Content Creation Tools

The Creative Brief: An Insurance Policy for Developing Awesome Content

Ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach, without a list? Before you know it you’ve chucked healthy choices out the window, grabbed anything that looks good and blown your budget, only to find yourself with a pantry full of cheat day groceries and a guilty conscience.

Think of the creative brief as your shopping list. It provides a framework for your content plan, ensuring the creative team understands your goals and how to authentically represent your brand, voice and messaging. Like a shopping list, the brief describes what you want without dictating how to get there or the exact words to use. Without it, your compelling vision could wind up looking like the Supermarket Sweep of content rather than a coherent, on-point story.

Effective Creative Briefs Articulate Your Brand Attributes With Clarity and Assurance

In the documentary Briefly, John Boiler brilliantly defines the creative brief as, “nothing more than an open statement of ambition for a brand or a client… that can be put in any words you care so long as it communicates the passion and conviction of your aim.” No matter the format — blog post, website copy, infographic or eBook — this blueprint that explains the ins and outs of a project to your content creators also helps you shape your overall strategy and project goals.

Creative briefs should remind the writer for whom and why they’re writing the piece. Whether it stays minimized in the corner of the computer screen or sits on a desk, covered in coffee mug rings, experienced writers will keep your creative brief handy for quick reference.

So, what exactly should be included in a brief or summary?

We’re glad you’ve asked! We’ve navigated tons of on boarding processes and read hundreds of assignment summaries. Some have been amazing, others have been, well… threadbare. 

Before you start working on your creative brief, take time to carefully think through your project and objectives.

Use these sections as a guide to building your creative brief template. You can always tailor it later to suit your specific needs.

Client overview. Assume the writer knows nothing about your business. In a paragraph or two, address basic information about who you are and what you do or sell.

Value proposition. What is your unique selling point? Why are you valuable to your target audience and potential customers? What does your company offer to the world?

Goals. What are you trying to achieve with your content marketing strategy? You might have a few different goals for your content. Clarify whether your objectives are web traffic, more qualified leads, more nurturing of existing leads, more brand awareness or customer education. One of the most frequent questions our writers ask is: What will success in this project look like?

Audience. What is your intended demographic? Do you have a buyer persona — even a rough sketch of a buyer persona? What industries will the content project concentrate on? What sizes and kinds of companies do you want to attract? Within those companies, what roles do your prospective readers hold? Be as specific as possible.

Keep in mind, a creative brief for content marketing is NOT:

  • A piece of marketing in itself. Creative teams value clarity over catch phrases and jargon.
  • An assignment to a writer. It is background information to accompany an assignment.

Do writers want creative briefs? What do they want in them?

YES. Your creatives want briefs with clear, tightly-written objectives. I asked my tribe - high performing health writers who are fans of The Savvy Scribe Podcast to elaborate:

I like to know whether clients want internal or external links included. If they prefer references, it’s nice to know the preferred format and even better if they provide examples in a style guide. Melissa Mills

If there are specifics that need to be included, be sure to clearly state that. If the client wants you to take more creative liberties, say that too. Also, be sure to include the intended audience and reading level (depending on the project). Jessica Dzubak

I want to know the point of the assignment, what they are trying to get out of the work. Calls, website hits, clicks to a certain website, etc. Also, the keywords/points they are trying to hit.  Jodi Kastel McCaffrey

I like to see information on the degree of formality, style, and voice. If the client’s expectations don’t match the finished product, a writer could look “bad,” — even though they may have been able to deliver an appropriate piece if the guidelines had been more specific. Annie Donahue

I love to hear what success looks like from the client’s perspective. How do they measure success and will our writers have access to that feedback for continuous improvement? I like to see a plan for Q & A built into the work relationship. From pitching early ideas to clarifying elements of the RFP, it’s essential to set your creative team up for success by taking the time for input right upfront.  Carol Bush

Let’s review. Establishing a creative brief up front is a win-win because it:

  • Acts as a checklist to help you get crystal clear on what’s important to the project.
  • Serves as a streamlined way of making sure we have the most important information from both your marketing strategy and customers’ needs and wants to deliver the content you envision.
  • Helps us select the writer with specialized skills and training to deliver the best article for your audience.
  • Guarantees we’re all on the same page so there aren’t any surprises along the way.

Remember: Creative briefs guide WRITERS who are working to establish YOUR authenticity. That’s the whole point of working together!

Check Out Our Template!

Need a brief to get started? You can check out the original post for your own free copy of an editable template. A creative brief template helps you capture your vision, value, voice and customer profile and outline the kind of content you need.

I’m curious! In your experience as either a health writer or a content marketing director, “What’s the most important question a creative brief should answer (that it frequently doesn’t)?”

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