As the number of individuals and businesses electing to outsource their digital content writing increases, so too do the number of questions I receive about how best to go about this.
My clients know that I have simple-to-complete, yet comprehensive, questionnaires for them to complete before I begin a project. Not only does this give me the information I need to begin, but we find that these are good prompts for them to look at their requirements a little more strategically.
While certainly not as detailed as my Client Briefs, the following checklist is a good starting point for getting the content you need to fulfill your online marketing objectives.
Content Writing Brief Checklist
1. What is the purpose of the content?
- To provide information about your business to current and prospective clients
- To establish yourself as an ‘authority’ in a niche
- To grow your website gradually, with unique and relevant content, with the search engines in mind
- To deliver information about your industry to your site visitors
- To sell a product or service
- To announce developments/launch products
2. What type of content do you require? For example, do you want:
- general topic/niche related articles
- well researched, longer, ‘pillar’ articles, referenced
- industry news articles which ‘report’ on an industry/niche-relevant news topic
- authority blog posts (perhaps expressing your views on a topic)
- website page content, e.g. your Home, About, Services pages
- product descriptions
- a short report to be used as a lead generation tool
- an online press release
3. How long do you want these to be? i.e. the approximate word count.
My Pillar Articles are usually around 900 words, News articles from 600 words. General topic articles, which are great to build out a website for search engine optimization, are usually from 400-450 words.
The length of website page copy will depend on the topics to be covered and the design of your site.
4. What ‘tone’ do you want? …businesslike, emotive, friendly, authoritative, conversational?
5. What ‘voice’ do you want? Do you want the content to speak to, or about, the reader, e.g. do you want to use terms like ‘most people’ or ‘you’ or ‘our clients’?
6. If one of your key objectives is for the content to attract the search engines, have you identified those keywords that your target audience is searching for?
I always ask my clients to provide me with these, and, because this is so important, I now offer a keyword research service, which delivers a comprehensive report that is prepared by experts in this area. For more details on this see Keyword Research Reports.
7. Provide both authority and competitor information – having ready access to industry, government or association websites will help to ensure that the content is based on facts and best-practice, and knowing what competitors do, helps us to establish a point-of-difference.
8. In what format do you want your content delivered? e.g. text or word processing files?
9. How do you want the content delivered? e.g. shared Dropbox, email attachments?
10. Be clear about payment timing and processing
This will depend on the maturity of the content writer-client relationship. I always request upfront payment, sometimes over multiple milestones for larger projects, because I know that once delivered, I lose control of ownership of the material, and experience has shown that not everyone is as honest as me!
I ALWAYS pay my sensational writers and proofreaders within 12 hours of proofreading and receipt of their invoices and, as a result, I know they always give my project preference over others. My philosophy is that if they deliver to my standard, and to my timeline, they deserve immediate payment.
Armed with this degree of information, your content writers will have the essentials needed to commence your writing project.
Being accessible for clarification, where needed, and providing praise or feedback promptly, where warranted, will further streamline the process and nurture an ongoing worthwhile relationship.