How to Write a Content Brief (with Content Brief Template!)


notepad on multicoloured background


26 min read

It all begins with a content brief.

The statement above can be used to answer all kinds of questions relating to how you can create effective content that gets you and your business noticed by the relevant audiences.

But how do you write a content brief exactly? One that maps out what you hope to achieve and what it is you want exactly.

That’s the question.

Not to worry, Canny has you covered.

We’re going to be going over what to include in your content briefs amongst other key bits of info. Everything you should need when learning how to write a content brief of your own and then some!

If you’ve yet to check out any of the other brief posts on the Canny blog, we’ve covered:

If any pique your interest, then be sure to check those out.

For now though, let’s keep things solely focused on content.

In this post you will find everything you need to plan, write, and deliver quality content. We’ll also be answering some popular questions along the way, such as:

Who should write a content brief? And, what tips should I be aware of when forming my own brief?

Oh, and we’ll also be touching on some content brief examples to give you a better idea of what your brief could look like.

Let’s begin.

What is a Content Brief?

A content brief is a document made to outline what it is you want, complete with information that steers writers (or other parties involved) in the right direction based on your own specifications.

Brief formats tend to do a lot of the same thing on paper, only content briefs tend to be a lot more specific — they aren’t as broad as you might expect.

SEO-led content marketing can’t work effectively without detailed foresight, that’s for sure. We know that from experience, having completed hours of keyword research ahead of putting together an effective content brief.

A content-optimised brief format is a lot more detailed than you might think.

And it needs to be, as content can have multiple interpretations depending on who’s reading your briefs.

It’s not a case of giving writers a bullet point list and telling them to have at it. You could totally do that, by the way. Just don’t expect the content you get back to be usable or anything…

There’s quite a lot to consider, and it’s all influenced by the ‘why’ behind your project.

The following will alter how one content brief is written to the next:

  • Type of content (blogs, ebooks, etc.)
  • Content audience (native copy or for client audiences)
  • The goal of said content (educate, persuade, inform, share, etc.)

It goes without saying, but you should always try to focus on what applies to you and your goals. Any brief examples we’ll touch on are simply there to provide a rough idea of what you might want to mention/include.

Basically, your briefs should be your own.

Remember that.

Why Write a Content Brief?

Knowing is half the battle, the other half belongs to your content writers and creators — anyone involved in the content creation process, basically.

Ideally, you should want to be giving these people all the information they could possibly need to go off on their own and get writing/creating. This not only gives you clarity, but it also grants peace of mind.

Knowing that your writers understand the brief allows them to complete batches without a massive amount of supervision or guidance.

Everything is right there in front of them, meaning there should be no issues. Or questions like “what does this mean?” And “why do we need this?”

Sure, they might have the odd question or two, but the bulk of the information will be gathered in the content brief — or, at least, it should if you’ve written it properly and covered all notable bases.

Not only does having a brief help your creators, it also helps you gain a deeper understanding of your brand and its journey too!

Think about it, your content is an extension of you, used to generate leads, or set you up as a thought leader in your respective field (motivations will vary).

How could going into such detail not provide a complete level of understanding?

Brief Formats Work Great for Freelancers

Internally, a content brief works to keep members of the team firmly within the loop. Externally, a content brief ensures that writers (especially freelancers) are on the right path.

As a former freelance writer myself, content briefs were very handy to have, given I was turning over thousands of words a week — covering multiple different topics and titles within set timeframes.

More so when they had the right amount of information on the page. Finding that sweet spot is ideal for all involved.

Most freelancers work over emails and phone calls too, meaning there’s a lot that can get lost in translation. So ensuring you lay out exactly what you want the first time is more than ideal.

It could cost you a fair amount of money otherwise.

Who Should Write a Content Brief?

This is a very common question, one that does have multiple answers depending on who you’re asking and where it is they work. In most cases, the responsibility of writing a content brief applies to anyone within the marketing department; anyone at a middleweight level, to be specific.

Although, some brands do set this as a task for lower end employees to complete.

Again, it totally depends on the business.

The content brief these individuals write is almost always a part of a grander content/marketing strategy they’ve put together. Rarely do brands create briefs if they don’t have an overarching plan in place to generate them leads or garner interest.

Everything from emails to social media, it will all be mapped out ahead of time. This is the reason why middleweight to senior marketers will write content briefs, as these people are more than likely responsible for the conception of the content strategy in question.

Therefore, they know exactly what the goals are and when it all needs to be completed by, in-line-with KPIs and ROI.

Content Brief FAQs

Before we go any further, let’s cover some content brief-focused questions; frequently asked questions that many marketers have muttered to themselves when tasked with writing this type of brief.

  • How Do I Create a Content Brief for SEO?

    If SEO plays an important part in your content (as it should based on its value), then you need to make sure your brief includes any and all keywords that you want to rank for.

    This is something you will need to research ahead of time yourself; unless you choose to work with an agency (like Canny) who handles the research for you. All you’d need to work out at that point is what type of content strategy you want.

    Long-form or short-form? Informal or formal?

    These are the questions you need to be asking yourself.

  • How Long Should My Content Brief Be?

    The answer to this question can, and will, vary depending on a multitude of factors. The most obvious being:

    What the topic is.

    How long your content brief is will also depend on how much information you want to include to help whomever you’re handing this brief to. Be careful though, including too much detail can take a while which can eat into your day!

  • What is the Best Content Brief Tool?

    There are many content brief tools at your current disposal, be it Buffer, Trello, or Scoop It.

    That said, our content brief template is a lot less complicated to use than anything else on the market (plus, it’s 100% free to download).

  • People Also Ask: What Makes For a Good Brief?

    A short and sweet content brief will almost always reign supreme.

    They’re less strain for marketers to write, they include everything that is actually relevant (minus the fluff), and it gives the creator enough room to be as creative as possible.

    That’s not to say that creators can’t be creative with a long brief either, by the way. We’re just illustrating a point that less tends to equal better results.

    Why do you think most content brief examples are so short and simple?

What Should Be Included in Your Content Brief?

Now that we have a brief idea of what a content brief is, it’s time we looked at what should be included in one. Not every content brief is the same, so it’s important that you have an idea of what to expect.

Keep in mind that every inclusion has meaning. All the information you share is there to help your writers get started.

Brief formats might shift from brief to brief. However, most consist of the following:

  • Content Details
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Content Research
  • SEO Research
  • Visual Elements

How this information is displayed depends on you and your own preferences, although we will be going over a standard layout for you to use (so stay tuned for that).

Once you’ve written one content brief, the rest should be a total breeze. Trust us, we’ve written many a content brief in our time. We write content briefs for all of our clients before we even begin putting pen to paper — or digits to keyboards in this case.

Those of you with clients reading this, you’ll know where we’re coming from.
pink post notes on white wall

Content Details

Treat this section like an overview of sorts, a section that clearly defines your titles, word count, target keywords and more.

Is it the most important part of the content brief? We’d say so, yeah.

Here you’re outlining what you want — instructions that your writers should be able to follow quite easily, with them having a full idea on what you’re asking for right down to the headings!

A standard content brief overview for writers typically consists of the following:

  1. Title: Here you state the main heading for the post in question (including the main keyword).
  2. Post Description: A general 101 of the post itself — it should consist of no more than three sentences. This should consist of no more than three sentences.
  3. Headings: Break down all of your headings, from the introduction right down to the conclusion.
  4. Word Count: How many words would you like this piece of content to be total? Be as specific as you like here (e.g. 1,500-2,000 words or 3,000+).
  5. Keywords: Just as important as your word count are the keywords you want writers to use. Outline your main target keyword and the secondary keywords that should be used within the post.
  6. Target Audience: Mention a few key demographic that you’d like to pinpoint with these posts. Another option would be to simply list their interests if you’re struggling.

Some of you might want to include information on any visuals used. This is great for internal use, but for freelancers you might want to leave it off (unless it’s super necessary and could directly influence how they’d write the post).

How to Write a Content Brief Tip: Try to outline the correct tone of voice that your writers should follow within the post. Remember, the content must represent brand guidelines.

Brief formats of any kind won’t work without stating what it is you want. And with content details, you’re doing just that, essentially.

Don’t Forget About the Deadline

Another important element of an effective content brief is your deadline. Deadlines are beneficial to everyone that comes in contact with your content brief.

They keep you on track, they keep your team in the loop, and then ensure that agencies/freelancers are fully clued in.

The date and time you choose is completely up to you, just remember to leave enough time for the work to be completed.

Think of it like this:

You wouldn’t ask an agency to write you a 3,000 word blog post with 24 hours notice as the quality of the post might suffer for it; a 300 word post, sure, but nothing that requires more detail and more research.

Competitor Analysis

Act like you don’t care what the competition is doing all you want, they’re still an important factor in how you should approach your content briefs, and the content you hope to produce, generally.

There’s a lot to learn from your competitors, including any relevant keywords for you to pull from if you’re stuck.

Performing competitor analysis through a program like Ahrefs will highlight any relevant keywords that others already rank for. Here you can see the keyword difficulty and volume of each keyword.

It’s all super helpful when sourcing keywords, and titles by proxy!

So, how does this apply to how you’d write a content brief? Well, outside of lending a helping hand keywords-wise, competitor analysis can also help your writers out.

If you find a blog post you like the look of — this can be from a content or formatting standpoint (anything that you like the look of, basically) — then feel free to copy and paste a link to this post and put it in your content brief.

Putting it in there will provide guidance to writers (just make sure they don’t copy it word for word).

In a perfect world, you have no competition. It’s just you at the tippy top of the mountain solo. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Still, there’s a lot to learn from how your competitors approach content.

How do you think most marketers/content strategists source their ideas?

Content Research

Content research and competitor analysis are pretty linked. After all, it’s your competitors that serve as the perfect reference point most of the time.

Some will expect writers to perform their own research on each brief.

In our experience, the quality of the content brief reflects that of the content itself. Meaning you should be as informative as possible in your briefs if you want the best work possible in return.

It takes seconds to link off to relevant statistics, studies and related blog posts. You probably have them bookmarked already!

Why wouldn’t you include them in your briefs to give writers a head start? Who knows, maybe they’ll finish the work ahead of schedule.

Let’s face it, some need all the help they can get.
red and yellow darts on a dartboard

SEO Research

From one type of research to the next.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) research will dictate the majority of how the post is titled and formatted. Most content marketing heads will use keywords to actually come up with post topics and titles.

That’s how important SEO is to content.

We’ve already covered Ahrefs so you should have an idea of how you can source keywords and see what ranks and what doesn’t. But that isn’t everything you need to consider when looking at how to write a brief that’s content-centric.

Always ask yourself if the keywords you’re looking at are worth pursuing. Ask, is the volume high enough and the keyword difficulty not too high.

For example, did you know that some ask writers to come up with meta descriptions tied to each brief?

Some might even take it a step further and mention the internal/external links they want to spread about the post once it’s been written. Details such as these will vary from one brief to the next, as mentioned.

You might not want to include them, but a bakery in Belfast wanting to create some internal synergy across their site might.

Visual Elements

This mostly applies to writers within an organisation, as you wouldn’t usually ask a freelancer to supply images to posts. A) because the quality could be naff, and B) the images might not be free to use.

One way around this would be to ask your writers to use sites like Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels if you were to ask them to source images. But again, this isn’t a common request for freelancers.

You might ask them to give you some ideas for visuals that might work in line with what they’ve written, just not for the images themselves.

When writing your content brief, you should probably have an idea of the sorts of images you’d like to include anyway. Images that are relevant to your chosen topic.

We’d recommend you source these images after the content is written. It’s just easier, and you get a better idea of what the finished item will look like!

Do you feel confident in your content brief writing abilities now? If not, make sure you get a real good look at the content brief template we’ve included.

It’s a template we’ve created ourselves, complete with most of the inclusions seen above.

The template has everything you should ever need to get the content wheel in motion. But don’t take our word for it, see for yourself!

Content Brief Examples

We understand that a lot of you tend to learn better when you see an example of something in practice, which is why we’re dedicating an entire section on content brief examples.

The examples we’ve created are directly inspired by those you’ll likely find out in the wild if you’ve ever searched for content brief examples in the past.

You’ll find three examples below, each as different as the last as far as brief goes. Yes, there will be some similarities, but we have tried to split some of these example content briefs up to help.

We’ve tried to split each up to give you a different

Content Brief Example 1: Dog Blog

Title: Dog Walks London: The Best Spots for Your Pooch

Word Count: Between 1,500 to 2,000

Keywords: Dog walks London, dog walking, London dog walks

Description: This post should outline all of the best dog walking locations in London, with additional emphasis placed on local parks and areas known to let dogs roam free in.

Audience: We’re targeting active dog-owners between the ages of 35 and 55.

Notes: Please provide a solution for all weather types. Also, please talk about our line of dog coats at least twice in the post (preferably, somewhere that makes sense and doesn’t feel shoe-horned in).

End of Content Brief Example

This is a very brief brief, but it works in this instance if the person writing this brief is looking for something creative; something that is left completely up to the writer to run with.

Your content brief could be just as short if you want it to.

Again, there are benefits of doing so; the most important being:

It gives creators more autonomy, which could lead to a much more engaging post. Then again, this could be considered a risk too. It all depends on the writer and how much trust you’re willing to put in them I suppose.

Content Brief Example 2: Top 10 List

Blog Title: The Top 10 Drones to Buy in 2022

Primary Keyword: Drones to buy in 2022

Secondary Keywords: Drones 2022, best drone 2022, Copter5000 drone

Words: 3,000 – 4,000

Blog Details: Cover only the following drones in this post and link to those we mention:

  • Copter5000
  • WoopDeeDoo2 (link)
  • Rowe 12.5
  • GoPro AirGo
  • [email protected] (2022 model)
  • SpinnyVinny 2.0
  • XCV6-7
  • Mil SE
  • The Airwalker
  • Mirmax 89 (link)

Additional Notes: The post should also include a buyers guide which will cover relevant info when buying a drone. Film students are one of our biggest customers, so can we include examples of drone footage in movies to engage them directly?

End of Content Brief Example

With this content brief example, the majority of the work is already done. All there’s left to do at that point is take the research that has already been gathered and flesh it out.

This is different from the first example in that there is a lot more to go off.

Sure, they don’t go into great levels of detail, but the fact that they’ve already mapped out what drones should be included and which are linked off to certainly makes life easier for a writer.

I know that from experience.

For the purpose of this example (and for the sake of time), all of the drone names are made up. So don’t go Googling in hope of finding a SpinnyVinny 2.0 or an Airwalker.

That said, I wouldn’t mind flying a WoopDeeDoo2 simply off its name alone, wouldn’t you?

Content Brief Example 3: Complete Guide

Title: The Complete Guide to Hybrid Events

Description: This post should serve as a complete end-to-end guide of hybrid events.

Headings should include/be a variation of:

  • An introduction
  • What are hybrid events?
  • The benefits of hybrid events
  • Costs associated with hybrid events
  • Tips when organising a hybrid event
  • Examples of hybrid events
  • Conclusion
  • Primary keyword: Hybrid events

    Secondary keyword: Hybrid event planning, hybrid event tips, hybrid event examples

    SEO title: The Complete Guide to Hybrid Events

    Meta description: ‘Hybrid events have become the premium event format. In this post we look at why that is and give you everything you need to run your own.’

    Word count: 5,000+

    Internal links:

    Competitor articles: Check out the blogs from our competitors x and x.

    We want the informal tone of those posts to carry over into this one.

    CTA: The call to action in this post needs to get people onto our hybrid events page and fill in the web form.

    Notes: Please use as many statistics a possible in this post. We will send you a separate document with quotes from members of the team to use too.

    End of Content Brief Example

    This third example demonstrates just how detailed you can be with your content brief.

    Not all content briefs outline the meta description or feature competitor articles, but if you’re looking to be as comprehensive as possible, then know that it is an option.

    Again, if you choose to go with an agency, like us here at Canny, you won’t have to worry about any of this as we handle all of the traditional SEO markup and competitor analysis!

    Tips on Writing an Effective Content Brief

    Everyone has the capacity to write a content brief, but there are still some things to consider. It’s why we’re dedicating this final section to cover some helpful tips to maximise the overall effectiveness of your plans.

    And we know they’re helpful because we utilise them all the time when putting-together our own brief formats — be it content marketing-related or web design-orientated.

    Let’s not waste anymore time, here are a range of tips to help you write an effective content brief.

    Always Summarise

    We’re starting with one of the most important tips to keep in mind when writing your own content brief. That being: keep it as tight as possible.

    Keeping your content briefs as concise as possible — bitesize even — will go a long way in ensuring that your writers have enough wiggle room to be creative (if your content is of the informal variety, that is).

    Remember, your content brief is there to help others create/write something for you. You shouldn’t be writing the equivalent of a 2,000 word blog post in the brief alone.

    It’s a waste of time for you, and we can all but guarantee that most of this info is going straight over your writer’s head.

    Sure, some content briefs might require a lot of information to ensure that those writing know what to cover, but you can let your links do most of the talking in that department, surely.

    Try to summarise your points as often as possible. Short bursts of information are key. And as long as you cover all the main points (keywords, target audiences and titles) you should be sorted.

    Remember to Mention Your CTAs

    Your call to actions (CTAs) are how you turn readers into customers, at least from a content standpoint.

    They’re crucial parts of the content you create. That being said, those in, say, the healthcare sector, might create content simply to offer something informative with no CTAs to show.

    Electronic resources like ebooks are a fine example of this. Although we have seen a few CTAs appear in these resources in the past, usually to encourage students to enroll at certain universities.

    So, what does this have to do with how to write a content brief?

    Well, CTAs are one of, if not the most important part of the content you create. Which means you might want to mention them in your content briefs as they’re so intertwined with your wider content strategy.

    Content should always follow some kind of journey — typically directed by the appropriate sales funnel. Think of your CTAs as the destination.

    How can you expect a writer to create effective content for you without knowing the destination?

    *Spoiler Alert* You can’t for the most part.

    CTAs don’t always appear towards the end of the content you publish either. Dropping them in every now and then will ensure that your content is as relevant/helpful as possible, only with intent.

    Use the MoSCoW Matrix

    A MoSCoW matrix has multiple applications in the ever-expansive world of marketing and business. It’s also pretty helpful when putting together brief formats of a creative nature.

    Adding a small MoSCoW matrix could work wonders for your content briefs, steering writers in the right direction. Here’s a quick rundown of what it might look like:

    • Must haves (what should be included overall)
    • Should haves (additional info/guidelines including links)
    • Could haves (potential inclusions that wouldn’t hurt)
    • Won’t haves (avoid X, Y and Z)

    Using a MoSCoW matrix is a great way of reining in your content briefs as you’re leaving nothing to chance.

    Of course, letting the writer put their own spin on things is warranted from time to time (depending on the intent of the post/your brand). But you should always have a rough idea of what the work should look like once complete.

    Brief Formats Should Answer these Questions

    When in doubt, ask yourself why does this article need to be written? Alongside how will it be any different to those that you call competition?

    We couldn’t not mention these questions when talking about how to write a content brief as most skim them — or outright forget about the intent behind each post.

    Don’t get it twisted, we understand the creative limitations of running an authoritative website. The questions we’ve just mentioned apply to the businesses with more leeway in how they approach/execute content.

    Most brief examples we’ve seen online don’t make this clear enough, which sucks, and should give you even more of a reason to check out our content brief template.

    Don’t Go Keyword Crazy

    Try to limit how many target keywords you want writers to include. Overloading your content briefs with keywords is just asking for bad content in return.

    It’s why you should focus on highlighting a main keyword alongside half a dozen secondary keywords. To be fair, you might not even need that many (this might vary depending on the topic/length of text).

    A post with over 2,000 words does not need a ton of keywords. Plus, you need to think about the quality of the content if it’s all padding.

    Are your readers going to be as engaged if they feel like they’re in a keyword pinball machine, bouncing from one to the next in rapid succession?

    Keyword overload is also pretty harmful to the creativity of your writers. Again, we get it if you aren’t in the market to craft conversational-styled content.

    Still, you could call keyword overload a wider problem. A calculated approach could work a lot better.

    What if instead of cramming multiple keywords in the same post, you create individual posts based on set subtopics that you can internally link to?

    That way, your content can breathe a little and encourage readers to spend more time with you and your brand.
    Crumpled Paper Around A3 Pad

    How to Write a Content Brief (with Content Brief Template!)

    What’s that saying?

    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

    Yeah, that applies to content marketing and content generally, and content briefs simply by extension. Hopefully, thanks to our help you now understand what a content brief is and how beneficial they are.

    Also, we hope our tips on how to write a content brief come in handy at some point — the same goes for the content brief template attached!

    Quality content begins with a content brief.

    But who said you had to write the brief, or create the content within the organisation to reap the rewards of effective content that gets you results?

    This is where a creative agency enters the picture.

    At Canny, we take your wants/needs, apply research relevant to your market, match you with the right keywords, and then form a content brief around it all. Regardless of which sector you work in, whether that’s recruitment and training, healthcare, or Tech and IT, our team are here to help.

    Other Design Brief Templates in the Series

    As well as The Content Brief Template we’ve also created a whole range of other brief templates that you download and use completely free.

    So, no matter what sort of creative project you need to write a brief for, we’ve got you covered. Check them out below:

    The Design Brief Template

    The Design Brief Template will help you get the foundation for any design project right. It’s a good all rounder!

    From graphic design to interior design, no matter the type of design project you need – The Design Brief Template is sure to help you out.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Branding Brief Template

    The Branding Brief Template will help you get the brief for your company branding project right.

    From straight up branding projects for small businesses, to the full scale branding of larger companies – The Branding Brief Template has all types of branding projects covered.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Rebranding Brief Template

    The Rebranding Brief Template will help you get the brief for your rebranding project right.

    From smaller rebranding projects, to full scale enterprise rebranding – The Rebranding Brief Template has all sizes of rebranding projects covered.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Web Design Brief Template

    The Web Design Brief Template will help you get the brief for your web design project right.

    Whether you’re creating a new website for your business, or redesigning your existing website – then The Web Design Brief Template is going to be useful.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Video Brief Template

    The Video Brief Template will help you get the foundation for your video project right.

    Whether you’re embarking on a corporate video, documentary, explainer, or any other type of video project – then The Video Brief Template is sure to help you out.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Marketing Brief Template

    The Marketing Brief will help you get the brief for any of your marketing projects right.

    Whether you’re looking to grow traffic to your website, or increase conversions from existing traffic – then The Marketing Brief Template is here to help.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Packaging Brief Template

    The Packaging Design Brief template will help you communicate the needs of your packaging project.

    From cartons and bottles to boxes and envelopes, knowing what to include in your brief can be confusing – that’s why we designed The Packaging Design Brief template, to help you make sense of the packaging madness.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The RFP / RFQ Template

    The RFP / RFQ Template will help you to create an easy to understand document that communicates the needs of your project.

    Whether you’re embarking on a branding, web design, brochure design, packaging design, or any other type of design project – then The RFP / RFQ Template can help.

    Download now
    Read the post

    The Creative Brief Bundle cover images

    The Creative Brief Bundle

    And, if you don’t want to download all of our templates individually, then we have you covered with The Creative Brief Bundle.

    Our brief templates are far and away the most downloaded resource on our entire website, and now we’re bringing them to you as one big bundle.

    Download now

    To find out how we can help, simply get in touch.