Creating a clear content brief – template

Avoid wasting time and money with a content brief. Sadhbh Warren talks getting outsourced projects done well.

I recently met a business owner who told me they were firing someone because they didn’t have time to tell them what to do.

The business owner – let’s call them Nic – had been employing a Virtual Assistant (VA) for months to update Nic’s business’s social media. Nic now wanted let the VA go because they felt they weren’t getting value for money.

When I asked a few questions, Nic admitted they weren’t giving the VA input and guidance – they weren’t telling them, and in fact Nic didn’t really know, exactly what they wanted.

As a writer, and project manager, I felt sorry for everyone involved. For the VA – because I’ve been in that situation you can’t achieve anything because you haven’t got any clarity, goals or consensus. And also sorry for Nic – who had wasted a lot of money!

The key to both working and outsourcing effectively is setting realistic goals and agreeing on the benchmarks for success. Nic didn’t know where to start – the whole project had been set up to fail from day one.

So what can you do?

To avoid wasting time and money, when you bring someone onboard you need a clear plan with measurable goals that matter. And for that, I suggest a project or content brief.

What is in a content brief?

So the idea of a brief goes by few names – project managers out there might call it a project charter or a project summary – but at its core it documents the why, what and how of something that needs to be done.

  • WHY – the business background, goals, why this project is needed
  • WHAT – the project’s deliverables, what it’s making
  • HOW – budget, timeline and people – how it gets done

In short, it’s useful from start to finish as you design and manage any content process.  

  • If you are working on the process yourself or with someone, it will be a touchstone to bring you back to base every time you consider working an aspect of the project – is this useful, is it working towards your goals?
  • If you bring someone in to work on the project it creates accountability and clarity throughout the project. You can manage and direct your outsourced resources to the brief.

Without clear goals you are setting yourself, and everyone, up to fail. It doesn’t have to take long – I usually manage to get everything I need for the content brief in a 20 minute Zoom – and it makes working together easy.

The benefits of a good briefing

Doing one makes you think about what the key aspects of the project are and lets you clarify the measurable goals,

You can use it as a job description when hiring talent, as well part of the contract refer back to when the deliverable is brought to you to see if it’s up to scratch.

Trends come and go but having a clear sight of goals lets you avoid being sucked in and positions you to take advantage when things are going right.

I’m a qualified project manager (a PMP, if you like to know the details) as well as a writer, and I won’t work without one.

So, where do you find one of these wonderful briefs?

Download our content brief template here

As digital marketing gets specialised, outsourcing to experts is a fast growing trend. But how do you get the most out if it? This content brief template is a good place to start – it lays out:

  • Background – why is the project needed
  • Goals – make them measurable
  • Scope – what needs to be done and what doesn’t
  • Time and budget
  • The key audience (and competitors and styles you like)
  • Optionally: where resources can be found; stakeholders; risks; assumptions and constraints.

General project management guidelines for content projects

  • DO think about value – what will this goal do for your business in real terms?
  • DON’T forget the cost of your own time, you can’t work in the business if you’re sending endless emails.
  • DO prioritise platforms – if resources are scarce, pick one and do it well before you go big.
  • DON’T try to be a team of marketeers.
  • DO create a good brief  – and don’t expect people to be mind-readers!

So, what are you waiting for? Download it, grab yourself a cuppa and get your project set up for success.

Want to know more? I presented a webinar on this last year – pop over to YouTube if you’d like to see a 15-min talk on priorities and how to outsource effectively. And good luck with your projects!