Updated July 2022: You need to knock it out of the park with every piece of B2B SaaS marketing content you create. The best way to get the results you want is to kick off each project by filling out a content brief template that covers all of the standard elements, but also includes a few things you may not have considered before.
Here’s what we cover in this post:
- What is a content brief?
- What is a content brief template?
- Who should use a content brief template?
- Why are content brief templates so important?
- How do content brief templates fit into content marketing workflows?
- What should you include in a content brief template?
- What are some lesser known elements to include in a content brief template?
- How should you fill out a content brief template?
Here’s the content brief template we use with our customers. Make a copy and tweak it for your own needs.
What is a content brief?
A content brief is a document that outlines all of the expectations, requirements and suggestions for a writer as they set out to write a piece of content. It typically includes basic information like word count, topic and keywords to use, but it can also include more in-depth information like the goal of the content, who the audience is and a rough outline.
Unlike a quick conversation or messy meeting notes, a content brief is important because it provides a written record of what is expected from the content. It helps ensure everyone on your team is on the same page—especially if you’re working with an extended team via an agency or freelance writers.
What is a content brief template?
A content brief template is a reusable document that has predetermined sections outlining all of the pieces of information you need to include when creating a content brief. Having a template for your content brief will not only save you time, but it will also ensure you don’t forget to include any important elements.
Who should use a content brief template?
A content creation brief template is an invaluable tool for anyone involved in content creation. From the product marketer tasked with writing a post on the newest functionality to the vice president of marketing charged with creating an entire content strategy, content writing brief templates are useful at any level of your B2B SaaS business. Here are two roles that typically fill out content brief templates:
Marketing strategists are well-versed in keyword research, content strategy and planning. But their real superpower is understanding how to connect all the pieces of the content puzzle together to achieve specific business goals.
Using a content brief template allows marketing strategists to communicate all of their insights to the writer in a way that is easily digestible and actionable. It also provides the writer with a better understanding of how this particular piece of content fits into the broader strategy.
With a detailed and fully completed content marketing brief template to work from, the writer can create content that aligns with the content marketing strategy, performs better and requires less back-and-forth time with the editor.
Sometimes content projects don’t have dedicated strategists. And sometimes the only information provided to the writer is high-level information like “we need a blog post on the benefits of our product.”
In these cases, the writer should fill out the content marketing brief template and run the brief past the stakeholders to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Content brief templates also help set clear expectations for the piece of content and save a lot of time (and headaches) down the road.
Why are content brief templates so important?
Jumping into a content project without a fully fleshed out content brief template is a bit like baking a cake with no recipe. You might get lucky and end up with a great tasting cake, or you may end up with a hot mess.
Filling out a content writing brief template is critical to the content’s success for 3 reasons:
1. Prevent rewrites and reduce revisions
Content briefs help the whole content team align on what’s important. With a completed content marketing brief template, everyone can clearly see what’s expected, which is crucial for avoiding rewrites and multiple rounds of revisions, as well as getting approvals quickly.
2. Ensure all requirements are met
A content creation brief template acts as checklist for the content you’ll be creating, ensuring the writer doesn’t forget to include anything that’s needed for a comprehensive and useful piece of content.
3. Save time
With email, Slack, Trello, meetings and Google Docs, we have so many ways of communicating about our next piece of content that it can be difficult and time-consuming to find a specific piece of information. By collecting all the information into a content brief template, the entire team knows where to easily and quickly find the information.
How do content brief templates fit into content marketing workflows?
The content marketing workflow is cyclical, and the content writing brief template is arguably at the center of it all. Here’s a typical workflow:
Conduct research to figure out the content strategy and how content fits into the big picture.
Map out how specific pieces of content fit into the content plan and editorial calendar.
3. Content brief template
Fill out a template for every content item in your content calendar. The brief is the critical link between your research and planning—and the actual content creation.
Refer to the content brief continually while executing on the content.
Use the content brief as a checklist when reviewing the content to make sure all critical information is included.
Keep an eye on the content brief when publishing the content to ensure that the keywords are fully optimized.
What should you include in a content brief template?
A content brief template should include all the elements necessary to produce great content. Here are 8 basic components every content creation brief needs:
Provide a working title for the piece of content so everyone knows how to refer to the project.
When is the draft due and when will the content be published?
What is the goal of the content? What are you hoping this content will achieve?
4. Buyer’s journey
What stage in the buyer’s journey is our reader? Awareness, consideration, decision?
Who is your target audience? Why would they want to read this content? What’s in it for them?
Clearly describe the topic you’d like the piece to cover. Are there any specific angles you’d like the writer to explore?
What type of content is it? For example, blog post or ebook? What’s the word count? Any specific formatting considerations?
Provide any templates, style guides, key messaging documents or background information that could be helpful to the writer.
What are some lesser known elements to include in a content brief template?
Take your content from basic to brilliant by adding these 5 unexpected elements to your content creation brief:
1. Emotional outcome
As a B2B SaaS marketer, you already know the aim of your content, but do you know how you want people to feel after they read one of your blog posts? How about relief or excitement that they finally have a solution to a problem that’s been nagging them? This is the emotional outcome. Get clear on this in your content creation brief and you’ll forge a strong connection with your audience.
2. Big picture
Craft your content brief with your company’s greater purpose in mind.
The well known example from author Simon Sinek explains how Apple markets its products—not as user-friendly computers or smartphones, but as part of a bigger picture that centers around challenging the status quo.
For many SaaS companies, their ‘why’ could involve disrupting old patterns and breaking down barriers so people can work more efficiently and with greater impact. Make sure your content creation brief reflects your company’s ‘why’.
3. Competitive analysis
Include a few links to your competitors’ content in your writer’s brief to give a sense of what other companies in your industry are doing well—and not so well—in their blog posts and ebooks. This is one of the best ways to ensure your content stays sharp and fills in any missing gaps in information.
The most engaging and effective content tells a story. So, when developing a content brief, plot out the story that you want the content to tell. Like any good narrative, it should have a beginning, middle and end. For example, highlight a problem and describe how it’s challenging an industry. Then provide thought leadership on how to solve the problem.
5. Performance expectations
The content brief isn’t just a way to outline what information the content should include. It’s also a chance to share your enthusiasm and ambition for the content—and inspire the writer. Is the goal to publish the definitive guide to a subject? Spell that out. Let the writer know you’re confident that you can achieve this together.
Here’s the content brief template we use with our customers. Make a copy and tweak it for your own needs.
How should you fill out a content brief template?
Now that you know what sections to include in your content marketing brief template, you’re ready to fill it out. Here are 4 things to keep in mind as you fill out a content brief template:
1. Be clear and concise
The goal of the content brief is to provide clear instructions to the writer so that they can produce content that meets your expectations. For this to happen, you need to be as specific as possible about what you want—and just as importantly, what you don’t want.
2. Know your audience
Your target audience should be at the front of your mind when you’re filling out the content brief template. Every decision you make, from the topic to the tone of voice, should be based on what will resonate with them.
3. Set realistic expectations
It’s important to set realistic expectations for both you and the writer. If you’re unrealistic about deadlines, word counts or the level of detail you expect in the final piece, it will only lead to frustration on both sides.
4. Be flexible
While it’s important to be specific about what you want, it’s also important to be open to new ideas and perspectives. The best content is often the result of a collaborative effort between you and the writer, so be prepared to put your own preconceptions aside and let the writer take the lead.
Start using content brief templates for your next project
Having a clear and concise content brief will save you time and frustration in the long run—and ensure that the final product is exactly what your team wants. Once you’ve created a content brief template that works for your team, you can use it over and over again for all your future projects. Fill in the blanks with the specific details of each project, and you’ll be well on your way to producing great content that achieves your goals every time.
This is the sixth post in a 7-part series on how to find and work successfully with your next SaaS writer.
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Originally published March 3, 2020. Updated July 5, 2022.