When was the last time you played a game of telephone?
If it’s been a few years, let me refresh your memory. One person starts by whispering a phrase into the next person’s ear. That person shares the message they heard to the next person and so on and so forth. The person at the end of the line shares what they heard with the whole group. Then, everyone breaks out in giggles because what makes it to the end of the line is rarely anything sounding like the original statement.
Your marketing content workflow should NOT feel like a game of telephone.
You can avoid the headache of miscommunication by creating effective content briefs. A content brief is the vehicle used to communicate your audience’s needs and business goals so that whoever touches the content - from ideation to promotion - will be on the same page. The secret to scaling your content workflow begins with a consistent content brief format.
Let’s dive in!
What is a Content Brief?
A detailed content brief can be the difference between a great content marketing outcome and a miserable experience that leaves you scratching your head, wondering if it is worth it to go through all of the trouble to create content.
A content brief is a written summary that outlines the purpose of the content from the perspective of the audience. In other words, it should answer the question: “How will this content help the customer?” It also includes the details necessary to make the content successful for the business.
The purpose of the content brief is to give instructions to content creators, distributors, and promoters that guide them through the creation, publication, and distribution process for marketing content.
Effective content planning is the way you make sure you consistently produce good content for your audience. Your content calendar and an agreed-upon content brief template are the two most important tools for turning your ideas into plans.
If the content calendar is the skeleton providing structure to your content strategy, then content briefs are the lifeblood of your content strategy.
Content briefs gather each element of content strategy into manageable projects, carrying the critical details of your content through your organization and on to becoming published and promoted pieces of content.
The two points of view in a content brief
I believe (and I’m assuming you do too) that a characteristic of great content is the singular focus on the intended audience. Yet, it is still hard to stay on track, keeping the audience first when it comes to marketing content.
A powerful content brief sets you up for success by explicitly including two points of view: one focused on the target audience and one used to express the needs of the business.
You need to understand your audience first for the content to be valuable. What are their needs? Their preferences? What themes will resonate with them that also matter to your company? and what they’re willing to pay for when it comes to the product or service your company is providing.
Second, on the business side, you need to state clearly the business objective of the content, which usually relates to how this content will help your audience move through the customer journey.
This video represents both the audience and the business points of view with a Venn diagram. By the way, check out where I placed the customer "journey stage" in the diagram– clearly on the business side.
Your customers do go on a journey, but the business is the one that cares about this journey. Your audience is much more concerned about their problems and getting their questions answered than where they are in the journey toward your product or service.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of a content brief template, let’s first look at content brief architecture so that you have a bird’s eye view for how the audience and business points of view come together in a brief.
The three major sections of a content brief include:
- Purpose: the purpose for the content
- Plan: the plan for how to construct the content
- Promotion: details to get your content into the hands of the consumers
The business objective should be clearly stated within the purpose section of the brief. This should include what the business wants to achieve through the content itself and should be something that can be measured. The purpose section should also declare the target audience and which customer journey stage the audience is in (i.e., awareness, consideration, conversion, retention, or advocacy).
Be sure to include a statement explaining how the content will help the audience in order to anchor the content to the audience’s perspective.
You may be creating the content yourself, or you may be passing the brief to someone else who will create the content. Either way, the more detailed the plan, the more likely you will be happy with the final product.
This gets back to the game of telephone. If someone is doing their best to create effective content, you can’t be upset at someone for doing something you didn’t tell them–or they didn’t understand–they couldn’t do. No one can read your mind so the best approach is to write down the most important details of the content plan. Then, you are both on the same page.
The plan section should include the specifics of how the content itself will be created. This includes details on the format, style, and even an outline of the piece.
The last part of a detailed content brief is the specifics for distributing and promoting the content. This includes the publication date, the primary channel where the content will be distributed, e.g., website, social media, email; promotion channels and timing, and the plan to recruit backlinks for the content.
Content Brief Templates
Great marketing content grows from great communication between you as the marketer and others in your organization. An agreed-upon content brief template elevates the execution of your content strategy by increasing the quality of communication.
You have other marketers inside or outside your organization that need a clear understanding of their role in creating and promoting the content. You also have team members in sales, customer success, and management (just to name a few) that are co-producers, distributors, and even consumers of your content.
Using narrative in content briefs
Plugging in details for new content into a standard template might feel too easy or too formulaic to be effective. But most great stories follow a few well-known patterns. The formula doesn't stop us from loving (and sometimes obsessing) over a new story well told.
Content marketing also follows principles that repeat from one piece of content to the next. That formula, brought to life by a person with a challenge and a plan to solve that challenge, is a compelling narrative.
Your content briefs must tell that story.
Sharing content briefs as narrative is one of the easiest ways to align your team and get everyone excited about the value of each piece of new content.
Content brief templates
Do you have a go-to content brief template or intake form?
Here is one that makes my life easier. The brief template connects my content to my audience and my business objective. The color-coded highlights show the missing details you fill out to complete the brief. The colors correspond to the three big elements of a content brief:
- Content purpose
- Content plan
- Content promotion
You can fill each item in the content brief template in order, Mad Libs style. You can also complete the purpose, plan, and promotion pieces of the content brief separately before bringing it all together.
You will spend more time creating content and less time on back-and-forth communication when you set a standard content brief template for your organization. Of course, you can go as deep as you like with each element of the content brief. The template acts as guardrails so you have the right amount of detail for your specific team.
Here is a 6-step template to guide a conversation between marketing and management to link the overall business goal to your content marketing activities.
Keep in mind, many elements of individual content briefs can be recycled from one brief to the next once you are aligned on the content strategy.
Content intake forms
Not all marketing content starts with the content marketer. Content requests from the sales team or others can bring fresh ideas for connecting with your audience. They can also be overwhelming when not managed.
Are ad hoc content requests common in your organization?
Consider adopting a content request intake form to handle all inbound content creation requests.
The content request intake form is a close cousin to the content brief. It will contain many of the same elements, however, it’s important to remember that the person filling out the intake form likely isn't an expert in marketing content. That said, the intake form should be short and easy to complete for the team members that most commonly request new content.
A good intake form achieves alignment around four items related to the new content:
- Business purpose
- The intended audience
- Content format
- Expected outcome
Following the four-step process outlined in this content intake form quick guide will standardize content requests. Documented content requests also make it easy to share the content backlog and align on content creation priorities.
Using Cobomba to shortcut content brief development
Content marketing is challenging and complex. It takes expertise, experience, and time to create content briefs that consider the factors that lead to successful marketing content such as:
- Target audience needs
- Customer journey
- Current content coverage
- Marketing analytics (current performance)
- Search trends
- Competitor content
Even with a consistent content brief format for your organization, a content brief is only as good as the input to it.
The difficulty to deliver effective content briefs is at the heart of the challenges I hear most frequently from content marketers. If I had a dime for every time I heard the following, I’d be rich!
- I struggle to know which content will be most meaningful to create next
- I don’t have time to research, create, and promote the desired volume of content
- I can’t get management to buy-in to my content strategy
Cobomba content briefs provide a standard content brief format where details are easy to add, edit, and share.
More importantly Cobomba briefs are delivered each month through a combo of AI+Human that considers important factors for each brief.
Cobomba knows what your customers are searching for, what content already exists, where you have content today, and how your content is performing. This content intelligence eliminates the guesswork on what content to create next, and it cuts the time required to get new content out the door.
You are not left on an island to do all the research yourself. The briefs you receive are designed to fill your content gaps for the themes important to your audience and across each stage of the customer journey. Data-driven briefs mean that the content you work hard to create works harder for your business.
The Benefits of Content Briefs:
Have you made a commitment to detailed content briefs at the start of your content marketing workflow? Creating a detailed content brief can feel like a bunch of work, but there isn’t a good alternative if you want to consistently deliver effective content.
If the commitment isn’t there yet for content brief creation, you need to ask yourself what areas of life are you willing to put in a little extra work to make it easier overall.
I’ve noticed that to park my car in the garage, I have to keep the garage cleaned up. Home improvement projects, bikes, balls, and kids’ skates all need to be put away to make room for the car. While this requires a bit of extra work, doing these small things on a daily basis means I rarely have a garage that needs a major makeover and life is better because the car is cooler in the summer and never needs snow or ice removed in the winter.
I’m guessing there is at least one part of your professional or personal life where you consistently do up front or maintenance work so that the desired result is easier to achieve. I’m also guessing that you have adopted a system that makes that hard thing a little easier so that you make sure it keeps happening.
This principle of simple disciplined work up front paying big dividends at the end applies to content marketing, as well.
- A good system makes brief creation simpler.
- A good brief makes content creation simpler.
- A good piece of content makes marketing easier.
- Good marketing makes life easier.
Effective marketing content
A powerful content brief outlines the purpose of the content from the perspective of the audience and includes the details necessary to make the effort successful for the business.
The purpose of most marketing content is to provide value to your target audience outside of the commercial relationship they may or may not (yet) be paying for. The content brief makes sure the purpose is achieved.
By including the purpose for the content in the content brief, marketers create the content the business needs.
Content briefs take time up front. But they enable the content creation process to be shortened mightily.
The brief reduces the time spent editing and reduces the number of rewrites. The brief speeds up the creative process for content creators by having much of the research in front of them from the start. Similarly, the topic, target audience, format, and style are spelled out.
Downstream marketing activities speed up when briefs are used. It is easy to share how a new piece of content fits into plans for demand gen, lead gen, and sales enablement.
Scalable content operations
Standard processes increase the overall content capacity for the organization. Everyone that touches content moves faster in their role when a standard content brief is used.
The brief saves time for the specific piece of content created. It also makes it easy to organize existing content, plan new content, onboard new team members, and share marketing activities with others.
Consistency across briefs means your quality will stay high and format and style will match expectations even as more individuals across the organization contribute to new content creation. Sharing content briefs in narrative format aligns your team and excites them with the value of each piece of new content.
Most marketers spend too much time researching the content they create and still end up guessing about what will work. Cobomba software uses AI to identify and then track every question your marketing content needs to answer. You receive new content recommendations every month so you create your content in a flash and attract customers to your company.
You can see for yourself. Request your free content audit today.