Whether you use an in-house content creation team or have freelancers around the world, they all need to be brought to the same table to execute a content strategy. One of the tools used to do that is the creative brief.
You can think of a creative brief as both a vision statement for everyone to follow and a way to manage expectations for all stakeholders. It is the rudder that steers your ship and, in some cases, almost acts like a mini-contract.
Here’s a situation that happens all too often. A business and a marketing team make an agreement to create a certain amount of content each month. Great! But the writers don’t get enough information to truly understand what the client needs.
The strategy may dictate eight 500-word posts every month on, say, pressure washing, but it’s just content for content’s sake. And so the writer comes up with topics on their own and creates the pieces. Number of pages goes up, but conversions stay stagnant. The client doesn’t get what they want. The marketing team loses the contract. The writer feels bad and wonders what went wrong.
A creative brief could have fixed all this.
A creative brief is a short (1-2 pages) document that clearly states the basic information about the client or company and why they are hiring in the first place. The contents of a brief can vary from company to company and from strategy to strategy. Some common items include:
Who they are
What their business and marketing goals are
What their current business challenge is (why are they hiring you to do content?)
An overview of what the company sells, how it is distributed, and any factors that affect sales throughout the year (e.g. the season).
Why do these personas buy from you and how often do they do it?
Who are your direct competitors?
Branding and USP information
Any on-going marketing efforts
Previous marketing efforts that underperformed (what did they try that didn’t work?)
There can be other things that go into a creative brief like the marketing budget, the state the market, and contexts that are affecting the brand.
Here’s an example of a creative brief for our pressure washer:
Squeaky Clean offers commercial pressure washing services with a focus on thoroughness and tough jobs like graffiti and gum removal.
We’ve narrowed ourselves too far into just doing tough jobs. We want to provide a broader range of services.
Why Is This A Problem?:
Landlords with delicate buildings worry that our methods will be too harsh. They also think that we focus just on concrete, but we can also do window, siding, and awning cleaning.
How Is The Market?:
We’re very good at what we do. Too good. Sales are down because we’ve cleaned things up so well! But we see other ways these buildings could be cleaned that our competitors miss.
Increase sales of window and awning cleanings and reduce the perception that we only do graffiti and gum removal.
Commercial building owners, landlords, and property management companies need us to keep their buildings clean. Clean buildings are attractive to the eye, improve public perception, improve tenant retention rates, and raise property values according to XYZ Study Company. Our clients understand how gum and graffiti can make a building ugly, but may not know how their building exteriors can be cleaned even better.
First, existing clients who have used our services, then branching out to new clients in London using before/after photos of our gentler services.
What Do Our Targets Think Now?:
Squeaky Clean is just for graffiti and gum removal. They’ll damage my building.
What Should Our Targets Think?:
I don’t have to use Squeaky Clean just when there is graffiti or gum. I can contract with them for regular washing services.
How Will We Engage With Them?:
Email, before/after photos on the website and social media, blog posts.
Snobby Washers, Awesome Awnings (we like their copy approach for awning cleaning)
In our opinion, creative briefs should be the first step in creating a content marketing strategy. We’ve talked extensively about things like buyer personas in the past. If you are lucky, the company you’re helping will already have a brief created. If not, you’ll have to work it out with them right at the start.
This is where it can be useful to have a template to hand to new customers as part of the onboarding process. Once you have a brief created, take it to the customer and talk with them about it to ensure everyone is on the same page about the project, the brand, and all the rest of it.
From this basis, then you can launch into creating a content strategy that aligns with the brief. The brief should be in the hands of all your writers, developers, and other content creators so they can create in alignment with the core guiding document for the campaign.
Even if you are using an internal writing team, there should still be a creative brief. It will make the intentions of the company crystal clear. Try creating one for your next campaign.
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