Briefs: why they matter and how good briefs help agencies get it right

Want your agency to get more work right first time around? A clearly written brief will make the process more efficient and maximise the chances of the agency hitting the mark.

A good brief will help obtain a good outcome. It’s the most important piece of information issued by a client to an agency as everything flows from the brief. Yet it’s surprisingly hard to write a good brief, one that will help build consensus.

In this blog post we’ve covered what a brief is, when to write one, why you need it and what you need to include. It sounds simple, but it can be surprisingly hard to write a good brief!

That’s why we’ve pulled together:

  1. What is a brief
  2. When to write one
  3. Why you need to write a brief
  4. How a brief can save you time and money
  5. How it can help when working with an agency
  6. Why an agency questions a brief
  7. What difference a brief makes to a project
  8. What you need to include in a brief

What is a brief?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a brief as:

Brief: verb: instruct or inform (someone) thoroughly, especially in preparation for a task.

A brief is a short guide that defines the mission behind a project, outlining the goals and objectives for a campaign or launch. It gives everyone working on the project an overview of the most important and pertinent information. It explains why the project is important to the audience and defines the key messaging. A good creative brief will help guide the creation of new, on brand, materials.

When to write one

Right at the start of the process; before you’ve begun to write copy, looked at the creative, defined which channels you’re going to use or even set the budget.

Once you’ve written your brief, question it. Remember, you’re not writing it for yourself, but for someone who doesn’t know your company like you do. Ask for feedback, and act on it. Make sure you’ve given all the information you can, and even include some examples of what you don’t want; that can be almost as powerful as telling people what you do want – in the right context.

You might think you’re being clear, but communication across sectors and industries can sometimes be muddled by technical terms that can be used to mean different things, so it’s always worth having someone else take a look at your brief before you issue it.

Why you need to write a brief

Having a clear brief means that any communication issues are ironed out at the start, reducing any frustrations that can arise. This applies in-house as much as when you are working with an agency to deliver your project. Defining the objectives and messaging at the start of any project ensures everyone understands what the project aims to deliver.

How a brief can save you time and money

For both a marketing agency and a client, a short, easy to read document detailing the main requirements of a project is worth its weight in gold. Not least as once a brief has been agreed on by all parties it lessens the possibility of the project running over time and over budget; this pains an agency as much as their client.

How it can help when working with an agency

Even when your business has worked with an agency for years, you still need to make sure everyone on the project is singing from the same hymn sheet. Getting everyone on the same page will help with the smooth running of the project and means it is much more likely that the creative vision you’ve got in your head looks like the finished product.

You can also issue a brief to several agencies to ask them to pitch for a new piece of work. That way you know they’ve all got the same information, so it’s a level playing field. This is particularly important if you are outsourcing a project for the first time and don’t have experience of working with agencies.

Why an agency questions a brief

We’ll always question a brief, in part to understand the real drivers behind your request, and in part to make sure that the problem you’re trying to solve will be met by the brief being fulfilled. Sometimes what you think you need isn’t the best way to address the issue, and that’s where we can add the most value. That’s why we start to get tough with the questioning. It’s not because we’re being difficult, it’s because if we don’t understand what you want, then we can’t deliver it.

What difference will a brief make to my project?

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a document that everyone could use to guide decisions all the way to project completion? That’s exactly what a good brief will help to do, not least as it:

  1. Means everyone on the project is working towards the same goal
  2. Identifies what you don’t know
  3. Shines a light onto the best way forward
  4. Can inspire the project team and spark ideas
  5. Gives you a solid base to report back on progress
  6. Can help prevent scope creep
  7. Can come in handy in the future

What you need to include

Each client and agency will present their brief in a slightly different way. As long as you write a brief, that’s the main thing – not whether it’s in one format or another. The main points you need to include in a brief are:

  • Client information
  • Technical specifications e.g. size, quantity, platforms and so on
  • Details about the product or service
  • Key challenges the campaign will address
  • How your competitors have addressed this need
  • Brand elements and guidelines
  • Stylistic preferences and any creative references
  • The project timeline
Still struggling to know what to do or where to start? Give us a call or drop us an email, and we’ll help you out.

Want to read more? Here’s a great resource from Hubspot on the questions you need to ask to write a great creative brief – read it here.

Or check out this blog from the Content Marketing Institute which talks about the way to create great content – read it here