Blogging is the engine of an effective inbound marketing strategy. For best results, you have to build success into your blog from the beginning. Before you write your first post, plan your blog using this creative brief template.
The creative brief is a staple item of the advertising world that guides the direction of campaigns and other tactics. We see the blog creative brief as a governing document to help you design and manage a blog strategy that contributes to your business goals while serving as a resource to your publics.
Whether you are planning a new blog or revamping an existing one, completing each of the following sections of a blog creative brief is the perfect first step to launching a winning blog that attracts, engages and converts visitors.
Sections of a Blog Strategy Creative Brief
- Overall Business Goals
- Key Audiences
- SEO Keywords
- Goals of the Blog
- Website Context
- Content Creation
- Content Specifications
- Main Content Categories
- Authors and Authorship
- Blog Description
- Sample Blog Launch Post Topics
- Suggested Blog Title(s)
Section 1: Overall Business Goals
Your blog might drive your inbound efforts, but it’s driven by what your business hopes to achieve in the next year. Here, list each of your overall business goals, along with the appropriate measurement and sense of time. Your blog, like all other marketing communications tactics, need to support your organization’s overall strategy. Common examples include:
- Are you trying to increase brand awareness by X% in 201X?
- Do you have a yearly sales goal of $X?
- Are you repositioning your brand as X?
- Are you reaching out to new audiences such, as X?
Section 2: Key Audiences of the Blog
This section is rather self-explanatory: For whom is this blog intended? Consumers? If so, be specific: Which consumers? Men or women? Luxury or value customers? Rural or urban? Or, is this blog a B2B effort? If so, who are the buyers, the deciders and the influencers — and which of those are more likely to be searching for blog content like yours? Drill down your audiences and highlight the specific segments you hope to reach via the blog.
By this point, you should have created audience personas that guide all of your content marketing efforts. Reviewing those personas will help you understand which customers will benefit the most from your blog.
Section 3: SEO Keywords
Odds are you already have keyword data for your own website or other paid and owned media. It’s important to develop a list of keywords with your blog in mind because that’s what will make or break your inbound strategy.
If you don’t have a list of keywords, start by reviewing your website analytics and compare them to a list of your offerings (products or services) or solution-based topics (why someone would need a product or service such as yours). If you were a health food brand, an example of the latter might be “building muscle;” an example of the former might be “protein bars.”
- Which keywords are relevant to you, your audiences, your service or product offerings and your industry?
- Which search terms trigger results for your competitors?
Your list of keywords will serve as the foundation of success for the blog and the framework for measuring analytics and ROI. We’ll refer back to this list throughout the rest of the blog creative brief.
Section 4: Goals of the Blog
Given your overall business goals and your key audiences, what do you hope this blog will accomplish? In this section, specify how the blog will support your business through various calls to action and how it will nurture a customer through your sales funnel. You can also include in this section how you want users to interact with the blog.
Calls to Action
What are the next steps for a reader after viewing the blog? Here are some common examples:
- Request services/order products
- Contact you (link, form or click-to-call telephone number)
- Network with you (individually or as an organization; link to LinkedIn profile)
- Favorite or bookmark the blog or a particular post
- View related posts
Sharing and Commenting Options
- Integrate options for readers to share blog content on their social media networks.
- Encourage readers to connect with you on your social media networks.
- Encourage readers to comment (comments could appear automatically or pending approval).
Do you want your visitors to have the option to subscribe to blog updates via RSS and email? The upside to this is that you can build a following; the downside is that it could deflect traffic away from your site.
Section 5: Website Context
Your blog has to live somewhere on the Internet – either as part of your current site or on a stand-alone presence. Here are some things to consider:
- Will the blog be housed within your current website? If so, will it use the same general wireframe, look and feel – or will it have its own, distinct design? Its generally best to make your blog a seamless part of your website.
- Will the blog live on a new, separate website? Some opt for this approach, but it’s generally not recommended for an inbound marketing strategy since you won’t be driving traffic back to your flagship website.
- How will you link to the blog from the other pages of your website? Will there be a link in the main navigation, the header row, or somewhere else? Conversely, how will your blog link back to the other pages of your site?
- How will you update the blog — by using your exisiting content management system or a different tool?
Section 6: Content Creation
At this point, please consider two tenets of blog creation and management that every content marketer should hold dear:
- A blog is only is good as its last post (and the last time it was updated).
- Never launch a new blog with only one or two posts written. Rather, launch it with several published posts to give readers an idea of what the blog will cover. Think about it: When you launch your blog, you are going to drive visitors to it. If there were only a couple of posts on the site, your visitors won’t stick around very long.
In this section of the blog creative brief, you’ll detail your launch plans and content calendar:
- Specify how many posts you’ll be launching with. If you plan to update the blog daily, launch with 8-12. If you plan to update the blog weekly, launch with 15-18 posts.
- Will you be repurposing content from elsewhere to create these initial posts? This could include content from both online and offline publications.
- Will you be migrating content from elsewhere online to create these initial posts?
- Will you create posts prior to launch, and publish them over time? This is recommended; it’s always good to have a supply of ready-to-post copy.
- After the content migration is complete and the blog is ready to launch, how often will you create content going forward? If blogging is new to your team, how much production can it handle?
Section 7: Content Specifications
Starting with this section, we begin to focus on the content of the blog:
- Approach: Are the posts intended to serve as a resource? Inform and provide corporate news? Entertain? All of the above?
- Tone of Voice and Personality: Think of your audience and what works best: conversational, or full of jargon and buzzwords.
- Length: Although it’s best to write tight for Facebook, Twitter and other social channels, longer blog posts tend to be more effective. In fact, a recent study by Medium suggests the ideal blog length is 1,600 words (or 7-minutes-long to read). Longer posts also are better for SEO, and posts under 200 words are considered “thin content” by search engines, and thereby penalized on the results page. But don’t add words for the sake of adding words. Focus on writing compelling and useful content. Period.
- Images: Photographs and graphics are important. They help your post get noticed in search engines and also make for more visually interesting Facebook and Google+ posts. Set a rule that all posts must contain at least one image.
- Branding: Your blog should follow all brand identity guidelines, just like any other publication.
- Keywords: Be sure to include your search keywords in the title, subheads and content of each post.
Section 8: Main Content Categories
Refer back to your keywords list and group those search terms into clusters of similar words. Your main content categories should be a list of 4-7 broad topics your blog shall address. For SEO purposes, it’s important that these categories are also reflected in your list of keywords.
Look to the right of this post, and you’ll see that we’ve organized our blog categories by service offering: Branding, Creative Services, Crisis Communications, and so on.
Section 9: Authors and Authorship
Who will be supplying the brilliant and effective copy for your blog – and who will receive credit for it?
Some organizations never publicly identify the author and attribute all stories back to the company (or a division of the company, like The Sales Team or The Marketing Department). Some blogs are ghostwritten for a CEO or other public face. And some attribute each post to the author who wrote it. That’s the approach we take for The Fairmount Group’s What We Say blog. Doing so gives us the opportunity to showcase the individual backgrounds and experience of our team members.
Which approach makes the most sense for you? Whichever path you decide, make sure it’s one that you can stick to consistently. Often, it makes the most sense for posts to be attributed to the brand rather than a specific person.
What About Guest Bloggers?
Remember, this creative brief is designed to help you set up a blog that drives an inbound marketing strategy. In other words, it usually doesn’t matter who writes a post as long as the post is constructed with SEO, usability, readability and utility in mind.
Promoting a guest blogger is usually only beneficial if the author in question is a well-known name. If you have the chance to have an expert in your field or a popular celebrity write content for you, than totally exploit that option. But if your guest blogger is simply a new face on the team or someone who’s relatively unknown to your audiences, heavy promotion of this special author generally offers little value.
A better approach is for you to be a guest blogger on an another website – that of an industry trade publication for example. Having a presence on an external site will link back to your own blog and site, and adds credibility to your content. For example, I contributed a story to Ragan’s PR Daily that included links back to this blog – and gave us a sustainable spike in web traffic.
Section 10: Blog Description
Take all of the above information and synthesize it into the perfect meta description for your blog (some would also call this the mission statement of your blog). This content might not be made public; however, you might find it helpful to place somewhere on your blog. For example:
The Fairmount Group’s What We Say blog is a resource on branding, marketing, strategic communications, media relations and digital strategies, offering readers useful information to build strong brands, reputations and relationships.
Section 11: List Upcoming Blog Post Topics
If you take our advice above, you’ll launch the blog with several posts and you’ll have many more posts written, approved and waiting to be published. This means you’ll have to begin creating additional content right away, especially if you plan on updating the blog daily, semi-weekly or weekly.
Personally, I like to develop a list of 52 topics, guaranteeing that the blog can be updated at least once a week for a year. To begin, take your list of main content categories and start by coming up with 5-10 topics for each. Make sure each of those topics involve the name of that category (remember, those category titles are really keywords).
Section 12: Suggested Blog Title(s)
Many clients are surprised that the decision to name – or not name – the blog comes last. But it’s better to choose a name that reflects your goals and audiences, then to try and shoehorn your goals into a pithy title you came up with first. Besides, until you’ve gone through the above steps, you might not be able to select a title that really speaks to your strategy.
Besides, titles aren’t what drive blog traffic, keyword-focused content do. However, a clever title has its benefits and can help position the blog as a resource or content destination. Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio updates its Home Care Help Blog weekly. That title was selected with its core audiences in mind: those looking for home care services or those who are family caregivers who provide those services themselves. Conversely, Pierre’s Ice Cream Company simply refers to its blog as, well, its blog. Despite the difference, both organizations leverage their blogs to bring in traffic and as the core of their overall content marketing efforts.