Content Brief
January 28th 2020

What Is a Content Brief?

A content brief is a document created that compiles all the information a content creator needs to execute a piece of content. Usually it’s created by a content strategist or editorial manager. The best content briefs seamlessly combine editorial direction and content strategy to ensure every piece of content is both well-written and primed to drive SEO results. 

Every company has its own way of creating content briefs, and there are many valid approaches. In our experience, however, we’ve noticed that many content briefs fail to hit the sweet spot between providing solid editorial guidance and correct SEO requirements. Some briefs are full of important editorial guidelines, with little in the way of SEO insights. Others give the writers title tags and meta descriptions, linking recommendations and anchor text, and of course, the dreaded keyword list, but fail to provide useful editorial direction. 

Going too far in either direction will hamper your content marketing efforts. Well-written content is crucial, but without an eye on how it fits into the wider SEO and content marketing strategy, it will not drive the results your stakeholders need to see. Go too heavy on the SEO, and you have content that reads like “SEO content,” which will not serve your user experience or, increasingly, the search engines themselves. 

A genuinely great content brief will seamlessly combine editorial and brand guidelines, your vision for a specific piece of content, and a roadmap for the comprehensive topical coverage that search engines are looking for in the world of semantic search.

It’s important to note that a content brief has some notable differences from what is known as a “creative brief.” Creative briefs have many of the same goals as content briefs, but the former is much broader in its application than the latter. As NewsCred noted, a creative brief does not apply to one specific deliverable. It can lay out the creative and brand requirements for anything from landing page copy and social media posts to video production and graphics and beyond. 

A content brief can certainly include some of those elements. Still, in most cases, it is specific to written content that typically takes the form of a blog post, long-form article, product/category page, product review, and so on.

How Content Briefs Improve Content Marketing Efforts

Most content strategists have felt the frustration of seeing a piece of writing come back from a writer or editor and finding that it doesn’t align with the big picture. From the writer’s perspective, the frustration comes when rewrites are requested due to insufficient direction from the start. 

The content brief, when done correctly, can alleviate – if not eliminate – these miscommunications and the constant back-and-forth that often comes with content creation

Content briefs improve content marketing efforts by ensuring that whoever is executing a piece of written content is fully aligned with the goals of the specific campaign and content marketing strategy at a high level. This is crucially important if you are trying to scale up your content production and have several writers and content creators working on different projects. Briefs give content strategists and leaders a way to get quality output at scale, which is how you build a foundation for consistent results. 

Content is an investment. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your time and budget, you can’t afford to leave the entire direction of even a single piece of content to the discretion of individual content creators. They may not grasp the “why” behind what they’re doing. 

A good brief should give writers everything they need to understand the following:

  • The target audience and buyer persona
  • The brand messaging, tone, and voice 
  • Where the content fits in the marketing funnel
  • The questions the piece of content should answer
  • Internal and external linking guidance
  • The related topics that must be covered for comprehensiveness
  • Title and subheading suggestions

By aligning these data points to your content strategy, you can confidently publish a piece of content, knowing how it maps to your goals.

How content briefs fit into content marketing workflows

We see the content marketing workflow as cyclical:

Content marketers and SEOs conduct research to determine the content strategy and how editorial content fits into that big picture. Following the research phase, specific content items are mapped out into content plans and scheduled out on a content calendar. From there, writers can start executing on the content. This is where briefing comes in

Each content item on your content calendar should have a brief associated with it to ensure that it is executed in accordance with your strategy and is primed to drive results – organic traffic, social reach, and better performance throughout the content funnel.

In short, the content brief is the critical link between your research and planning and the actual content creation. 

Getting the content briefs right will make everything that comes after much easier and more impactful. Better briefs give writers everything they need to knock a piece of content out of the park while spending less time doing supplemental research. That means less time spent editing and optimizing copy. It results in higher quality content that can fuel promotion and grow your reach. 

Briefing is arguably the most critical step in the workflow, and the briefs are a vital tool that gives SEO, content strategy, and creative teams a way to work together effectively and efficiently.

Manual vs. AI-Generated Content Brief Templates

The process of building content briefs has historically been a manual process for content strategists. Even with a template, however, content briefs can take anywhere from 1-4 hours to complete properly. 

The process generally involves using tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to find “focus” keywords and related keywords to be incorporated in some form in the piece of content. From there, the content marketer needs to determine the audience or buyer personas, the objectives of the content, the style guide, the desired word count, external and internal links, and anything else pertinent for successful deliverables. 

And this is just for one piece of content. As you might imagine, this does not scale very well when you try to ramp up content production. Even if you outsource this process to an SEO or content marketing agency, you’re still on the hook for ensuring that all of your content briefs are up to the standard you’ve set.

Contrast this approach with what you would get with AI-generated content briefs. With an AI-generated content brief, all of the pertinent information is automatically gathered and organized in a repeatable, reliable way. Rather than spending hours each week building briefs by hand, you can spend more time on research that drives the strategy, finding optimization opportunities, and reporting on growth. 

AI-generated content briefs will provide everything a writer needs in a fraction of the time it takes to prepare a brief by hand. More importantly, they take the guesswork and human judgment out of the essential parts of a brief.

For example, a MarketMuse Content Brief contains the following data points generated by our AI:

  • Title and subtitle suggestions
  • User intent of the specific piece of content relative to the topic
  • The audiences the content needs to speak to
  • Semantically related topics that give writers a roadmap to be comprehensive without stuffing keywords into content.
  • Internal and external linking suggestions that are topically relevant but not competitive with your content.
  • The questions that should be answered in a piece of content – especially important now that Google is focused on answering user questions
Partial screenshot of a MarketMuse content brief.
Click to see this MarketMuse Content Brief.

In addition to being a potent mix of editorial and SEO guidance, MarketMuse Content Briefs can be produced at scale to match your current and aspirational content cadence. Once they are created, you can provide access to your writers or send them a shareable link if they are outside your organization. 

MarketMuse content briefs also facilitate execution. Each brief has a built-in version of our Optimize application, which allows writers to track their progress as they write and include important related topics in the content. 

Screenshot of MarketMuse Content Brief showing optimize application.

Understanding the importance of content briefs is the first step to using them effectively in your content marketing efforts. If you’re looking to ramp up production without sacrificing quality or gambling on the ability of your content to rank well and gain traffic, Ai-generated content briefs are an indispensable asset. 

Camden Gaspar

Written by Camden Gaspar camden_gaspar