The three things you need to produce good and effective content
September 3, 2020
There are three things that are critical to producing good and effective content. They are putting together detailed briefs, working with writers in an effective way and having in place a robust review process. Deliver on each and you can be confident that every piece of content you produce will be to the highest standards […]

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There are three things that are critical to producing good and effective content.

They are putting together detailed briefs, working with writers in an effective way and having in place a robust review process. Deliver on each and you can be confident that every piece of content you produce will be to the highest standards possible and able to achieve its goals.

Do note that ‘article’ has been used as alternative for ‘content’. Also, while this article is focused predominately on text-based content, the actions also apply to other types of content, including videos, animations and audio.

1.  Put together a detailed brief

A brief is essential, its purpose simple: to ensure that the content you’re looking to produce is carefully considered and goal-driven. Ultimately, a brief ensures that every piece of content has purpose and is mindful of the objectives set out in your strategy. It also helps the intended author of an article understand what needs to be done and why.

In general, there are two types of briefs:

  • Instructional
  • Informative

Instructional briefs

Instructional briefs are extremely detailed, where every element and every step of the process is outlined.

We use them when we want to be explicitly clear about all aspects of the work, from the very structure of the article to the audience it’s intended to reach.  The aim is to leave no room for misinterpretation and to remove ambiguity, which is necessary in instances where production is entrusted in another person.

After all, while you may know what it is you want, the same can’t be said of someone else. A lot can get lost in translation in the absence of clarity or guidance.

Instructional briefs are most useful for big, high-volume and ongoing projects, where the work required is similar in scope or themes. Think landing pages, such as a batch of car-hire destination guides or product descriptions for a particular type of clothing.

The good news is that while you may spend a decent amount of time putting together an instructional brief, you won’t have to do them that often.

Informative briefs

Informative briefs are also detailed but, and this is key, they are less prescriptive than instructional briefs.

These types of briefs are great for projects where the work required does not need to be so rigidly outlined both in scope and substance. Yes, you have a strategy in place, and yes, you have an idea – even a rough outline – but in terms of the priceless details and the flow of the article, well, that comes from the very act of doing – i.e. the researching, the thinking and the writing. In contrast to the above, the value here is in the unknown.

Informative briefs are often used for single pieces of content, each as distinct as the next. This is in contrast to, for example, landing pages for city parking spots across the UK, which will typically share the same structure and content, but be adapted slightly to take into account destination-specific differences.

2. Work with writers in an effective way

When you are required to cede control over the written process and hand that over to other writers – and editors –always work with talent you know and trust – taking a punt on someone you haven’t worked with before on a critical project is an unnecessary risk to take.

All that said, you should keep your eye on emerging talent. It’s great to be give opportunities to new entrants – a gamble, but one worth taking – and those that pay-off can make a huge difference over the long-term.

So, if you haven’t already, start put together a black book of contacts (these days a Google or Excel sheet). Organise it and include all the essential information, such as name, email, website, social media accounts, specialisms, rates and so on. Make it accessible to you and others so that when it comes to finding someone, it’s an intuitive process.

When it comes to commissioning people, think strategically – you want to assign the right article to the right writer. That doesn’t just mean putting your best writers on every gig. It also means, for example, thinking about commissioning an industry professional because they can also amplify the reach of the article organically, or working with a subject specialist whose understanding of a particular topic cannot necessarily be achieved by even the most authoritative copywriter.

Two key things to consider

1. Expertise

  • Writing proficiency: it sounds obvious, but the more experienced a writer is across the, the better they are for you (e.g. someone that is very capable of adopting different styles and demonstrating varying levels of writerly depth)
  • Subject specialisms: highly valuable, especially when it’s genuine and substantial (e.g. a travel expert isn’t someone who can write inspirational travel guides – they should also know the ins and outs of the industry)
  • Additional skills: if they can edit and edit well, a bonus. If they can take pictures, too, brilliant. Au fait with SEO? Nice.

2. Breadth and depth

While your industry may limit the type of writers you work with, it’s always a good idea to develop a network of talent that is as broad as possible. It’s not just about what you need today, but also about who you may need in the future. Relationship-building is key.

3. Review all work robustly

Before any article is published or submitted to a decision-maker, it needs to have gone through a thorough review process to ensure that:

  • It fulfils everything outlined in your brief, whether it’s instructional or informative
  • It reads well, in general and for the intended audience
  • It’s free of errors, from spelling to punctuation

It’s important because being able to deliver quality work builds trust in your readers. It sets you apart and shows that you’re serious about your craft. The odd fail is allowed – we’re human, after all, we make mistakes. But if you fail to deliver time after time, chances are your credibility is going to take a serious hit and that can take time to recover.

The review process shouldn’t be thought of as an add-on. It’s a crucial part of the production process – i.e. it has to happen. Sure, we all want to reduce our workload and feel confident that all work that is returned to us is flawless, but the real world doesn’t work like that. For any number of reasons, any given piece of content needs some tidying or repair work, minor and major. Invest heavily in this and you will reap the benefits.

Quick checklist of things to review

  • Style: Is it on brand? Is the TOV correct?
  • Brief: Has it followed the guidelines?
  • Copy: Is it well-written? Is it readable, well-structured?
  • Quality: Has it been reviewed properly by the writer?

In terms of the mechanics of reviewing and what that looks like, it’s worth checking out our blog here. It takes you through the entire process from the moment a piece of content is filed to when it’s finally published, covering things like the levels of editing that can be expected, as well as what you anticipate doing at different stages.

So there you have it. Three essential aspects of producing not just a good piece of content, but an effective one too – one that delivers on your objectives, as well as that of your reader.

If you have any questions on how to produce great content or anything else, we’d love to hear from you.