The article brief is an essential B2B content marketing tool. Here’s why.

03 August 2016

In a previous post I encouraged the smart B2B content marketer to think and act like a publisher. In that spirit I introduced six editorial tools. In this post we’re going to look at one of those tools in more detail – the article brief.

The article brief is sometimes referred to as the commissioning or editorial brief. Get it right and you’ll reap the benefits when the writer produces copy that matches or exceeds expectations. Get it wrong – or ignore it entirely – and prepare for disappointment. And given that our own research shows that only 44 per cent of content marketers use an article brief today, using one will put you at a great advantage over the rest.

Why is the article brief such an essential tool? Because it leaves no room for doubt and only as much room for interpretation as you see fit. As a marketer, you may have a very clear idea of what you want the final feature, blog post or infographic to look like but don’t assume the writer will share that idea without a written brief.

The more time spent up front defining what you want, the less will be spent fixing it to match what you need. Rewrites are not just irritating – they can be expensive too.

The other benefit of completing a detailed article brief is that it forces you and your team to think hard about all aspects of the concept. The article brief acts as an early warning system for ideas that may be contested, potential inconsistencies in the firm’s approach or research data needed to validate those ideas. It may even inspire other ways of approaching the same ideas, providing yet more marketing value.

In short, the article brief provides a framework for collective thought, forcing the team to articulate what it is trying to achieve. It is the focal point to ensure that marketing, the business and the writer are all on the same page.

Components of the brief

A full checklist of components of an article brief is available in full here. For now I’d like to highlight five parts:

1. Audience

  • Who are the readers and why should they read the article?

It’s impossible to communicate effectively without a definitive view of who you are writing for. Only once the audience has been defined can the writer reflect their needs, and deploy the appropriate language and tone of voice.

2. Objectives

  • What is it that you want the article to achieve?
  • How will it be used?

Content marketing is not written in a vacuum – it’s written with a purpose. What, for example, are the objectives of the article you are reading right now? To persuade the reader of the intrinsic value of the article brief, to demonstrate Grist’s editorial expertise and to encourage readers to download the article brief template. 

3. Storyline

  • What’s the main story in 2-3 sentences?

This is a taxing exercise and deliberately so. It’s the ‘elevator pitch’ of content marketing. If the story can’t be condensed into two or three sentences, it’s a story not worth telling. Or, at best, a story that needs more work. 

4. Call to action

  • What is it that you want readers to do after reading?

See number 2, above. 

5. Deadline

  • Be as specific as possible

The deadline may be event-dependent or artificially created. Either way, it’s vital to define a deadline and stick to it, including key milestones such as first and second drafts, stakeholder reviews and sign-off. A project that is allowed to drag on indefinitely is a project without purpose.

 

Download our article brief checklist here:

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Author: Andrew Rogerson

Andy is a co-founder of Grist. Prior to founding Grist, Andy was marketing director at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London and New York.

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