How to write a creative brief in 6 simple steps

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Megan Bradbury

Writing briefs has been a common practice for brands and businesses for many years. Their purpose hasn’t changed; give the relevant information to an agency so that they can deliver the best solution to a problem.

Despite this, there still seems to be confusion over what constitutes a good brief, and studies show that marketers and agencies have differing opinions on the way briefs should be written. The Better Briefs Project studies show that 80% of marketers believe they are good at writing briefs, but only 10% of agencies agree.

A brief guides the creative process and determines the outcome of the task at hand. The brief should provide every piece of information necessary for the agency to be able to produce an effective solution.

There is no such thing as the perfect brief, but there are things to consider when producing your briefs to ensure you get the best out of your chosen agency.

Here are our 6 top tips on writing a good brief.

1. Know your strategy

Every business or organisation needs to have a clear strategy before they can even begin to think about formulating a brief. This means having a plan of action that will achieve your organisation’s long-term goals and vision.

It is important not to confuse a strategy with tactics. A strategy does not mean having a step by step process to achieve a certain outcome, those are the tactics, a strategy is an overall approach to achieving your desired outcome.

The strategy is the driving force of the decision making processes that will ultimately improve your company’s financial stability in a competing market. In order to create your strategy you need to consider your strengths and weaknesses and assess how you will respond to opportunities and threats within your market. It’s about giving careful consideration to your resources and thinking critically about how best to use them to achieve your objectives.

A succinct strategy is an effective strategy. The biggest compliment you can receive for your brief is that it is obvious. The best way to achieve this is to dedicate time to your strategy. Don’t be afraid to leave it overnight and revisit it, to review it with colleagues, to rewind and rewrite until the message is clear.

An agency doesn’t want to have to second guess what it is that you want. This can lead to a lengthy and confusing process that wastes time and resources. Providing clear strategic direction will ensure the recipient of your brief understands exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

2. Have clear objectives

Objectives provide checkpoints and are a useful measure for success. Typically, success is measured through profit and sales, but these outcomes are delivered through the objectives.

You need to know what your objectives are. Do you want more people visiting your website? Do you want existing customers to buy more? Do you want to raise awareness of your brand? Do you want to be a preferred supplier? Do you want to attract new customers?

It is important that you include realistic objectives and benchmarks within your brief so that the agency knows exactly who they need to target, and how they need to appeal to them in order to achieve the objectives.

Consider the different sorts of objectives that will aid your strategy. Commercial objectives relate to the overall effect the project will have on your organisation, such as sales and profit. Behavioural objectives focus on the change needed in people’s behaviour in order to achieve the commercial objectives such as signing up, downloading or increasing the items in their baskets. Attitudinal objectives alter the way people think in order to provoke the change in their behaviour.

Objectives are linked together, and should provide a logical narrative to the project at hand. They outline the outcomes you wish to achieve and offer a clear picture of success, as well as a means of measuring success.

Although objectives are extremely important, you need to make sure that you don’t overdo it. Limiting your objectives to one or two primary points will ensure that they’re achievable and not overwhelming.

3. Focus on your target audience

Your target audience is one of the most fundamental criteria to address within your brief. A target audience analysis gives you direction for your marketing to ensure you appeal to the people who are most likely to purchase your product or services, and ensures consistency in your messaging.

Using data gives a realistic picture of exactly who you need to appeal to; what they want and what influencing factors guide their decision making. Data allows you to be specific about the audience so you can avoid using demographic cliches; which happen to be a sign that you haven’t conducted the necessary research.

Depending on your product or services, you may want to utilise mass marketing, or conduct niche marketing. This needs to be considered, outlined and justified within your brief. Be clear on who you want to target.

4. Build your foundation

There are three elements that you need to come together to establish the foundation for a great brief. The objectives, the target audience and the budget. These three things will dictate the entire creative process as they cover the what, the who and the how.

The objectives determine the budget. You cannot expect to triple your revenue for instance, if you’re not prepared to invest money into your business. The budget dictates the audience size. In order to reach more people and market on a larger scale, you need a bigger budget. The size of the target audience needs to be able to realise the objectives, while staying within budget. If you only market to a small demographic you cannot assume a huge influx in sales.

The three remain connected, if one decreases, they all have to, if one increases, they all can. A lower budget needs less ambitious objectives and a smaller target audience. A larger budget allows for more ambitious objectives and a larger target audience.

You can’t expect an agency, no matter how experienced they are, to do the impossible. When you present a brief with unrealistic expectations, it demonstrates your lack of knowledge and understanding of what they do. Agencies can massively impact your company’s growth, but you have to spend money to make money.

These three components offer the most information to an agency so it is important that you can explain and justify them within your brief. Justifying an investment in marketing is always easiest when your objectives and desired target audience are well defined.

5. Establish your expectations

Communication is key when it comes to briefing an agency. No agency appreciates a guessing game, they need to know what it is that you expect of them, and what you need their efforts to achieve.

Detail the need for advertising. The agency’s role is to think creatively to produce powerful, exciting and effective solutions. Therefore, a good brief needs to supply a complete overview of the problem that needs to be solved. Clarity is the most important thing in any brief. It is the responsibility of the marketer to clearly establish their expectations.

Your brief should focus on one problem so that it doesn’t become convoluted or confusing. If there are multiple problems, don’t be afraid to write multiple briefs. This is a valid solution that keeps your expectations clear and makes it easier to measure success.

6. Collate and encourage feedback

The briefing offers the perfect opportunity to invite a discussion about the task or problem at hand, and to access a deeper understanding between you and the agency. Give agencies a chance to examine and probe the brief. Ultimately, both sides are working towards the same goal, so why not use each other’s insights to collaborate and improve the process.

Even the most thought out strategy can be subject to change. It is only natural that as time progresses we get those eureka moments where we’re suddenly inundated with new ideas that never crossed our minds prior. Similarly, sometimes ideas don’t work out the way that you presume they will.

By keeping the conversation open, both the brand/business and the agency can continue to bounce ideas off each other in order to produce the best possible outcome.

Your objectives are the perfect way to measure success, so make sure that you use them as a guide to check progress and decipher how the tactics are working towards achieving the strategy.

Remember that the transfer of information to the agency is not finalised until they are happy with the brief they have received. Only once they have fully accepted the work can they be held accountable.

Those are our top tips for writing a good brief. The main thing to consider when writing your brief is, is it clear?

From the main vision, to the objectives, the target and the budget. Each component needs to be well-defined and justified, while staying succinct. Your agency wants to be able to read your brief and know exactly what is expected of them, and what they’re working towards.

Keep it simple and concise to avoid confusion, and be available to look through it together to ensure that everybody has a clear understanding.

Are you ready to start working with an agency? Give our friendly team a call to talk through your latest project or send us an email to [email protected].

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