How Content Team Leaders Write Briefs

When I was a kid my mom always said “If you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out.” My mom was on to something. 

She was referring to watching reality TV and eating junk food, but her wisdom also applies to content marketing. I may still watch reality TV, but I know if you put garbage in your brief, you’ll get garbage content right back out.

On my podcast Content Bounce House, I interview content marketing team leaders and pick their brains for answers to the thorniest problems facing content marketers. Over and over again, we end up talking about briefs.

You’re probably outsourcing at least some part of your content creation. 75% of your peers are, too. Getting good content from freelancers, marketplaces, or an agency requires a brief.

The problem? Well, sometimes it’s the brief.

graph showing what freelancer writers find difficult about content marketing
Source: Verblio’s state of digital content survey

If 1 in 5 freelancers say that getting good briefs is their biggest problem, then we have some work to do. The good news? Four content marketing leaders gave me actionable tips while chatting on the podcast. Let’s dive into what they said.

Expert Tips for Better Briefs

Here’s how the experts write briefs.

The most important thing

Maybe the most impressive thing from these interviews is that experts agree on the most important part of a brief. They may say it in their own words, but the message is consistent.


“The most important thing you can put in a brief is ‘who is this for and why should they care.’

It’s incredible to me how frequently those questions aren’t addressed. If they aren’t addressed, you have not created anything useful for anyone.”

Emily Triplett Lentz, Senior Manager of Content at Calendly. Listen on episode seven.


“Write the one sentence about purpose. What is the purpose of writing this? When I was teaching writing, I started every writing lesson with audience and purpose because kids needed that.

That’s the first thing that shows up in my briefs as well. Who is it for? And what are we trying to do? It doesn’t matter what your theme or your topic is if you can’t clearly articulate who it’s for and what you want it to do.” 

Chris Cooper, Content Marketing Director at EverCommerce. Listen on episode three.


“What is this piece’s reason for being? Why should it exist? That’s the most important thing in your brief.”

Jimmy Daly, Founder of Superpath. Listen on episode six.


Use a template

Templates save time and help you build content at scale, especially when you’re striving for great SEO.


“We’ve tried to automate briefs as much as possible. We use a tool called Frase to help analyze our keywords and build out a recipe for what the article will need.”

Caitlin Burns, Head of Content at Healthmatch. Listen on episode five.


“We have a line item in our brief template about audience and purpose.

If you had a nickel for every time you read a piece of content that didn’t answer those questions, you could buy yourself a nice steak dinner.”

Emily Triplett Lentz, Senior Manager of Content at Calendly. Listen on episode seven.


“Have the SEO team optimize your briefs—the writer isn’t being paid to do that. If you can feed them some keywords, phrases we’re looking to target, some H2s, that’s usually enough.”

Chris Cooper, Content Marketing Director at EverCommerce. Listen on episode three.


Briefs are hard

Nobody’s perfect—even the experts agree brief writing is challenging.


“I want to give people a brief that gives them enough direction, but not be so stifling that they’re uncomfortable. Too few constraints is never helpful, but you want writers to have some freedom.”

Chris Cooper, Content Marketing Director at EverCommerce. Listen on episode three.


“I think I’ve changed our briefing process and template ten times because it is so hard to get everything you need in a brief. It’s a process I don’t think I’ve mastered”

Caitlin Burns, Head of Content at Healthmatch. Listen on episode five.


“Sometimes the creation of a brief can take almost as much time as writing the dang thing yourself, so there’s always a balance.”

Emily Triplett Lentz, Senior Manager of Content at Calendly. Listen on episode seven.


Wrap up

Because we’re a content marketplace, we see a lot of briefs at Verblio—the good, the bad, and the garbage. 

To help you improve your briefs, we built a brief template you can copy based on advice from the writers on our platform. Want to hear more from Caitlin, Jimmy, Chris, and Emily? I dig deep with them on tons of more useful stuff on Content Bounce House.

Happy brief writing!

Ryan Sargent

Ryan leads the content team at Verblio, where he combines his creative roots as a musician with large quantities of marketing nerdery. When he's not pondering Verblio's content strategy, you can find him playing jazz and funk trombone throughout Colorado.

Questions? Check out our FAQs or contact us.