How to Prepare a Content Brief for Your Writers


Anand Srinivasan Founder of Hubbion

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

If you're looking to outsource content writing, it's vital that you communicate your requirements to your writers. So what should you include in your content briefs?

Article 6 Minutes
How to Prepare a Content Brief for Your Writers

As a marketer, and a business owner, I have outsourced hundreds of articles over the years. During this time, what I have come to realize is that hiring an amazing writer is only half the battle. The success of your content writing project depends, to a great extent, on how well you communicate your requirements to your writers.

In this article, I am going to take you through the exact steps I follow when I prepare a content brief for my writers.

Horses for courses

Hiring the right writer for your project can be tricky. This is because not all content is the same. Copywriters help with, well copy - for your ad, landing page, or even your newsletter. Bloggers can help with your company blog, or for your guest posts. In addition to this, you have writers who are specialists in writing ebooks, white papers, and so on.

When you look for writers, don’t just go by how good their written language is, look at their samples to see what kind of content they excel in.

But that’s not all.

Content research is a skill that not all writers possess. This article, for instance, comes directly from experience, no research skills required.

However, I outsource content on a variety of topics related to marketing, B2B business, health, to mention a few - and in my experience, what I’ve noticed is that writers who are good with research on one topic may not fare equally well when asked to write on another.

So, to sum this up - when you hire a writer, know exactly what you’ll be using them for. It’s okay to test them out on a number of different assignments. But once you figure out their strengths, make sure you make the best use of them.

This also helps with producing the right content brief. Some writers only need a little handholding. Others need extensive coaching. The topic plays a part as well since some topics only need minimal briefs while others require more detailed writeups.

Visual output and working backward

I use writers extensively to produce blog content that I submit as guest posts on various websites. In the early days of outsourcing, all I did was share the topic of the article with my writers. This, along with the guest posting guidelines of the destination website, was all that I gave my writers to work with.

Truth be told, it wasn’t too bad. However, the quality of output was pretty inconsistent. The same writer would produce a masterpiece one time, and what can only be called garbage other times.

I could never trust a writer to consistently produce great articles each time.

The reason this disparity exists is because the writer may not always see the complete picture. They may not really know what you have in mind. As the client, the onus is on you to communicate your vision to the writer.

Start with the headers - you don’t want to curtail your writers’ freedom by spoon feeding each section of the article. However, what you could do is draw up the direction that your article must take.

For instance, if you’re writing an article about “Instagram Marketing Mistakes”, your brief could include details on what you want the output to look like - should it be along the lines of “10 Instagram Marketing Mistakes You Should Avoid”, or case studies of different businesses that messed up their Instagram campaign, and lessons to draw from each of them?

There is a fine line between these two different approaches for the same topic, and communicating what exactly you’re looking for give the writer the guidance they need.

In addition to the headers, here are some other pointers that your brief should contain:

  • Guest post guidelines from the destination site (if this exists)
  • A general persona of your reader. Going back to the example of the article “Instagram Marketing Mistakes”, are you targeting a B2B marketer or a regular Instagram user?
  • Sample articles you want to emulate in terms of quality - for example, do you want the articles to have lots of screenshots and visuals? Should the article carry a conversational tone or an academic one?

Content briefs for other projects like for a landing page or ad can be different. In this case, you may want your writer to produce several variants for you to pick from. In such cases, your brief needs to contain the following details:

  • Brand guidelines (things you can and cannot say)
  • Tone (do you want a casual tone, a humorous one, or to establish yourself as an authority)
  • The exact value proposition you want to highlight
  • What is the call to action (do you want to sign the visitor up for your newsletter, or sell them a product?)
  • Past samples along with what worked, and what didn’t - tells the writer what they should emulate, and what they must steer clear of

Create a master guidelines document

With the benefit of hindsight, I can look at a lot of my past outsourcing projects to see exactly what went wrong, and where.

Oftentimes, these lessons can get buried over time, and this is exactly why you should create a master guidelines document. This is essentially a list of Do’s and Don’ts that each of your writers must adhere to while working on your project.

How do you go about creating one?

Well, to start with, look at the ‘Guest Posting Guidelines’ of top-tier websites to make a list of pointers you want from your own writers.

Then, keep updating this document with new pointers each time you notice an issue with any of your writers’ work, that you want all your other writers to fix as well.

One issue that may crop up here is that your regular writers may not always look into your guidelines doc each time they start writing. This means that any new pointers you’ve added may go unnoticed.

You can get around this by publishing the document as a webpage (hidden from search engines, of course), and using a tool like VisualPing that you subscribe all your writers to. That way, each time the document changes, all your writers get an email notification of the changes.

Don’t give up on your writers

Regardless of how good a job you’ve done with your briefs, you’ll always notice that writers stray. Training your writers is an important component of the job. Don’t ditch writers for simple errors, or one poor article. Training them to create the content that you’re looking for takes time. So keep sharing feedback on what you like, and what you don’t like with your content, and it won’t be long before they consistently produce top-quality work.

Anand Srinivasan

Anand is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of business tools and resources. 


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