5 reasons why briefs are essential when outsourcing content

The more detailed your brief, the less generic and more valuable your article will be.

If you’re a business owner or marketing director, you’re familiar with the constant struggle to create engaging content for your target audience, all while keeping costs under control. No wonder 37% of companies have responded to this pressure by outsourcing content writing services, entrusting this part of business to experienced copywriters – like us.  

When working with an outsourced content agency, preparing a brief is even more essential than if you have your in-house content writer. Because, as external writers – no matter how experienced – we are not intimately familiar with your product or service, nor brand positioning. 

And let’s get one thing straight right away.

A brief is not something that copywriters need to make their work easier, as we can cook up a generic article from just a title and have a great time doing it. A brief is an essential component of your content request to us – and the more detailed it is, the less generic and more valuable your article will be.

Before we move forward, let's get on the same page about creative briefs. What are they, and what should they include?

What is a creative brief and what should it contain?

An article doesn’t start with the headline or the introduction – it begins with the brief. 

A creative brief is a document that outlines the key details and goals for a copywriting assignment. It ensures the writer understands your needs and delivers content that aligns with your vision. Briefs are needed to set expectations, outline the scope of work, offer a clear objective, and set a timeline. 

A strong brief should specify the content format (blog post, article, etc.), length, desired tone, and deadline. Don't forget to mention relevant keywords for SEO and any specifics about visuals you might have. Ideally, define the target audience, their demographics and pain points in the brief. 

Since briefs are so important, it’s strange that only a few of our clients actually supply us with them. This is more than an inconvenience – it’s a missed opportunity to create truly valuable content. 

Let me explain what’s so crucial about content briefs and why they have the power to make our cooperation so much more fruitful.

1. A brief is an opportunity to share insider knowledge

Expert knowledge and unique experience are the most exciting components of original content. Content creators love to add expert quotes or insider information to articles – especially for more technical or complex topics. That said, even simple stories can become extraordinary when we add personal perspectives to them. 

Unfortunately, clients rarely provide insider information or expert knowledge. One cited reason is that industry experts and executives are usually very busy and can’t allocate time to nice-to-have activities like marketing and PR.

Excuse us, but we say it’s no excuse. 

We don’t need much of your time. Anyone – even Elon Musk – can find three minutes to send us a short comment (about their field of expertise!) in written form or even as an audio message. Add a few sentences to your brief and we can do wonders with it. 

2. A brief shares your content objectives and scope

To create top-notch content, we need to know what goals you aim to achieve with it. For example, are you aiming to raise brand awareness in a particular market? Position the CEO as a thought leader? Generate leads? The content we produce will be different for each of those goals. 

Don’t forget to specify the content format, scope, and desired tone. If you’ve commissioned a tips article, specify if you mean 10-15 quick tips or 3-5 in-depth strategies.

Let’s take an example.

Imagine you send us a request to write an article about “building a fintech app”. Without context, we don’t know if you want to talk about building a fintech app as a step-by-step instruction, as general advice, or as your personal account on how it is to build such an app. We don’t know if your aim is to encourage the reader, provide instructions or simply demonstrate your knowledge. In addition, if you don’t specify your target audience, we can’t guess if your reader is a newbie or an experienced professional in your field.

3. A brief is a condensed brand book

As outsiders to your company, we usually aren’t familiar with your brand’s communication style and your previous marketing and PR endeavors. To help us create engaging content that resonates with the target market and maintains brand consistency, consider including branding considerations, such as:

  • Tone of voice guidelines, 
  • Links to previous articles, case studies etc., that we should include or read for context,
  • Instructions on how to position your product or service in the article (some clients prefer very subtle mentions or even none at all, while others want a more explicit promotion).

Surprisingly, our clients often forget about visuals for the articles they commission. In many cases, we can look for stock photos on free databases. However, if the article is about your company or a milestone you’ve reached, it’s crucial to have a picture of your product or your team. Alternatively, you can add a graph to illustrate the growth of your business or simply provide a screenshot of your software. Finally, some clients have their own feature image design, prepared by in-house designers.

4. Briefs help save time and money on revisions 

A clear brief minimizes back-and-forth communication and ensures that our content aligns with your vision. It’s your chance to avoid wasted time on revisions and ensure you’ll get content that meets your needs.

Every now and again we have a client who just wants to put something on the paper and edit afterward because they might be unsure about what it is that they want exactly. In our experience, this results in multiple rounds of frustrating revisions, and a lot of wasted effort on both sides. So here's a tip – don't just do content because everyone else is doing it. If you don't know what you need or why, then you don't need it.

A brief is also a point of reference for both parties. If you’re unsatisfied with the article, you can refer back to the brief you supplied. And we can do the same to double-check if we got your instructions right. 

5. Briefs help us nail SEO requirements

Your SEO strategy is an integral part of your content marketing efforts. Some clients send us detailed SEO briefs that include not only relevant keywords but also instructions on how many times to include them in the text or subheadings. Such briefs also suggest the desired structure and length of the article.

You may not have such a detailed SEO strategy, but you probably have a list of keywords you’re trying to rank for in search engines. Don’t forget to share it with your outsourced content team. Including keywords after the article is already done will be a much bigger pain and can compromise the quality of the article. 

Ideally, add a list of secondary keywords that fit into the particular article topic. Also, it's recommended to share any related articles for internal linking, alongside preferred anchor texts.

What doesn’t matter?

We don’t care about the form and layout of the brief, as long as it’s understandable. So go ahead and use your favorite format – google doc, spreadsheet, ppt presentation, or simply write your idea down in an email. 

There’s no need to create AI generated briefs. We know how to structure articles and bring them to life better than ChatGPT. What we need is real input from you about your specific business – othen, these are things that you take for granted but that industry outsiders don’t know. 

Add context and details – but not too many. If necessary, share more sources to learn about the topic.

Detailed brief – the secret weapon of content success

Since mind-reading isn’t part of our services (yet), you can’t always expect us to hit the bullseye with your content if you don’t supply us with a brief.

The good news is that writing a brief is neither a long nor complicated process – especially if you use our brief template. We promise that it will save you time on content revisions later on.   

We’re excited to see your next brief in our inbox, so get in touch!