All successful projects start with a brilliant brief. Well, at least, they all should. Although briefs are used for most projects across the comms spectrum, when it comes to content creation, it seems a brief is not often thought to be necessary. But when it comes to getting the best out of your content creator – and therefore the best content for your business – I believe creating a comprehensive brief is essential.
We are bombarded with content all day, every day. So it’s never been more important to be telling impactful, interesting, human stories which engage people, touch their emotions and make them want to take action in some way. Yet less focus is given to ensuring that content – a hugely important “owned” platform for businesses – is utilised in the best way possible.
So, here are my top tips for writing a brilliant brief for your writers to ensure content success:
Tell them what you want them to write
This may seem obvious but is nearly always missed in a brief for writers as it’s assumed they “know” what they need to write. We don’t! We know how to write, but you know what you want, and a brief will help you convey it.
You need to start by assuming the writer knows nothing. You may have hired someone with a particular area of expertise such as mine – health and science. But, if they don’t work for your company, it’s safe to assume they will not have the same intricate knowledge as you do about your business goals and communications objectives. And they need this information in order to write an accurate and thorough piece for you.
Before I start writing there are six fundamental pieces of information I must know:
o What am I writing about?
o What’s the hook?
o Who is the audience?
o What is the purpose of the piece?
o Is there a Call To Action?
o What is the word count?
So an ideal basic brief could start by saying: “To mark XX awareness day, we would like a 1,000-1,200-word article showcasing our work in this area to raise awareness and drive conversations among patients and healthcare professionals, highlighting that we’re a leader in the field. We want people to spend time on the page and engage on social media.”
Tell them the context
It’s always helpful to understand where the article is going to be published – internally, externally, on the company website, on LinkedIn. And what else – if anything – is being done or written or created (video? animation?) to either accompany the article or be running at the same time as part of a wider comms package. It’s also helpful for a writer to know what else you have written on the topic before whether recently or some time ago.
For example: “This article will be published on X section of our website and be promoted on social media. A video has been created to run alongside it. Articles to support this awareness day previously are (paste URLs).”
Tell them the key information you want included
Most pieces of content are commissioned to highlight a certain topic or capability or to show thought leadership in a particular area – or often all three. Key messages will have been (or should have been!) developed as part of a comprehensive communications strategy. Share all necessary company and comms information in the brief so the writer knows what you would like to include. Great writers can seamlessly weave these into a piece of content without it being corporate message-laden claptrap.
For example: “Here is our X Awareness Day communications approach, our corporate key messages about this topic, the specific area we want to focus on, key points we would like to make and some extra background information which might be helpful.”
Tell them what else you have
When do you need the piece by (particularly important if tied to awareness day as per my example above)? Who can be interviewed for the piece? Send them names, titles, email addresses and telephone numbers. Have any interviews been done and recorded? Send them the transcript. Are there case studies you want to include? Again – send contact details or transcripts of any interviews. If there are any other assets you have that could help or visuals you would like to include – it all helps feed a writer’s imagination.
For example: “We have X leader, Y scientist and Z patient for you to quote in the article. They have all been interviewed and transcripts will be provided but if you need further information, interviews can be arranged. These are the images we would like to include but feel free to make further suggestions.”