Want to borrow our brief template? Make a copy, rinse, and reuse to your heart’s content.
Curious what the biggest challenge is for Verblio writers?
Contrary to what you may think, it isn’t brushing up on their industrial manufacturing knowledge enough to write a compelling case for the merits of 3D printing versus CNC machining, or going deep on personal injury law in Florida to help you understand your rights if someone rear-ends your car.
The biggest challenge for Verblio writers, in fact, has nothing at all to do with the subject matter of the articles they write, and everything to do with how you request those articles:
To help you create better briefs (and get better content!), we asked one of our writers to explain exactly what she looks for when choosing customer requests on Verblio. From the things she loves to see to the red flags that scare her away, here’s everything you need to know about creating content briefs that will get you exactly what you’re looking for.
A Writer’s Perspective on Content Briefs
First, thank you for trusting us to create your content! We’re excited to get to know your brand, your content strategy, and to take a deep dive into your industry.
Before we can do that, though, let’s talk about briefs. As Verblio writers, we’re enthusiastic about delivering stellar content, and a great content brief is what enables us to do that.
We get to choose which customers we want to write for, and we look for briefs we feel we can successfully deliver. The easier your brief is to process and understand, the more confident we will be that we can provide what you’re looking for, and the more likely we will be to write for you.
What Makes an Effective Brief?
The most important thing to know is that we’re writers, not mind readers. The brief you provide is the only thing we have to go on when creating your content. Spell out any assumptions, and don’t take anything for granted.
Remember: We see a lot of different requests, with a lot of different preferences. A brief titled “The Oxford comma: Yes or no?” might be expecting a listicle of examples illustrating why the Oxford comma is an essential piece of English grammar—or it might want an academic look at the history of the comma’s usage, with the conclusion that it is no longer necessary in today’s writing. If the brief doesn’t give us any additional context, we’ll have no way of knowing which direction the customer wants us to go.
With that in mind, an effective content brief does several things:
- Leads with the topic
- Explains the goal of the piece (more on this in a sec)
- Includes any must-have sections you want to see
- Provides links to relevant and recent source material
- Includes internal links about your organization and the writing style your brand prefers
If you want your writer to link (or not link!) to specific sources, say so. Also, you should test any links you provide to make sure they direct to the right page and aren’t behind a paywall that the writer won’t be able to access.
Defining the Goal
We mentioned that the “goal” of the piece is a vital part of the brief. The goal explains why you need this piece of content and the benefit you are hoping it gives your business.
For a lot of web content, the goal might be to drive top- or bottom-of-funnel organic traffic for a particular keyword. In that case, let the writer know and provide any relevant SEO notes so they can craft the piece accordingly. If you’re refreshing an existing piece of content, include the updated keywords for which you’re hoping to improve your ranking.
For other content, SEO may not be the primary consideration. Your goal may be to educate customers on a new product, answer a common question your sales team gets, or establish your brand as a thought leader with a unique perspective on a topic in your industry. There may still be opportunities to target keywords with those pieces, but organic traffic isn’t your primary goal.
The goal determines how a writer will approach your topic, and it’s the most important thing you can tell them. (We know because we asked.)
In our 2022 Verblio Writer Survey, 48 percent of our writers agreed that “the primary goal of the content” is the most helpful bit of information in a brief. That puts it ahead of other info like what sections to include, who the audience is, your style guide, and reference links. (Not that those aren’t important too, but if you’re looking for one way to level-up your briefs right now, providing the goal is the way to do it!)
Not sure what the goal for a piece of content is? You might need to think more about your content strategy—but trust us, that’s a good thing in the long run.
Red Flags: What Scares Writers Away
With so many briefs to choose from on the Verblio platform, writers tend to avoid the following:
- Briefs that ask for too many sections for the designated word count
- Excessively lengthy and disorganized requests
- Ambiguous, unclear requests
- Requests that contain broken links
- Single-sentence requests that don’t describe the project clearly
- Briefs that contain only links, with no written instructions
- Briefs that contain multiple style guides or other brand documentation (One style guide is fine, but think twice before asking us to spend half an hour reading various documents about your brand on top of the research we’ll need to do for the specific topic of your request.)
Content Brief Examples
Curious what a good content brief looks like in action?
Let’s say you own a pet store that caters to dog owners. For your blog, you want some content about small-breed dogs. Based on your Verblio subscription level, your project brief should be adjusted to fit the requested word count.
For example, if you request a 1,000-word article, you might write the project brief like this one:
Title: Small Breeds Compared
We’re looking for a blog article comparing some of the most popular small breed dogs. Please research the most popular breeds and select 5-6 breeds to discuss. The article should help people considering a new pet decide which small dog breed is best for them.
Intro: Please include an introduction that discusses small breeds in general and why people choose them. You can also talk about what qualifies as a small breed. (The American Kennel Club is a good resource for this).
Sections: Each breed should have an overview section that talks about the breed in a conversational way, including a bit of history, why they’re popular, etc. Please include the following breed characteristics as bullet points under the breed’s overview:
- Energy level
- Fun Facts (optional)
- Best Features (why you would want this breed)
- Annoying habits like digging, biting, barking, etc.
Here are some suggested small-breed dogs to select from, but feel free to choose other breeds you’re familiar with:
- Westie (West Highland terrier)
- Boston terrier
- French bulldog
- Bichon Frise
- Cairn terrier
Call to action: Read more about other dog breeds on our blog [insert link].
Links for research:
- The American Kennel Club has lots of information: https://www.akc.org/
Internal links: Please include links to our website and blog in a conversational way. For example, “We talk about all sorts of dog-related things on our blog [insert link].” “Find out more about our products and services for small dogs on our website [insert link].”
For a 1000-word request, the above brief would give writers everything they need to know to get you the content you want. For a 400-word request, however, that brief would be asking for far more than a writer could provide at that length. Here’s an example of how you could narrow down that brief to make it appropriate for a shorter word-count:
Title: Cairn Terriers vs. West Highland Terriers
Description: We’re a pet store that caters to dog owners. For our website, we’d like a short article comparing two small terrier breeds. The purpose of this content is to provide our website visitors, especially people who love small terriers, with some fun and useful info about these two breeds. Please include:
- An intro about the positive qualities of small terrier breeds and why they are popular.
- A section about Cairn terriers: characteristics, behaviors, personality, energy level, etc.
- A section about West Highland terriers: characteristics, behaviors, personality, energy level, etc.
- A short conclusion with a link to our blog [insert link here].
This request covers everything the writer needs to know and is asking for a realistic amount of information for a 400-word blog post.
A Quick Word About Titles
It’s easy to overlook the title you give to your content request, but you shouldn’t. Just like readers rely on catchy titles to make them click on articles when we’re browsing online, writers rely on your title to identify whether we should check out your request.
This is how we see your requests on the Verblio job board:
When we hover over your customer name on the left, your available requests appear in a popup. If the title sounds like something we’ll be able to write successfully, we can click through to your business page and view the entire brief.
So, what makes a good title?
- It makes it clear what the topic is, so we can immediately know whether it’s in our wheelhouse.
- It gives a sample of your brand voice. Two articles called “OMG: 5 Ways to Stop Your Brand from Being Cringe on TikTok” and “5 Strategies for a Video-based Social Media Strategy” might be about the exact same topic, but, based on the titles alone, we know they will have very different voices. Brand voice is often one of the most difficult things for clients to communicate to freelance writers, so you should use the title as an easy way to provide a quick sample of what you’re looking for.
Remember: Your title does not have to be set in stone. You can ask us to provide a different title, but the first step is simply getting the right writers to look at your request.
The next time you craft a brief for Verblio writers, run through this checklist to make sure your request is setting us up for success:
- Title: What’s the general topic and tone you’re looking for?
- Summary: What is the statement or question you want us to answer or explain?
- Purpose/goal: What should this article do, and why is it needed?
- Audience: Who’s going to be reading this? What is their role?
- Call to action (CTA): Is there a specific action your readers should take after reading, such as contacting you or buying a product?
- Relevant links: We love helpful links to relevant research and source material about your topic.
- Requirements: SEO keywords, words to avoid, internal or external links to use, and any other must-haves.
- Basic Outline: Especially for longer pieces, we recommend adding a basic suggested outline. Structure helps our writers understand how to meet your needs, which gives us the confidence and inspiration to click “Start a draft.” Stick to the basics and leave a little room for our creative flair—we love that!
Many of our writers and clients cultivate lasting relationships built on quality, trust, and responsiveness. Spending a bit of extra time and effort when creating your content brief is worth the effort. Great briefs are what draw Verblio writers in, motivate them to write for you, and help them give you exactly the content you’re looking for.
Wondering what else you can do to get even more from your Verblio experience? Check out three customer behaviors that will help you attract our top writers.