How we use a content brief at TDD to streamline content processes

Satabdi Mukherjee
November 24, 2023


At TDD, we work with a team of fantastic creative consultants, and we believe that the first step to creating jaw-dropping, on-brand content is a well-researched and detailed content brief. 

We also believe that our clients should be on the same page as our writers with respect to each piece of content being created. This is another avenue where a content brief comes in handy. 

As you’ll see, our briefs include a common space for writers and clients to work out the structure of the piece to their mutual satisfaction.

In this way, neither does the writer spend time working on a piece that won’t be useful, nor does the client end up with content that is far off the mark.

Let us walk you through the elements of our content brief and why we think each section is important.

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16 Elements of TDD’s Content Brief

TDD’s content briefs are a love of labor created by three departments - SEO strategists, content marketers, and writers.

Our content brief has three parts: 

  • SEO instructions - provided by the SEO strategist
  • Content outline - created by the content marketer and/or writer
  • Writer’s checklist - filled by the writer after completing the first draft

SEO Instructions

The SEO section of the content brief is important since we want our pieces to have the best chance at ranking high in the search results. Our SEO strategist begins with keyword research, SERP analysis, and topic ideation.  

1. Topic 

In consultation with the client, we identify the focus topic(s) we want to cover. This is distinct from the title of the article. 

We aim to build topical authority by writing in-depth content around a pillar page and topic cluster pages. The topic cluster model helps us avoid gaps in content and create blog posts in an organized manner.

Instead of just handing out a bunch of keywords to our writers, we specify the broad focus of the piece that aligns with the user intent. This helps writers understand the “why” of the piece, which, in turn, enables them to think of a specific “angle” or point of view to take. 

2. Intent 

Understanding user intent and writing for it ensures that the piece not only gets read by the right people but also actioned as we want it to be.

Writers must understand why people are searching for the topic: 

  • Informational - to learn about the topic
  • Transactional - to find a specific product or service
  • Navigational - to find a specific website

Depending on the intent we’re addressing for the topic, writers devise the call-to-action (CTA) to be included.

3. Funnel stage

We also keep the stage of the sales funnel in mind when crafting the piece because our ultimate aim is to boost conversions. Thus, we specify if it’s meant for the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, or bottom of the funnel.

4. Word count

While the word count is not set in stone, we provide a range based on an analysis of the top results in the SERP. It helps writers determine how comprehensive each section of the article needs to be keeping the user intent and funnel stage in mind.

5. Keywords

Without keyword suggestions, can a content brief even be complete?

Our briefs include the primary keyword, secondary keywords, and latent semantic indexing (LSI) phrases.

Unless specified otherwise by the client, TDD’s style guide mandates that writers maintain a 1.5%-2% overall keyword density. 

6. External references

We use this section to provide the writer with examples of high-ranking content on the same or similar topics. It helps them understand what we expect the end result to look like. It also gives them ideas on how best to structure the article and what sort of examples and statistics to use.

7. Internal links

Building an internal linking structure helps get content crawled faster by Google and improve search rankings. 

We provide 3-4 internal links to include in the piece based on how we envision the content within the cluster and what our conversion goal is. 

8. Client folder link - ICP, buyer persona, survey questionnaire, positioning

Arguably the most important section of our brief, this is where we share all the brand-related information with the writer. Without a clear understanding of the ICP, buyer persona, positioning, and related background information, it is not possible for writers to produce on-brand content that hits all the right notes.

Some of the questions this section helps answer:

  • Who are we talking to?
  • What are their pain points?
  • Who are the stakeholders involved in the buying decision?
  • Who are the competitors?
  • What are the goals of the company?
  • What is the tone and voice followed by the company?

9. Product features to pitch

Unless writers have an intimate understanding of the company’s product and its features, they will not be able to integrate it seamlessly into the content piece. 

Writers must also nail the positioning of the company–and we make it possible by providing access to product demos, sales decks, and customer calls (where available). 

Content Outline 

The content marketer provides the information in this section, often in collaboration with the writer. However, if the writer desires it, we allow them to build this section based on their research and product understanding. 

Before the writer starts writing the first draft, we get the client to sign off on this section, which includes a detailed outline with headings and subheadings. 

10. Title suggestions

We start by sharing 2-3 variations of the title, testing its strength and emotional appeal using tools like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer.

11. Meta data

To boost SEO efforts, we require writers to include a meta title (up to 60 characters) and a meta description (up to 160 characters) for each article.

12. Cover image description

While the cover image is created by the design team, it helps to provide a description based on our understanding of the topic. This description mentions the distinctive elements that must be included in the image. 

The cover image must indicate to readers what the blog post is about.

13. Article outline

The article outline is an important section not only because it lays down the structure of the piece, but it is also a space for the writer and the client to collaborate based on their research and know-how.

Our outlines are not bare skeletons with only the headings and subheadings. We also include details such as:

  • Information to be included under each heading (as bullet points)
  • Relevant statistics to support our claims
  • Analogies or examples to illustrate the points we make
  • Opportunities to include tables, graphs, charts, or infographics
  • Pointers around how we intend to weave in the product

Our experience shows that the more detailed the outline, the easier it is for the client to visualize the final shape of the article and provide targeted feedback.

14. Examples/use cases 

We mention the particular use cases of the product that need to be included in the piece. Also, if there are specific examples that we’d like to see in the article, we provide the writer with detailed information.

15. References used

The references used to build the outline are mentioned in this space. 

16. Social media content (LinkedIn, Twitter)

This is an optional section wherein writers include social media copy should the client aim to promote the pieces on LinkedIn (up to 3,000 characters) and Twitter (up to 280 characters).

While this concludes the bulk of our content brief, we have also included a checklist for writers to ensure that basic writing principles do not get overlooked.

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Writer’s Checklist

Our checklist has five sections:

1. Engaging/Scannability check

We ask our writers:

  • Is the outline clear and easy to follow?
  • Is the outline specific and purposeful?

How can you ensure this?

  • Keep the purpose of each section - introduction, body, conclusion - in mind.
  • Ensure the headings, subheadings, and bullet points are clear. 

2. Voice and tone

Writers must be able to capture the brand voice to ensure it matches the overall brand messaging. In brief, we must strive to sound confident, respectful, and authoritative. 

We may also share samples of the company’s best content pieces as examples of the tone that writers must emulate.

3. Sources

We ask writers to ensure all claims are backed up by recent and relevant statistics taken from original sources. These sources should be hyperlinked at the appropriate locations. 

In addition, we request writers to list all the sources at the bottom of the articles. 

4. Grammar/Syntax

Even though correct grammar and syntax is a given, we’ve included it in the checklist to remind writers to perform final checks using tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor. 

5. Style guide 

If the company we’re writing for has an internal style guide, we link to it in this section. Else, we request writers to adhere to TDD’s Style Guide.

We follow AP style for headings, US English spellings and punctuation, and a casual, semi formal tone.

To sum up

A detailed content brief is our best bet to receive a first draft that’s really close to what we expect. The more information we can share with the writer, the better the output is. 

Hence, we have honed the skill of creating a brief down to an art that leaves little to the imagination. 

Satabdi Mukherjee
Satabdi Mukherjee
Satabdi is a content specialist skilled at authoring long-form content for B2B SaaS companies. She has contributed to brands like Peoplebox, HackerEarth, Crewscale, Rafiki, and Kissflow. She enjoys working with spirited teams of writers and editors, creating effective content that gets the needle moving.

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