Imagine trying to write a graduate-level thesis without having graduated high school. Even if you did understand the topic at hand (“Orbital involvement in Bing-Neel syndrome,” what?), you probably wouldn’t know the structure of a traditional thesis or why you even need to write one.

You’d spend a lot of wasted time figuring out what to do, and the end result probably wouldn’t be close to what you’d hoped or what it needed to be. But, if you knew what you were doing beforehand … well, writing your thesis would still be hard, but you’d at least have an idea of where to start and what to write to get your master’s degree.

Get where I’m going with this? The above idea is why your content strategy needs a marketing brief.

Your brief is your treasure map; it outlines the steps you need to take in order to reach your goal. Without it, you’ll get lost wandering the seven seas of endless marketing strategies only to sink your own ship and fall to the bottom of the ocean.

Okay, it really means that you’ll have a much harder time achieving your marketing goals.

These briefs are especially important if you work with a content marketing agency. Your assigned marketing team is new to your brand, and it’ll take time before they learn the business’s nuances that you know by heart. A marketing brief shortens the learning curve and allows your team to hit the ground running in the right direction.

Marketing briefs demystified

If you were to write a marketing brief for your agency right now, do you think they’d be able to get started on your content strategy?

Unfortunately, statistics suggest the answer is “no.” Nearly 30 percent of non-agency created marketing briefs are incomplete and inconsistent. Just over half have all the necessary information, but they lack focus, which makes it even more difficult to draft an effective campaign.

Let’s clear up this disconnect by reviewing what a marketing brief is and what goes into one.

In one sentence, a brief is a guideline for your marketing campaign. It outlines the game plan and goals for your strategists, tells your creative team how to complete a project and keeps your stakeholders in the loop about campaign objectives and anticipated outcomes.

A good marketing brief is clear, thorough and consistent. You don’t have to break your marketing plan into clear categories as outlined below, but it’s best to touch on each of these topics in some way.

Company description

Yes, everyone already knows what your company does and what its values are, but it’s good to include these ideas in your marketing brief. Doing so establishes consistency; your marketing team will always have these ideas in mind as they carry out the campaign.

Campaign purpose

Your campaign purpose is different from your goals and objectives. Instead of describing clear outcomes and key performance indicators, the purpose details the overarching reasons for launching your marketing initiative.

  • Increasing your social media follower count.
  • Boosting engagement.
  • Increasing conversions.
  • Promoting a new product or service.

Project summary

Again, this is a high-level overview of what you plan to do. Describe what types of content your campaign will contain, how they will relate to each other, what platforms they’ll reside on and other significant, overarching details.

Goals and objectives

This is where you’ll list specific desired outcomes like KPIs. Be detailed enough that everyone involved in the campaign knows what they’re working toward.

Target audience

We’ve said this time and again, but understanding your target market and segmenting them into personas is one of the key elements to a successful marketing campaign. Describe who this particular strategy is directed toward to shape the rest of your content.

Campaign strategy

This is where you’ll want to be as detailed as possible. This section also requires the most preliminary research. Get into the nitty gritty of your project summary and list things like required keywords, optimal content length, competitor analyses, hashtags, cross promotion and more. However, this isn’t a list of creative quirks or style choices. The marketing brief is not the place to point out your logo or dictate whether you use the Oxford comma. That’s your creative brief!

Deliverables

It’s likely that your campaign will include different types of content. Here, you’ll break down what you briefly described in the project summary. This section answers questions like, “How many blog posts will we write?” and “How many illustrations do we need?” It’ll also provide a tentative timeline for publishing this content.

Timeline

You may not have exact dates just yet, but a tentative timeline will help everyone involved stay on track and prevent delays. Unfortunately, you or your marketing team might not realize how long it takes other departments to complete a particular task. Establishing an outline ahead of starting the project should ensure everyone has enough time to complete their assignments. Timeliness is crucial, after all –  especially if you’re launching your campaign quickly.

Stakeholders

Here, you’ll list the name and roles of everyone involved in the campaign. Who is creating the strategy, and who’s responsible for making sure everything is delivered online?

All the hands that go into a marketing brief

If you looked at all of this and panicked thinking you’d have to generate an entire brief yourself, take a deep breath. Maybe meditate or do some yoga. Then come back and realize that your brief will be all the better if you get other departments involved (unless you operate a one-person business, that is).

So who all helps create a marketing brief?

The owner/CEO

Of course the head of the company has a hand in directing the marketing brief. He or she is the captain of your pirate ship, after all. They should know what’s best for the company, meaning they can direct everyone toward success. Involve them in the overarching areas of the marketing brief, such as the purpose and project summary.

Still, CEOs are busy, so they may delegate a lot of their brief-creation responsibilities to …

The head of marketing

Whoever’s running the marketing department (or serves as the agency’s primary contact) takes the CEO’s vision and turns it into a strategy.

Creatives

Don’t forget about the people who established your branding guidelines and materials. They’ll help decide the appropriate types and number of deliverables.

Sales

Knowing how sales teams pitch products and seal deals helps for developing a strategy focused on the middle and end of the funnel. They can tell you where most of your customers are (which is helpful for designing personas and targeted search material), what metrics they need to indicate performance and more.

Product development

What makes your product stand out from its competitors? Your development team surely knows. They can tell you what aspects to feature in your marketing materials. If a new launch is on the horizon, development can also help with establishing the content timeline.

The web and social team

These guys know where your content will be posted, as well as tiny details that can affect your ROI. Your web team, for example, can provide valuable input on the structure of your content (for example, how title tags and metadata align with the rest of your website). Meanwhile, social knows which types of content will be most effective on which platforms. They can answer questions like, “Should we put our videos on YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook or a combination of all four?”

Set yourself up for success with a masterful marketing brief

It’s possible to dive headfirst into your marketing campaign with no planning whatsoever, but think of the headache that would cause. Isn’t it much better to draft an overview of what you plan to do and accomplish?

Don’t be mean to your future self, and don’t hinder your marketing campaign. Set up a brief; you’ll love yourself later.

Autumn Green is a Brafton writer living in Chicago. She thought she wanted to be an artist growing up, but her time in college taught her that writing is much more fun. On the weekends, you can find her browsing museums or buying cookbooks.