A project brief is an outline of a task or objective. It gives the general idea without delving too deep into the actual content of a project. Though broad, it should have just enough detail to give you a clear idea of the task to be undertaken. As a result, there are things that you should never leave out when writing a project brief. Its importance lies in the fact that it forms the basis of the work being done: when you’re halfway through a task and you lose your direction, a project brief can be a good reference point to put you back on track.
When it comes to writers, the importance of a project brief cannot be gainsaid. The brief guides the person doing the actual writing and keeps them from deviating from the topic at hand. Due to its importance, you must pay keen attention, not only to how you write your brief, but most importantly to what you include in it. With a good brief, you are sure to get what you asked for from any writer.
Content writing project briefs may vary depending on the particular needs of a particular client. However, your project brief should contain at least the following:
This one is obvious, but it cannot be left out because of the weight it carries. A title gives an identity to your work. It’s no different than the name given to a new born baby. When you write a content writing project brief especially, let the title communicate as much as possible of what is expected from a writer. When anyone sees the title, it should give them an idea of what is required of them but, at the same time, keep it as simple and as catchy as possible. A title full of hard vocabulary will put off, if not scare away potential writers. A title keeps a person in check because it gives the topic of study and sets the boundaries all at the same time.
This follows on from the title. You should disclose why you want a certain project, or research area to be undertaken. The writer should at least know whether their piece is meant to be informative or persuasive: giving your title and objective narrows down a person’s own perspective to fit a specific idea. For a writer, an objective will provide a direction to work towards, whilst showcasing the scope of the work to be done. For example, if a title reads ‘Healthy Diet for Weight Loss’, the objective should go further to explain that the piece needs to feature research into healthy weight loss diets for teenagers. This will give the writer a clearer picture, not to mention narrowing the scope of the project.
In the objective, you can also include the image or message that you would want your final product to deliver: if you want it to support a particular subject or notion, then say so in your brief.
When you create a project brief for a writer, remember to include the ideal number of words you require. Giving them a blank cheque could lead to either one of two outcomes, neither of which is particularly good. Either they will have trouble deciding how much is enough, or the writer will give the task too much or too little attention. In the first case, the person will be confused, which is an unfair burden to land them with. In the second, they will likely write something that is far too long or far too short.
You don’t want to be stuck with something you didn’t ask for, after waiting in anticipation for its delivery. To avoid the trouble, specify the number of words, and even pages, if you can. This will be informed by your target audience, and the usual length of their reading material, or the subject you want covered.
Language forms the basis of any writing project – you cannot compromise on language. Therefore, when writing a project brief, please indicate the language in which the final product should come. Is it French, German or English? If it needs to be in English, always remember to specify whether it is in American English or the UK standard. For some, a confusion of the two can be a deal breaker at worst, or a messy piece of writing at best.
Besides the above, you should give direction as to whether the language should be formal or informal. This is going to depend on the target audience targeted. If you are working for a client, then they should state their preference to you, before you then pass it on to the writer.
Informal language will, mostly, imply a friendly tone and is ideal for less serious projects. Formal language is appropriate for intellectual projects or matters exclusively dealing with business. If you want to, you can even list a number of words and require that they must appear a set number of times. These are commonly known as keywords.
It’s also important that you give some direction on the level of vocabulary to be used. This might be determined by the formality of language explained above, but it’s best to specify this too. Complex language could make it impossible for your target audience to enjoy the final product, whereas vernacular that’s too simplistic might lead to some readers feeling insulted or bored. Remember that to receive a refined product from the writer, you must first give them refined instructions.
The language requirement goes hand in hand with the target market. The whole point of coming up with a project brief is to lay down, in clear terms, the focus and limit of your project. The brief is supposed to be a guide; knowing whom your product is aimed at will guide you as to how to present your product and how to measure your words. Understand your market.
For example, if a magazine’s target audience is professional doctors; you may be expected to use professional jargon, as used by doctors. However, if the magazine is aimed at educating the general public about a particular disease, then the jargon must be left out. Similarly, coloured backgrounds and plenty of pictures would be more suitable for children, or a lighter topic.
Timelines and deadlines
It’s necessary that you state, clearly, when you want your project to be completed. The time should be reasonable, depending on factors such as the length and depth of the research you want done. Failure to include this might could set you up for bitter disappointment, precisely because you and the person behind the keyboard, will be working with different schedules.
In this regard, you may want to try a different approach to project delivery, such as staggered deadlines. This method would have the work divided into stages, where each stage has its own deadline. Then, when all is accounted for, each stage will put together to form the full, finished product.
It might be necessary to also add what the consequences for not meeting deadlines will be. This will act to deter someone from late delivery, or a lacklustre attitude towards timekeeping or content quality.
Mode of delivery
This is mostly important for writers. You must specify whether you want your work delivered in hard copy or in soft copy. If a printed copy is necessary, indicate whether it should be bound or not, whether it should be colour printed or whether plain black and white will do. You could also advise as to whether an illustrative picture can be used, this could be anything from a photograph to a cartoon.
When a printed copy is unnecessary, do indicate the file format you would want it sent in; it could be in Microsoft word or a PDF version. Above all else, you must not leave out the address to which the complete copy should be sent.
Mode of delivery may also include the presentation of the document or report. What should it look like? At this point, you need to indicate whether it is to be divided sections or if there is some other custom design you desire. You could also specify what style and font size it should come in. These details though minor are important – the more you tell your writer, the less that can go wrong for either one of you.
Dos and Don’ts
There should be a list of general things that can or cannot be done. Since its general, you may include crucial matters as well as some basic ones. This is where, as a client, you are free to ask for things just the way you like them – preference is key. A good example is whether a writer is allowed to approach third parties or informants for interviews (some clients prefer to handle interviews through their own means). You could also mention something as basic as whether an abstract or a summary of pointers is required for a certain article.
A thorough list will give a decent writer a strong foundation upon which to begin their work.