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Writing a great creative brief

Updated: Jan 7

Raise your marketing ROI with a great creative brief

This post shares some tips on how to write a creative brief to inspire results from your marketing agency or creative freelancers, like designers, writers, photographers, etc.

The creative brief—a humble-enough-looking, two or three-page document organizations produce to direct their agencies and freelancers. It’s easy enough to short-shift or to skip writing a brief, but there are costly consequences.

When you develop a thoughtful, comprehensive, and articulate summary of what you want and know, you inspire great results and enable the best ROI for your marketing investment.


The anatomy of a creative brief

While the terms vary, every good brief for creative marketers includes:

  • Objectives

  • Strategy

  • Audiences

  • Competitors

  • Ideas

  • Budget

  • Timing

  • Objectives

What do you want to do?

What are your deliverables?  

What are your communication goals

How will success be measured?

What’s the big picture?


Agencies and freelancers need to know what you want to achieve and why. Don’t treat your marketers like order-takers. Instead, let them do their job. Take their advice on how to handle challenges and seize on opportunities. Leverage their expertise/experience to reach your target audience.


Strategy

How do plan to accomplish these goals?

What marketing tactics do you plan to execute?

Do you have metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) in mind?

If you have a marketing strategist in your ranks (maybe the same person writing the brief), get them to spell out the plan. If you don’t have the marketing expertise, ask the team/person you brief to recommend an approach. 

Audiences

Who do you need to reach: consumers, businesses or associations?

What makes them tick?

What media do they consume?

What do they believe?

What do you want them to believe?

Provide useful information about your target audience(s). And don’t just think about consumers/shoppers, either. Follow an integrated approach and identify all the people you might want or need to influence.

Competitors

Who do you compete against?

Do you have direct competitors providing comparable products or services?

Do you have competitive categories and other market disruptors, like online services?

List all the competitors and their websites in your brief. Remember, your goal is to create distinction and stand out from your competition. Agencies and marketers can help you do that with fresh, original creative.

Ideas

What does your team think?

What activities, resources, and strategies do you believe will help achieve your objectives?

What stuff do you like and talk about?

Some creative teams are inspired by great examples of marketing, brands, products, and services you admire. Many traditional briefs include a “sandbox,” where clients are encouraged to add examples that inspire them.

Budget

How much money do you have to spend?

Please include a budget – or the very least a range to work in.  Budget helps focus the planning and ideation processes, which in turn saves money every time. The cost of creative marketing services varies depending on where you live and what level of quality you want to achieve.

Timing

When do you need it?

What are your deadlines and milestones?

Make sure you include realistic deadlines in your brief. Marketing projects—like campaigns, ebooks, and especially websites—don’t happen overnight. They can take weeks, even months to complete. (Typically, the bigger the campaign, the longer it takes.) Set aside extra time if you onboard a new agency.

Three quick briefing tips

Tip 1: Find internal consensus

Use the development of creative briefs as an opportunity to find internal consensus (meaning, within your team) about what you want and know. This may prove challenging, depending on how much marketing knowledge you have in-house. But, if you can get everyone to sign off on the creative brief, you will have more efficient engagements with your agencies/freelancers.

Tip 2: Avoid jargon

Auto, tech, finance, packaged goods—every industry has its jargon. These acronyms, clichés, and buzz words may baffle some brains, but using them just makes for weak writing and poor marketing results. When you write a brief, keep your language plain and simple. Use it as an opportunity to clarify and organize your own thinking on the task at hand. And be succinct!

Tip 3: Present your brief

For best results, present your brief to your agency/freelancer, in person or at least by video or phone call. That will give them a chance to ask questions and assess scope. You can make quick edits to your brief to address their questions later. Better yet, treat the brief as a collaborative launch event—a way to kick off your project with enthusiasm, clarity of intent, and strategic consensus.

Remember why briefs matter

Before you complain about how much time this all takes, just remember why briefs matter so much. A marketing project without a creative brief is an invitation to blow the budget. Costs can add up fast when you can’t make up your mind.

A good brief ensures your success by providing creative professionals with the inspiration they need to do great work for you.


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