What Is a Creative Brief and How Do You Write One?

If you’ve recently moved up the corporate ladder into a content lifecycle management position, you need to become comfortable writing effective creative briefs. If this is the first time you’ve written a creative brief, we’re here to help. Learn how to write a killer creative brief with some tips from the content nerds here at DivvyHQ.

Keep a Set of Guidelines to Follow

Since many management roles in content marketing come up through the ranks of the creative staff, you might be familiar with creative briefs from being on the other side of the picture. If that describes you, you probably have some strong opinions about what information a creative brief should contain.

But no matter how experienced you are in following a brief (and if you’re like most of us, kvetching about it if it isn’t crystal clear), it never hurts to have some guidelines to refer to when it comes to creating your own briefs. And, if you’re not familiar with the creative process, you’ll need to keep that set of guidelines close by as you get comfortable with writing briefs.

Remember, you’re drawing up a written roadmap to guide your creatives from the first germ of an idea to publication. So, access to a content management platform where you can access your content calendars, strategy, production schedules, workflows, and more can give you added insights into the process.

Here are some foolproof guidelines to help you create briefs that will put a smile on your creative teams’ faces:

First, Choose a Topic That You Can Align with Your Corporate Goals

If your corporate leadership hasn’t clearly communicated their goals, you need to start there. If documentation is lacking, sit down with them and determine how content might play a role in moving your organization forward. If you can’t meet in person, dash off a quick message to ask them about their overall goals. It’s essential that your content topics align with those objectives.

Once you’ve consulted the top brass, brainstorm ideas around those objectives. For instance, if your company wants to sell more of their high-end basketball shoes, you could choose a topic like “Hone Your Vertical Leap with These Pro B-Ball Tips,” including tips on choosing the right kicks to enhance your jumping power.

As HubSpot’s Basha Coleman advises, include a descriptive sentence to guide your content teams on the right track. For the above example, under “Topic,” you could write the following:

“Hone Your Vertical Leap with These Pro B-Ball Tips: Include tips on choosing shoes that enhance a player’s jumping ability.”

Jot Down Your Focus Keyword or Keywords

Generally, valuable content zeroes in on a specific problem. That means that your content must laser-focus on that problem and its solution.

Specifying your focus keywords helps your teams narrow down their content to provide value to your audience without distracting readers with tangential issues.

Set Your Goal

Next, list the goal you want the content to achieve. For example, if your corporate leadership wants to increase sales by 10% in the next quarter, you would list “Drive a purchase decision” as the objective you want to accomplish with this piece.

Providing your content teams with that information allows them to structure the storyline toward what you want it to accomplish – from the intro to the call to action.

Describe Your Target Audience

To be effective, your content teams need to know your target audience’s demographics, interests, and pain points. Listing the market segment you want to reach empowers your creatives to focus their content on those issues.

If you have a buyer persona for that market segment, include it in your brief. If not, create one and keep it on your content calendar for future reference. Be sure to include the stage of the customer journey you’re aiming for so that your content teams can tailor the content to prospects at that stage.

For example, the target audience for our fictional athletic shoe company could be “Joe Jock,” a fairly well-heeled male junior high school through college player whose ambitions lie in making the NBA someday. His parents will pay whatever it takes to make his dream come true.

Your teams would know, then, that his parents wouldn’t balk at the price, so they could leave budget out of the conversation. Instead, they’d want to stress the boost in performance the right shoes would give the wearer.

Whatever customers you want to tailor your content to, note the main benefit you want your content to provide to its audience. Whether it’s an increased vertical leap or inside knowledge about how to cut costs in manufacturing, make sure to state that benefit to your content teams.

Analyze Your Competitors and Key Differentiators

Provide your teams with insights about what sets your brand and products apart from their competitors. Likely, long-time team members will be familiar with this information, but there are always new developments that they might not be aware of.

Secondly, recent hires and outsourced talent will likely appreciate this information. It’ll save them time – time better spent on quality content production.

State What You Want to Prove

If you want your creative teams to take the topic in a specific direction, specify that direction in your brief. For experienced creative team members, this statement can be as short as a single sentence. Outsourced talent or new employees, though, might need a brief outline to help guide their thought process.

In addition, include any questions you want your content to answer. Most prospects search for answers to questions they have about your topic, whether to satisfy their curiosity or search for a solution to a problem.

Be sure to direct your teams to answer those questions. Not only will doing so give your audience a better experience, but it will also boost your chance of landing on top of search results, thanks to the rise of natural-language searches.

Specify the Tone, Voice, and Point of View You Want Your Content to Have

Even though you might have – and should have – brand style guidelines readily available for your content teams, you’ll want to tailor each piece of content to its audience and its purpose.

For example, a white paper that explains how your company’s new machine saves manufacturers time and money should take on a more objective tone, while a video that shows how easy it is for your prospect’s workers to use might connect better with a more casual approach.

In this section, provide your teams with a link to your brand guidelines. Keeping them on your content platform makes it easy for your creatives to access your guidelines without needing to open another tab or window.

Include the Responsible Person(s) and the Deadline

Set your publication deadline and work backward to determine interim deadlines, such as when the first draft and final revisions are due and when approvals from your editorial, compliance, and legal teams will be due.

Next, choose the person or team who will be responsible for the content, who will lead the team, and then notify them. Be sure to indicate that you’ll be available to answer any questions about the brief.

Share Other Pertinent Details

Depending on the type of content and your teams’ experience and familiarity with your content workflow, you might need to include other details, such as:

  • Suggested calls to action: Most experienced in-house creatives are familiar with what kinds of calls to action work with your target audience. However, if you’re working with outsourced talent or new hires, you might want to include some suggestions they can use.
  • Publication plan and specific requirements for various channels: If you want to publish links to your blog posts or other content on social media, your teams will need to tailor their posts to each platform’s character and word count requirements. Similarly, if you plan to publish an article in a magazine, include a link to the magazine’s style guide.
  • SEO metadata: If you want your content teams to include meta tags for content that goes on your website, state the ones they need to create.
  • Visual assets you want the content to include: Indicate whether you want your teams to source visuals from the internet, create their own visuals, or reuse owned visual assets you’ve stored in your digital asset management system.
  • Content collaboration suggestions: If the content you’re assigning requires technical expertise or information from other external teams, like customer support or sales, you can provide your teams with a list of people who would prove to be valuable resources for content collaboration.

Now, all you need is a content marketing platform that allows you to build your own customized briefs – content request forms – right on the same space your teams will use to create content. And if the platform enables you to plan content enterprise-wide, so much the better for collaboration and other joint efforts.

Instant visibility for everyone involved in the content production process can speed up the creative process while ensuring top-quality work.

DivvyHQ gives you all those advantages – and so many more. But don’t take our word for it. You can try it for 14 days for yourself – absolutely free. Start your free trial today!