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How to write a great brief

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You know what you want to achieve, maybe you already know who can help you get there, but you need to write a brief…..don’t panic, help is here!

The worst brief I have ever received was from a potential new client who simply sent me an email with a link to a competitors website adding the comment “I want to be doing we well as these guys”, that was it.. needless to say that a good few conversation were had before a brief could even be constructed.

What any agency is looking for from any project brief is clear concise information, simple as that.  This ensures they can provide you with a range of options to consider and these will usually be linked to variables in budget.

Here are my top 10 tips, I hope you find them useful:

1. Start by telling people about your business, keep it short and sweet but informative.

2. Next add some words about your objectives, your overall business objective is useful here (short term and long term) and where the brief is for a campaign only, add what you’d like to achieve from this specific campaign too.

3. Who are your Target Audience? – give as much info as you can and if the brief is a marketing brief, providing read only access to your website analytics is always greatly appreciated, so much more can be understood by actually seeing how people currently interact with your brand.

4. Now explain what it is you need. Many clients can do this bit well and have already decided what they need to get the job done.  It never hurts to ask for further ideas and options even if you are sure you know what you want, this is where you get the benefit of seeing how other people approach the same problem and it could well be something you haven’t thought of, or a much more cost effective route.

5. What existing systems do you have in place? as much information as you can provide is always helpful,  what platform your website is powered by for example, which email marketing system you use, if you use a marketing automation tool etc

6. Considerations – this is where most briefs fall down (pun intended), is there any additional information you can provide ? Are you asking for a marketing campaign that needs to have data fed in to another business system? e.g your CRM (customer relationship management) system, a financial or stock system?

7. Timescales – give clear information on when you need a response by . Also add your deadlines for the actual project/campaign. Tight timelines are fine and all part of the industry, you may find that you receive higher costs for projects like this and this will often relate to people needing to reshuffle schedules to accommodate your requirements or bring in extra resources. The best advice is to write your brief well in advance of when you need it, but that’s easy to say and harder to do I know.

8. Budget – I don’t know who invented the concept of keeping this a closely guarded secret leaving agencies to come back with a huge range of ideas…and what a range this will be! There is nothing harder than working out a potential solution when you have zero guidance on budget, and what tends to happen is that in the end, out of the twenty solutions a provider has had to come up with to cover all bases, you end up going for the one you can afford in the end. Please give a ballpark range that you can work with this is really helpful and won’t stifle creativity.

9. Single point of contact – who can people contact for any further information or queries? and if its a tight timeline what is the availability of this person? You may get the brief out of the door as your out of office goes on and the holiday begins but who else knows about the project and can answer questions? Yes I’ve been here too.

10. If your brief is a competitive one, consider the implications of asking for design work as part of the agency responses. This is quite common practice with larger projects and tenders but it can immediately rule out some really creative people and agencies.  Many agencies these days just won’t submit creative as part of a proposal or tender.

This is not because they don’t feel like it but genuinely because to do so would be the same as doing the project, a process is followed and lots of work goes in to a solution that may end with a visual or technical solution.  By all means ask for ideas and accept wire frames, sketches and examples of other work, most companies will do this without hesitation.

There we go,  if the above points have been covered then you’ll stand a good chance of fielding less questions and getting great responses. Good luck!