisions.

3. Tone and style

Guidelines on the tone and style ensure the content resonates with the target audience and remains consistent with the brand's existing voice across all external-facing communications.

Before you write a content brief, define the right tone for the piece of content being created. Is it informal or formal? Playful or serious? Direct or narrative-driven?

Your brand guidelines may also include specific dos and don'ts regarding language and structure, such as your preferences around the use of Oxford commas, em dashes, and more.

4. SEO requirements

For SEO-focused content, your content brief should also have a list of primary and secondary keywords that should be incorporated to improve the content’s search engine visibility. The primary keyword is the main term you want the content to rank for, while secondary keywords are additional phrases that support the primary keyword and help bring in more diverse traffic.

'Vegan protein powder’ is an example of a primary keyword. It can be supported by secondary keywords like ‘pea protein benefits’, ‘hemp protein,’ or ‘how to use vegan protein powder.’ In addition to keywords, include any other SEO requirements in your content brief, such as meta descriptions, alt text for images, and internal linking strategies. 

5. Content format and structure

Instructions on the desired format (e.g., blog post, video, infographic) and a basic structure outline, including headings, subheadings, and any other elements vital to the content’s organization.  Headings, subheadings, and bullet points help break content into manageable, easy-to-read chunks. Structured content is also easier to edit and update, as identifying sections that need revision is more straightforward when the content is well organized and parceled into sections.

6. Word count

Length is important to include in a content brief, especially for blog posts. Long-form content tends to outrank shorter articles, as it appears more thorough in Google's quality score analysis. 

However, the writer should always prioritize the quality of information and fulfill the search intent rather than hit a specific word count. The ideal length of an article should ultimately be determined by the depth required to fully address the topic at hand without compromising on quality.

7. Resources and references

A solid content brief should also include a list of resources, data points, or references that can be used for research. These might include internal documents, industry reports, case studies, or links to authoritative sources. These inputs provide insights, statistical data, and expert opinions essential for comprehensively covering the topic. 

8. Call to action (CTA)

A content piece without a call to action (CTA) is like a map without a destination. It provides information and might outline the path, but it doesn't point the reader to the next step. A CTA is a clear directive to the reader about what action to take next. Whether it’s subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a whitepaper, or making a purchase, the CTA should be clear and compelling. 

9. Deadline and milestones

Include the project's overall timeline and key milestones in your content brief. Set a timeline for when the content outline should be ready and due dates for drafts and edited iterations, too.

Step-by-step process of creating a content brief

Here's a six-step process for creating an effective content brief:

  1. Define your goals and audience: Clearly state the purpose of the content (e.g., increase engagement, drive sales, educate users) and identify the target audience, including their needs and preferences.
  2. Conduct keyword research and competitor analysis: Perform keyword research to find relevant terms and phrases to target for SEO. Analyze competitor content to identify gaps and opportunities for differentiation or improvement.
  3. Outline structure & format: Provide a basic structure for the content, specifying the title, headings, and key points to cover. Define the tone, style, and format (blog post, video, infographic), and set a recommended word count.
  4. Set a process and deadlines: A scalable content production process helps reduce turnaround times, allowing you to produce and publish content more quickly to meet deadlines and audience demands. Establish a timeline, including milestones like the draft submission due date and the final deadline. 
  5. Mention specifications: Detail any requirements for visuals, such as images, videos, or charts, including style or source preferences.
  6. Clarify the workflow: Outline the feedback and revision process, including how feedback will be communicated and the timeframe for making revisions. 

Real-world content brief examples

Here are some real-world examples of creative briefs that have been customized for the kind of content output required.  

1. Deel’s marketing-focused brief and editing checklist

Anja Simic expertly crafts content briefs for the HR platform Deel, ensuring that each piece of content ties into the broader marketing strategy. Her briefs guide writers in weaving in case studies, accolades, and recent data from Deel's studies for a cohesive narrative.

Deel content brief example

2. Omniscient Digital’s audience, SEO, brand, and conversion template

Omniscient Digital, a content marketing firm, ensures their briefs allow strategists to offer expert advice to writers. This includes suggestions on introducing new insights, incorporating mentions of the client's products, and achieving a notable presence in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Omniscient content brief example

Best practices for content briefs

Now that you’re familiar with the key components of a content brief and the steps to create one, here are some additional best practices to keep in mind. 

  • Start with a working title: It helps to include a working title in your content brief. This title guides the writer's focus and doesn't need to be the final version. Its main purpose is to provide clarity and direction during the writing process. 
  • Include competitor links for inspiration: This can open avenues for plagiarism, so it's crucial to advise writers to seek unique angles for each topic, ensuring originality while using competitor links for research and inspiration. 
  • List your target keywords: A content brief should clearly state the primary keyword and secondary keywords. Best practices include using the primary keyword in the title, introductory paragraph, and at least one subheading to optimize SEO performance.
  • Incorporate title tag and meta description best practices: Since not all writers may be familiar with these practices, specifying them in your content brief ensures the article is optimized for search engines. Title tags should ideally be between 50-60 characters, and every piece should include a custom meta description.

Common mistakes to avoid

Even the most seasoned marketers sometimes underestimate the importance of a solid content brief or get it wrong despite their best intentions and efforts. Here are some of the most common mistakes—and how to avoid them. 

  • Lack of clear objectives: Avoid the mistake of not specifying the goals of your content. Instead, begin with clear, measurable objectives such as educating the audience, generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or driving sales.
  • Vague target audience description: A common error is not defining the target audience for the content. For the content to be effective, specify demographics, interests, pain points, and the buyer’s journey stage in detail.
  • Ignoring SEO requirements: Incorporate essential SEO elements like keywords, meta descriptions, and title tags to ensure that the content reaches the intended audience through search engines.
  • Skipping feedback mechanisms: Establishing a clear process for feedback and revisions is essential. State how feedback will be given and the number of revision rounds included to ensure the content meets expectations upon completion. 

Creating a good content brief 

“Garbage in, garbage out.” It's an old saying, but it still rings true. If you provide a low-quality content brief, you're likely to receive low-quality content. 

Remember that content briefs are not always set in stone and that plans can change. The goal of a content brief is to offer enough guidance for the writer to do a good job without being overly prescriptive. Include essential information the writer needs while leaving room for creativity. 

Want to learn more? Watch "How Jasper Uses Jasper: Content Strategy & SEO" to learn how to create a content brief using an AI tool like Jasper.

Meet The Author:

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore

B2B Freelance Writer

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS companies.

Marketing Strategy

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