If you want a successful content project, start with step one. Before the content launches, before the writing begins — before anything, really — start with content requirements.

Content requirements can be simple. Sometimes called a content brief, the document’s goal is to get everyone on the same page before we delve too far into the details.

5 Ws and an H

The content requirements spell out the old 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. Throw in an H for good measure: how.

Who: Who is involved in the project? Who will create content? Who will review it? And, most important, who can stop the project in its tracks — make sure those people are named as approvers.

What: What’s the goal of the project? What’s the need it addresses?

Where: This should be a general answer, as in the overall site the content is for. This isn’t essential, and you don’t want to pin down too much detail at this early stage. We’re defining the project, not answering the questions yet.

When: What’s the timeline for the project? This also helps establish the process the content creation will go through.

What:¬†What shouldn’t specify the content details — it should lay out the user and business goals the content needs to address. What tasks will the content address?

Why: This is the most important aspect of the requirements. Make sure everyone agrees on the goals of the project ahead of time. This helps everyone think through the project at the beginning, instead of at the end after something has been produced.

How: Define the process that will be used for gathering, reviewing, and delivering content.

Putting It Together

I usually add in a few more sections, such as a competitive analysis. The output of the content requirements includes an overview, names of the team members, names of the approvers, competitive analysis, user goals, business goals, success measures, and process. Ideally I attach a project schedule to the requirements.

Once the requirements are reviewed and approved, then the detail work can begin. But you can’t overstate the importance of getting everyone on the same page from the start.