How to Create a Stellar Content Brief (FREE Template)

How to Create a Stellar Content Brief (FREE Template)

Every content manager we’ve spoken to has one issue with production: terribly written first drafts.

Does this sound familiar to you? Then you’re not alone. It boils down to a lack of standardized content production processes.

The production process is tedious, and that only worsens if you don’t have the right systems in place. To avoid this, create a solid content production workflow, and incorporate a key ingredient to set your strategy into motion: the content brief.

Content briefs act as a reference point for your content team. It helps you streamline the production process by giving context on what’s being written and why. But creating effective content briefs can be overwhelming—especially if it’s your first time.

To help you cross that bridge, we’ll show you how to create a high-quality content brief and how you can create one quickly.

What is a content brief, and why should you bother with them?

Content briefs are a document that helps you to develop high-quality, targeted content that will engage and inform your target audience. These typically include information on the buyer persona, talking points for the content, internal messaging or style guides, and additional notes for the team. It’s impossible to create a 10/10 piece without a well-defined brief.

Content briefs are a way to ensure quality while scaling content velocity. I look at them as part of the ‘mise en place’ of a content marketing kitchen. If you’re just one writer/strategist ‘cooking a meal,’ you can go rogue and cook by feel. If you need to ship hundreds of high-quality meals every night, tools like content briefs help standardize that production cadence.

While most people use it for search engine optimized (SEO) content, you can create it for any content asset—as long as you have all the right information. Here are a few more reasons why you should invest resources in creating a brief:

Gives you a goal-post of what “successful” content looks like

They serve as an essential roadmap for writers and reviewers, delineating the precise goals and expectations for a given piece of content.

Since I work exclusively with freelance writers, I can’t trust them to understand Solink’s brand, our product, or the market in general. There’s a saying that goes something like ‘If you don’t give good directions, then a writer will always deliver—just not necessarily what you want.’ Content briefs are crucial so writers understand exactly how I want an article to look, where in the funnel it sits, who is going to read it, and what SEO-focused means to me.

It saves you unnecessary email or Slack tennis by providing all the information upfront—and giving agency to the writer to stitch the piece together.

Helps you set your content strategy into motion

Focus on choosing the right topics and angles and breaking down your high-level strategy into manageable chunks. Each brief ties back to a specific goal and KPI, ensuring that it’s aligned with the overall goals and vision of the brand.

Dave Shanley, CEO & Founder of Content Camel says that this contributes to the power of expectation setting. “People are working from the same context. We fundamentally believe that there are a gazillion micro decisions that people make. The more context people have driving towards the end destination gets you better output.”

Plus, having individual briefs for each content piece allows for easier management of the production process. You know precisely what has been worked on, is being worked on, and needs to be worked on.

Why do you need a content brief?

You need a content brief to help your production team for several reasons. Here are a few:

Provides context to the writer for execution

By clearly specifying essential elements such as target audience, goals, business-specific data, and potential pitfalls to avoid, content briefs allow writers to tailor their work to address the precise needs and expectations of the intended reader.

Gone are the days of aimlessly writing whatever strikes your mind—that’s journaling. Content must be straightforward and follow a logical flow for readers. Outlines also help writers by front-loading a lot of the research and main takeaways for them.

And this is true. Your writers will know what _you _need and can do an excellent job delivering on your expectations. They’ll know what to include and what not to include—saving time for both—the writer and the reviewer.

Serves as a roadmap for large content pieces

When you review your content briefs, you should get a high-level overview of your current content strategy. This is crucial because it can act as a roadmap for larger pieces.

Jack Williams, Lead Content Developer at Mackasey Howard Communications, agrees. He says, “I think content briefs are necessary because they serve as a living record of which approaches and strategies have worked for us. It allows us to give new writers an effective roadmap to understand our clients' voices and preferences, which minimizes back-and-forth and helps them integrate into our workflow more quickly.”

For instance, if you have content briefs for blog posts, you can decide which briefs can be combined and modified to create one for an ultimate guide—or something along those lines. It’s handy for more extensive marketing campaigns, long-form assets, and even for curating an internal linking strategy.

Ensures that timelines are met at all times

When you’re working with freelance writers, this is a huge issue. They either send a well-researched piece too late or turn in a messy first draft by the deadline. If you’re dealing with this issue regularly, it’s probably a communication issue on your end. When you create a content brief, mention the turnaround time and the exact date to avoid missed deadlines.

It ensures that you can confidently delegate tasks, and the writer knows what’s expected of them. As a result, your production timelines aren’t impacted, and everything sails smoothly.

Saves you time and money during production

Time is of the essence—and this is particularly true when you’re publishing several multichannel assets each week.

According to Maeva Cifuentes, CEO & Founder of Flying Cat Marketing, briefs are crucial to receiving homogenous results across a pool of writers. “Without briefs, there’s far too much variation, too much back and forth between the strategist, editor, and writer, and you’re likely to have to spend more time and money rewriting a piece to get it where it needs to be,” she says.

With content briefs in place, you reduce the overload on writers, editors, and strategists—leading to a better output from the outset.

How do content briefs fit into the content marketing workflow?

When activating your content strategy, it’s essential to have a well-thought-out plan in place to guide your efforts. This is where a content brief comes into play. Since it’s critical to production, here are a few ways in which it helps you:

  • Aligns the team with the content objectives: It ensures that everyone involved in the content creation process understands the project’s primary goals. The brief helps clearly define the objectives and ensures they align with the overall content marketing strategy and business goals.
  • Preempts problems and knowledge gaps: You can identify potential roadblocks, gaps, and open questions that typically crop up during the writing process. By addressing these issues upfront, your team can work more efficiently, avoiding last-minute surprises that could derail the project.
  • Enhances content quality: A brief serves as a blueprint for your content, ensuring the final piece adheres to the desired tone, style, and messaging guidelines. It guides content creators to tailor their work to the intended audience, ultimately increasing the chances of achieving the desired outcome: whether it’s to inform, educate, entertain, or convert.
  • Streamlines the approval process: When stakeholders clearly understand the project goals and expectations from the beginning, the approval process becomes quicker and more efficient. It saves time and resources and keeps the entire content marketing workflow on track, ensuring your team meets their deadlines and objectives.

How to make an excellent SEO content brief

Before you start the brief creation process, you need to know what to include in the first place. While some content managers provide short briefs that include the topic, keyword, word count, and CTA, others have a detailed prescriptive brief to guide the writer’s process.

Anthony Marovelli, Head of Content at Beam Content, says that most briefs contain the “what” but lack the “why” and “who.” He likens it to providing the ingredients to a recipe but not the instructions to make the dish. According to him, the anatomy of an exception brief starts with three big ideas:

  • Who do we want to consume this content?
  • Why should they read it?
  • What do we want them to think, feel, and do once they consume it?

If your brief doesn’t answer these questions, here’s what you should include to ensure it does:

Goal of the piece

How does this piece fit into your entire content strategy? Most companies either mention the level of awareness (TOFU/MOFU/BOFU) or leave it at that. But if you include aspects like “To drive signups” or “To assist sales teams during prospect conversations,” it adds more context for the writer. Based on that, they can adapt the tone and language of the piece too.

Target audience

Who is this meant for? Ideally, you’ll have an ideal client persona (ICP) document where you can pinpoint who it’s intended for. If you don’t, mention who it’s meant for and be as specific as possible. For instance, “Head of Content at a mid-market enterprise” or “Chief Technical Officer at a B2B organization that caters to the European market.”

Topic cluster

If you have an existing topic cluster on this topic, link it so that your writers can pull internal links from the cluster or even get some additional background information on how you’re executing this cluster.

Word count

While word count is highly dependent on the keyword and depth of the article, it’s best to include it so that the writer knows how to structure their sections. It’ll also help you during the budgeting process.


Include the primary and secondary keywords that the writer needs to sprinkle in the copy. Here, you can also include a link to an SEO tool for optimization like SEMRush, Clearscope, and Frase.

Search intent

What is the user looking to answer? While the writer can do their due diligence and figure it out independently, you can plug in your brand’s angle and POV here to create an article that stands out.


Some managers prefer providing the titles based on their SERP analysis, while others prefer that the writers provide them with three or more optimized title options.

Do you already have certain websites or pages you want to link to? Include that in the brief. This is particularly useful if you’re working with a writer unfamiliar with linking practices or your overall strategy.

Anchor text

If you want to get more detailed and specific with your linking requirements, add the text the writer should hyperlink to. For example, if you’re linking back to an article on content marketing examples, “content marketing examples” or “content strategy examples” could be the anchor text.

Messaging/style guidelines

Stjepan Habazin, Head of Outreach at Crown Digital Marketing, says, “The biggest challenges I’ve faced throughout the years are adhering to the brand messaging properly, the narrative of the content. Is it aimed at the right buyer personas and fitting context depending on the sales/marketing funnel? These are just a few crucial points that I found need to be included because if something’s missed on one of these points, then the content won’t fit, let alone convert.”

So, include a link to this document. If you don’t have one, _create one as soon as possible. _It’ll help your writer nail the TOV much more easily.

Product features/use cases

Are you writing briefs for a software product? Include specific product features or use cases that you’d like to mention in the article. If the writer is familiar with your product, they might take the initiative to do that themselves, but if you like to err on the side of caution—it’s best to include them yourself. Don’t forget to give them access to the product so they can take screenshots/videos independently.

Call to action (CTA)

If you have a specific CTA you’d like to include based on previous A/B tests, then mention it. Or else you can always ask the writer to create one based on what action you’d like the user/reader to take.

Meta tags

This includes the article’s meta title, H1 tag, and meta description. You can always leave space for it so that your writers can provide this information, and your managers can access it while uploading the article.

Competing articles

A list of three to five competing articles helps the writer know what you’re looking for in terms of depth and technicality.

Writer/editor checklist

When there’s SO much to account for during the writing and editing process, it always helps to add a checklist at the top of the brief to help writers turn in work that actually meets the brief. You can include aspects like on-page SEO elements, messaging requirements, angles, keywords, links, and more to cross off before submission.

Additionally, depending on your process, you can include points like deadlines, questions from the writer, subject matter experts to interview, and more.


When crafting a stellar content brief, one question has content creators and clients divided: should an outline be provided in the brief, or should it be left up to the writer to create their own?

Some content strategists argue that providing an outline can help set the writer on the right path, resulting in a more cohesive final product. Ben Pines, Director of Content at Wordtune, says that it allows writers to understand why the article was commissioned in the first place. And this is true. The starter outline gives a better look at how the brand’s point of view (POV) can be incorporated and what direction your writers are supposed to take.

On the other hand, some strategists believe it can be overly restrictive and hinder the writer’s creative process. Every content creator has their unique style and thought process, and by providing a set outline, you may stifle their ability to produce engaging content. The argument is that giving too much direction upfront could end up with a cookie-cutter piece that lacks that all-important element of originality.

Striking a balance between guidance and freedom is the key. Offer a starter outline that provides the general structure you’d like addressed. This gives the writer a launching pad for their creativity while ensuring the content stays on the message.

Free Content Brief
Content Briefs are critical to success

Ready to get started? Download our FREE content brief template here to hit the ground running 👉🏽 Content Brief

Create content briefs to put your strategy into motion

Content briefs are the essential foundation for any successful content marketing program. Too often, content teams underestimate the importance of having a clear and thorough content brief, but it’s critical for success. Without it, organizations risk wasting time and energy creating unfocused content, being off-brand, and having no clear direction.

While creating a brief can take one to two hours, depending on what you include in the brief, it’ll save you hundreds of hours in the future. Plus, you get a high-level overview of your strategy without wondering if you’ve covered a specific angle or keyword.

Start a free trial of Content Camel today if you’re looking for a tool to manage your content briefs and executed assets.

Not there yet? Sign up for our newsletter instead to access curated best practices in the industry to manage your content internally.