What do Writers Expect in an Assignment Brief?

What do Writers Expect in an Assignment Brief?

We all want the collaborative process to run smoothly. In content marketing, it’s not uncommon to integrate a handful of agency or platform staffers with creatives working on contract to build a content creation team.

From content strategists, branding agency pros and editorial directors, to writers, SEO experts, photographers and graphic designers, we all need direction and clear instructions regarding client needs.

Let’s chat about assignment summaries.

Sometimes on the writing end of things, this document is also called the brief. This short summary of the specific content task-at-hand is the anchor for everyone working on the project. It quickly outlines what the client wants and what the creative needs to achieve. It also includes links to additional resources.

How to Write an Assignment Summary for Freelancers

So, what exactly should be included in a brief or summary?

I’m glad you asked! After 20+ years of accepting freelance assignments, I’ve navigated oodles of onboarding processes and read thousands of assignment summaries. Some have been amazing, others have been, well…non-existent.

Use these sections to build an assignment summary template or outline that fits your project.

Assignment Topic / Proposed Headline: This is a short phrase or sentence describing the topic.

When a client includes a sample headline, versus a few words related to the topic, I have a better feel for the voice and tone they expect. Is it straightforward and technical, or snappy and creative?

Summary: This is the heart of the assignment. The summary will explain why the piece is being written and what absolutely needs to be included.

I’ve received assignment summaries that are two sentences, or two pages, long. Sometimes they include suggested subheadings, bullet point lists of facts, topics to cover or full outlines of how the content should flow or be structured.

At a bare minimum, the summary should state the topic and desired angle or key takeaway.

Content Pillar: If the client is creating various assets, or has multiple buyer personas, it’s best to define which categories this specific assignment falls under.

This section can also call out the purpose of the content, such as “drive social engagement” or “lead generation” for a new service that will launch soon. Knowing why the content is being created is important for not only the internal team, but all the freelance creatives too.

SEO Keywords: When writing online, the client will dictate one or two keywords (or keyword phrases) to integrate into the text. For blog posts and site pages, usually one keyword is considered dominant and should be used within the first 100 words of the text and again every 100-200 words for proper search-engine ranking.

Links to Include: When working with brands in a marketing capacity, you’ll likely be integrating backlinks to products or services to help initiate the sales cycle.

Some brands focus on a call-to-action, then link to a contact page, blog post or free downloadable content.

Additional Resources: This section is by far the most important if you want the task done well and to your specifications.

As a writer, I look for links to an editorial calendar, to see where this assignment fits into the flow of things. Often, the editorial calendar is where the assignment summary or brief is posted.

I also look for editorial guidelines or a content strategy document that outlines the client’s overall approach to content marketing. Then, I dig into the writer’s guidelines to learn more about the client’s audience, tone, word counts, style choice (AP, Chicago, MLA) and other nitty-gritty details.

Sometimes this section will also share lists of approved resources, contact details for team members, a timeline for the project (if it has multiple steps) or links to approved published content to review.

At a glance, it may seem like a lot of information to gather. In my experience, all of this is generally available in bits and pieces, among the internal team working directly with the client. The information simply needs to be organized and presented to the creatives so they are well-informed about the project too.

Trust me. It takes less time to create a thorough assignment summary than it does to sift through multiple emails from creatives with requests for client information or project details as questions pop up.

Want more writing and marketing tips? Join me on Twitter at Angela Tague. You can also find me on Facebook at Web Writing Advice and Angela Tague (Journalist / Writer).

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