Why write a brief?
There are three compelling reasons why it is worth writing a brief for every piece of work that you commission an agency to do:
1. Better work - A brief is the most important piece of information issued by a client to an agency. It’s from this starting point that will deliver the eventual creative. The better the brief, the better the creative.
The same applies for communications campaigns. The better a company’s corporate or brand position is defined and the more thoughtfully its key business issues are described, the more likely it is that strategic and creative thinkers in agencies will be able to apply their specialist skills.
2. Save time and money - The biggest waste of agency resources is to put them through the process of developing a solution repeatedly without concrete direction. It wears on relationships and is costly in wasted staff time (on both sides).
3. Fairer payment - Ensuring that briefs are written for every project will help with a marketer’s accountability in the boardroom. To justify spend, payment by results is impossible without fully agreed business objectives.
The scale of the project will obviously dictate the depth and complexity of the brief, but whatever the task, a written brief that includes ‘objectives’ and ‘success criteria’ is the foundation stone for accountability.
What a good brief should contain
Generally any brief should focus on defining “Where are we now?” and “Where do we want to be?”
The key role for any agency is in creating communications to build the ‘bridge’ for the brand to travel between these two points.
1. Project management
You should ensure that the basic facts of the project are provided. These will vary according to your internal systems, but the following are common bits of information that are required:
Date; Project Name; Project Type; Purchase Order; Job Number
Agency and Client Team: Names/Titles and contact details
2. Where are we now?
Describing the brand’s background and the key issues it faces defines the start point for the journey on which communications will take the brand. Try and contain the brand’s positioning; its history of brand communications, competitive brands/products and their communications activity.
3. Where do we want to be?
A single-minded and measurable objective is usually a pre-requisite for success. Typical objectives are to effect improvements in sales, usage, awareness, image, reputation, profitability, customer profile, shareholder value, and/ or response levels.
4. What are we doing to get there?
It’s essential for agencies involved in developing communications to have a full understanding of the total marketing and communications strategy.
If the campaign you are briefing involves more than one agency all will need to know your overall campaign strategy.
Think about what direction you can give to your agencies’ creative briefs. And what inspiration you can give them. What is the key message? What brand values are required?
5. Who do we need to talk to?
Who is your target audience? What do you know about their demographics, lifestyle, product usage, attitudes?
6. How will we know when we’ve arrived?
You and your agencies need to know what success (or failure) will look like. Measures should be put in place to establish whether or not the campaign delivers against its desired objective.
Budgets: The budget should be clearly stated and broken down into its component parts from the outset.
Timings: What are the key delivery dates? When should the key project milestones be set? What are the booking dates or deadlines for media? Should it consider the timings of other campaigns?
The Law: It is vital legal and regulatory restrictions are identified and raised with agencies, particularly in relation to sensitive sectors such as financial products, alcohol and food and children. Ensure agencies are briefed on corporate codes of practice and ethics.
Determine who has the authority to sign off the work that the agency produces. This person (or people) should also be the one(s) to sign off the brief before it is given to the agency and, preferably, to attend the resulting presentation.
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