“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.”
They say the hardest step is often the first step, and content creation is no different. Thankfully there are several tools and practices that can help make the content writing and publishing process easier.
Great content starts with each of these things. But you can't pull them out of thin air.
These templates ensure the content team connects the dots between strategy and execution, helping everyone stay on the same page as the content is taken a few layers deep.
Each of these documents serve as creative roadmaps, valuable tools for planning and organizing, simplifying the project into manageable parts. They help increase effectiveness, efficiency, and clarity for the project, but they each serve slightly different purposes.
What is a Content Repository?
A content repository is a "database" of background info needed to create the best content possible. It includes
a creative "sandbox"of creative content ideas
audience and market research data
client intake/onboarding info and interviews
published ebooks & whitepapers
style guide (tone/voice, spacing, headline hierarchy, visuals, etc)
key assets: logos, important images
account/access info for stock photography
You don't have to make all of this available, but it is extremely helpful for writers to have the background information they really need to create audience-focused, brand-aligned content.
What is a Content Brief?
Freelance writers aren't mind readers. Clients can get significantly better results by providing a thorough and realistic content brief.
A content brief is typically created by a Content Manager for a freelance writer or similar client. It contains clear guidelines and specific instructions for creating the piece of content, which maybe anything from sales page to a blog.
A Brief ensures alignment between two parties or stakeholders. It helps the content writer meet the client's or organization's marketing goals, vision, and expectations so that there are fewer misunderstandings, revisions and edits.
It allows writers to connect the dots between strategy and execution, helps everyone stay on the same page, and it also enables the content to evolve in a deeper, more comprehensive way.
What is a Blog Outline?
A blog outline is for the Author. It provides the initial structure and framework for the blog post, identifying the main sections, key points, and supporting details, ensuring that the content flows logically and coherently.
It helps the writer clarify and organize their thoughts and ensure that they stay focused on the main topic or message of the blog post, preventing writer's block, tangents or unrelated information from being included, as well as saving valuable time and energy.
Which Comes First?
A content repository is your initial foundation of all content. It is a living document or database always growing and being updated throughout the life of your brand.
From there, the order in which a blog outline or content brief occurs can vary depending on the writer's preferred workflow and approach. Many professional writers prefer to start with an outline to establish the structure thoughts and main ideas of the blog post before diving into the actual writing. Others may prefer to have detailed instructions from a content brief before creating the outline.
In the situation where a project has been outsourced, the content brief would come first, and the writer would then use it as a reference to create their outline. In some cases, the outline and content brief can be developed simultaneously or in an iterative process. For instance, the writer may start with a basic outline and then refer to the content brief to refine and expand on the ideas while ensuring that the requirements are met.
Ultimately, the order of creating a blog outline or content brief can depend on personal preference, the specific project requirements, and the writer's preferred workflow.
A Comprehensive Template for Content Briefs & Outlines
NAME (Writer Name and/or Client Name, if applicable)
FORMAT: Blog article, Feature article, Ghostwritten article, EBook, Case Study, etc
TARGET READER/ AUDIENCE (Customer Persona/ Key Demographic)
CUSTOMER FUNNEL STAGE
Customer Journey: TOFU, MOFU, BOFU
Pain Points (Emotions to Problem: Needs, Fears, Struggles, Challenges, Problems)
Pleasure Points (Emotions to Desired Outcomes: Solutions, Deliverables, End Goals)
REALISTIC TARGET WORD COUNT (Suggested vs Actual, 500-800 vs 800-1200 vs 1200-2500)
OBJECT / PURPOSE / INTENT - What role it plays in your content strategy?
To Educate - to increase professional credibility/authority, to inform, solutions-focused, answers questions, provides solutions, solves problems,
To Entertain - personal storytelling, persuasive essay/op-ed
To Engage - to increase clicks, increase conversions or sales, to increase brand awareness
What should the audience THINK, FEEL or DO after reading?
VISION / PLAN
Seasonally relevant (will need to be updated over time- best for short-term social or email promo)
Evergreen (informative and authoritative, longterm SERPs)
Where will it live or be distributed?
KEYWORDS (words or phrases to include topic, LSI, geo-indicators/service area)
Primary Keywords to be included in the preferred URL and headline
Secondary Keywords to be included in subsequent title and headings
NARRATIVE STRUCTURE / FLOW- can be determined by FAQs and PAAs, as well as competitors' page outlines
Primary Headings - H1s: Title Headline / Hook
Secondary Headings - H2s: Headings / Main Points sections
Intro - summary/overview / background / preview
Opening - problem vs promise
Conclusion or Footer
Recap, key takeaways,
Byline or tagline
Contact info - social media, email,
Final keyword use
Subheadings - H3s: Secondary Points
More detailed explanations, supporting info, ideas, transitions
Unique Selling Points: Differentiators, Superiorities, Values, Testimonials
Tone of Voice
Internal Content and Resources
External Research and Sources
META DESCRIPTION - detailed description of title, summary of post with keywords
Review client's questionnaire to complete content brief and outline
Rounds of revisions included
Related Projects for Success: Email Newsletter, GMB, Blog
*A Note on CTAs: For a blog post your CTA will be in the conclusion but for a Sales Page, there may be several CTAs throughout, such as a link to Services, Portfolio, Rates, FAQ, Bio page, Booking, Interest/Inquiry Form, etc
A Word of Caution
Long, overly-detailed prescriptive briefs could jeopardize content quality because they leave little room for creativity and improvisation. In micromanaging the writer, you prevent them from coming up with a unique take or POV for the piece that you hadn't considered
Trust the writer to do their job! And collaborate each step of the way, because that's when the magic happens
Wrapping It All Up
Both content briefs and blog outlines play crucial roles in the content creation process for soloprenuers and small businesses.
As a freelance writer specializing in heart-led, holistic marketing, I understand the importance of these tools in crafting engaging and effective blog posts that resonate with your audience.
If you're looking for a skilled and experienced professional to help you take your content strategy to new heights, I would be thrilled to connect and collaborate with you. We'll work together to bring your ideas to life and create compelling content that meets your content marketing goals. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Erin Ratliff is a certified feng shui consultant, holistic business coach and organic growth marketer for earth-loving, heart-centered soul-preneurs.
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