6 [free!] content templates: one-pagers, briefs, outlines and more
By Tracey Wallace
Last week, I talked about content repurposing as a way to deliver the content your team needs, in a variety of formats, without starting from scratch (and burning yourself out) every time.
I believe in this with every ounce of my being––and it’s because, to me, this goes far beyond content.
As you likely read in my welcome email, I burned out several years ago and it took me about three years to get back to my personal baseline productivity, good mental health, improved relationships, and more.
There was a lot that burn out taught me, including that most of it was my own personal lack of boundaries. I made work who I was––my identity––and that’s often a recipe for disaster.
I’m in a much better place now, and have managed several teams since then, too. Often, I see this same pattern emerge in the most ambitious of people. For them, work becomes a way to prove themselves, to distract from life’s (typically more important!) issues, and more.
I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I even still do it sometimes. Work can be a fantastic––and occasionally even healthy!––distraction.
One of my biggest takeaways from that burnout experience, though, was that well established planning, project management, templates, and clear documentation of strategy and processes shields you personally and your team from burn out in nearly all cases.
- Clear documentation of strategy and processes gives context and sets expectations.
- Templates help kick-start projects so folks aren’t stuck staring at a blank page (and they help folks get started on the right foot more often than not).
- Project management keeps everyone accountable, gives more autonomy, and (when done well) should reduce meeting volume so folks can get the work done that needs to be done on deadline without distraction.
- And all of this allows you to plan far in advance (my team is now working on content three months out, and planning content six months out), and establish reasonable production timelines.
When you plan far in advance, you reduce stress, work better cross-functionally, and allow folks more space to take vacations or days off while maintaining their workload. Sure, if you take two weeks off, you might get two weeks behind, but if you’re two months ahead already, it doesn’t really matter.
I view the priorities of my job as a manager in this way (in order of importance):
- Help the people on my team grow in their careers in technical skills, communication skills, and building good work/life habits they can replicate beyond our time together.
- Build strong cross-organizational relationships with other teams to help them hit their goals, and to make it easier for them to help us hit ours.
- Improve the business metrics and add long-term value to an organization that can be utilized far beyond my time at that company.
I believe strongly that if I do the first two in that list, the third will come naturally. And strong project management, advanced planning, clear documentation, and reusable templates are a strong foundation for those first two priorities.
Organization is crucial––but moreover, it is just plain respectful to your team, and those you work with.
Urgent projects or deadlines are typically a tell-tale sign of a lack of organization, a lack of planning, and a lack of strategy. They are also incredibly disrespectful, especially when or if they occur more often than regularly planned projects.
Do your best to be respectful of the work other people put in for you or with you. Hopefully these templates can help:
- One pager template: A one-pager template is a misnomer. Most of my “one-pagers” are a couple pages long, and you’ll see why. Try to never go beyond three pages and keep things as short, simple, and scannable as possible.
- Blog brief template: This is my baseline template for blog briefs, though I almost always customize the brief for the given topic. Sometimes I include specific customers to interview or to use examples from, other times, I include resources like research from HBR or Business of Fashion that is relevant. Again, alter this to your specific use cases but always include expected word count, target audience, keyword targets, the purpose, etc.
- Blog outline template: I have a baseline blog outline template, but most of my freelance writers use their own. That’s great!
- Final draft example: This isn’t a template, but showing it as the final output of the brief > outline > blog example.
- Gated asset template: If you remember from last week, I talked about how I turn long-form blogs into gated assets often. I didn’t do that with this email design blog for Klaviyo (for a lot of reasons), but I put it in white paper template for you to see as an example. Be sure to give your design team at least 2 weeks for design, ideally 3-4.
- Automated email template: And finally, the automated email template I use all the time for my lifecycle team. I also give them a full 2 weeks heads up prior to the date this needs to be live.
The templates above are what I often use, but not always. Some situations call for slight variations, or someone will take a template I give them, and slightly alter it to their own preferences.
I’m all for folks making improvements as they see fit––in style, in tone, in format, whatever. Even if that improvement is just something that they personally like better.
It is not my job to dictate how work gets done. It is my job to guide how work gets done, and help folks connect the dots between different stages of their career, different parts of getting work over the finish line, and unblock them where I can (which is where templates and documented processes can be really helpful!).
So, use these if they are helpful, but alter them not only if you need to, but simply if you want to. There is no one right way to do this work. There are only principles by which you get to build the content program of your dreams.
A note of this advice you’ve solicited by signing up:
You do you!
One content marketer’s best practices aren’t always right for another one, though I do try to distill out the main concepts and core practices I believe everyone can benefit from. That said, you must use good judgment when deciding whether to take advice given from folks on the internet. I am an expert, and this advice comes from my direct experience, but I am not smarter than you, and I have nothing to gain or lose because of what you do.
That’s it for this week! My little rant above on organization reminded me of this Remote Work Best Practices doc I made for my team when COVID first started. What a way we have come!! Still, a super relevant document, esp. for folks still struggling to get this right (i.e. probably all of us in some way!).