Product Marketing Managers (PMMs) often lead the strategy and execution of content marketing initiatives for their company.
By ‘content’, we mean any customer-facing assets: infographics, web pages, videos, podcasts, blog posts, etc. Companies invest significant time and money into creating compelling content to fuel their campaigns, events, sales programs, media/ad execution, and more. However, many of these assets don’t perform as they were intended. But why is that?
This can often be attributed to an absence of a disciplined, detailed creative before content development begins. A thorough, comprehensive plan helps avert last-minute surprises, prevent multiple rounds of revisions in the latter stages of the content development cycle, and most importantly, saves time, money, and resources.
But what does a successful creative brief look like, and how can it help hone your content development process?
In this article, I'll focus on key questions you need to ask to help you build the right content with the highest business impact. These include:
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Why should your prospect engage?
- Why create this content?
- What form factor will be most effective for your asset?
- Where does your asset fit in the buyer's journey?
- When is the asset needed?
- How will the assets be distributed?
- Next steps...
7 things to consider when writing a creative brief
1) Who is your ideal customer?
The first component of crafting a successful creative brief is to come up with a profile for your ideal customer. By understanding customer needs and pain points, the content you create will target and appeal to that ideal customer. Similar to a persona, these profiles include the target customer’s firmographics, title, industry, geography, etc. (See our recent blog post about creating personas here.)
But it’s not enough to simply describe the facts of your target customer’s role, or even your own product’s key features. Why? Because people buy things, not companies. So, you need to identify who the person is who is going to be buying your product.
To reach that person, you need to touch on their emotions. Address their pain points, the challenges they are facing, their successes, and joys: What is the emotional context your target audience is currently experiencing that you want to tap into? Fear? Excitement? Ambition? Frustration? Determination?
In short, what is the visceral feeling underneath the emotional response you want to elicit with your content?
2) Why should your prospect engage?
From the prospect’s perspective, you need to define what the value added is for them. Why should your target audience engage with this particular asset? What’s in it for them? What will they learn, experience, and get from this asset, and why is it worth their time to consume it?
Your content needs to be clear and compelling enough to answer these questions clearly and succinctly, which is why understanding the emotional context amongst your target audience is so critical.
3) Why create this content?
Your creative team should be provided with an initial brief of why this exact piece is needed. This will give them the necessary context for sorting through the detailed content you as the PMM will be providing them.
Defining your objectives and how you’ll measure success before starting a project will provide you with a finish line to avoid scope creep further down the line. You can also use this information to decide what metrics you will be monitoring and determine timelines for the project.
So, as part of your creative brief, ask yourself: what is the objective of the piece, and what is it trying to accomplish? How will you measure success (e.g. downloads for a whitepaper; views for a video; likes, shares, or retweets for social media; backlinks to web pages; conversions; demand gen campaigns that generate pipeline...)?
4) What form factor will be most effective for your asset?
Next, you need to decide what form factor will most effectively tap into that emotional response. PMMs must be very specific on what’s needed in terms of scoping parameters for their assets, such as word count, page count, or minutes of video/audio. The following is a list of some of the common types, or classes, of assets:
- Video (product tour, company overview, customer testimonial, executive overview...)
- Customer case study
- Whitepaper (technical architecture vs business discussion)
- Blog post
- Solution brief
- Partner brief
- Web page / landing page
- Digital asset for paid search, social media
Can you think of an asset you found particularly well done that would act as a good model for this second point?
5) Where does your asset fit in the buyer's journey?
Keep the buyer’s journey in mind when you’re writing a creative brief and consider where your asset fits into that journey, and how you can adjust it to meet buyers’ needs at every step of their process:
- Awareness -- Thought leadership; high-level educational piece to help prospects learn
- Consideration -- Show prospects business value; establish credibility for your company/product/category as a possible solution
- Evaluation -- What criteria should the prospect use to weigh their options (including “doing nothing,” or staying with the status quo)?
- Purchase -- Why is your particular offering the best option? And why act now versus wait? How might your prospect justify a purchase?
- Advocacy -- How can you help happy customers tell their story to peers? What messages are most important for them to share with others?
Where your prospect is in their buyer’s journey should also inform your choice of form factor, as discussed above.
For example, a busy CFO might not be interested in seeing a solution brief or datasheet at the awareness (or top) level of their journey. Here the information you provide them needs to be high-level and informative, not the nuts and bolts of your product and its performance.
Similarly, by the time they have reached the purchasing stage, a CFO will likely ask someone on their staff to review a demonstration, product video, or datasheet before finalizing a decision.
6) When is the asset needed?
Timing is another crucial factor in creating successful assets. In particular, when must the asset be ready to publish, distribute, or post? Is there an event, industry conference, sales kickoff, or other specific points in time where this asset must go live in marketing execution?
Choosing a deliverable that is realistic for the timeline you are working with is an essential part of its success.
7) How will the assets be distributed?
Arguably the most critical question to ask of your asset is: How will your content be published, distributed, posted, and/or activated? What channels (e.g. website, social media, paid search, syndicated content, media, print, trade show, etc.) will be used to deliver the content to the intended audience?
In addition, will this asset be gated or ungated? Again, this ties back to the why: are you using this asset to get leads, or is it intended to be for informational purposes only?
Finally, how would a sales development rep or account executive use this piece? As with the timing and form factor of your asset, how your intended prospect will encounter your asset is a key consideration.
After you’ve completed your creative brief, ensure your content development team knows who the subject matter experts are that they will need to interview.
Also, consider other examples and source content that’d be helpful to your writer and designer. The more you support and collaborate with them during your review cycles, the more effective the final outcome will be.