Brief Writing 101

Brief Writing 101

Welcome to Brief Writing: 101, I’ll be the teacher for today’s lesson and hopefully we all learn a thing or two today.

Ok so if you’re here, I’m willing to bet you likely need or want a brief and if you’ve never written or received one before then let me tell you right now – you probably won’t love writing this. I’m being completely transparent here, they are a bit like the dentist… you hate it but it’ll definitely be beneficial in the long run. 

Wait! I know I’ve been negative but honesty is the best policy. Even though I think briefs are annoying and so do majority of businesses I can tell you one thing: 

A good brief can literally make or break a campaign.

It’s true! Think about it, you get to convey everything you want in an easy to understand format which shows a potential agency the guidelines they must follow as well as the budget they can work with. This lets them perform at their most effective without having to make assumptions. So I’m here to explain everything, from obvious points down to the most mundane and minute points.

In a nutshell…

Let’s begin with the very basics:  What is a Brief?

I know some of you reading this probably already know but this is Brief Writing: 101 not Brief Writing: Advanced, if you’re impatient feel free to skip to the next point. Ok! Now the purpose of a brief is to effectively convey all the details of a project; this can and should include things such as: 

  • Company description
  • A summary of the project
  • Objectives
  • Target Audience
  • Competitors
  • The style
  • Budget
  • Timeframe 
  • An example of an ideal finished product
  • Key stakeholders from your side

These points will all be fleshed out later on; so that is a brief in a nutshell, now onto the next point.

Talking about you

Now we’ve caught up to the ones who skipped ahead, this entire section is about you. More specifically your company and why you should be as open as possible with the agency you’re working with. Obviously some of us are better at talking about ourselves than others and some downright crave the opportunity to talk about themselves (narcissists).

The reason we should all do it, especially when writing a brief is that it shows the values of the company. This can be translated into the project itself and that comes across as much more personal and therefore relatable. Whether you operate in B2B or B2C the same opinion is that everyone likes a good story as it adds humanity. During this time you will be setting out a summary of the project so basically you’ll be explaining everything you need. This can range from who can access and edit the project (in the case of web design) to the impact of the project, amongst other things. When you’re talking about yourself, you should mention the style of the company. This should include things like the companies’ brand, colour palette and any motto or phrases you want to be included. Now if we’re being honest you should be aiming to make your company look like you could be found at the end of a rainbow but do try to seem realistic. You do want them to like you, not laugh at you.

Know your audience 

So you’ve set out what your project is, who you are and what the goals of the project are. Now you need to think about who is even going to see this; who are your audience? You need to specify this as your agency will adapt and cater the project to the audience. For example if your audience is based on the elderly the project will likely be easier to use (in the case of Web Design) or in the case of PR it will focus on aspects of your company that appeal to them specifically. 

Knowing your audience means you need to focus on your competitors and know how they work and market themselves. When creating an effective brief you should always take some time to research your main competitors as thoroughly as possible, the main reason for this is not only so you can gauge the level of threat a competitor is to your market but it can also give you good ideas to influence your own project. If the idea of potentially using a competitor’s style makes you uneasy or annoyed at the concept then just remember that like Mark Twain said “There is no such thing as a new idea, it is impossible. We take old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope” and if that doesn’t sway you then just remember they likely copied it from someone else so it’s not a competitor’s work you’re copying…

Time and Money

One of the most important things is your budget; I mean you can’t pay the agency with gratitude and a neatly written IOU can you? So work out your budget and expect no less or more than what you pay for, this prevents disappointment and allows you and the agency to be more professional. Recognise that the budget will dictate not only how well your project is created, but also who you can approach in the first place. In one of my previous blogs “Five things to consider before you select an agency” I specified that not all agencies are the same and will have different pricing methods and base costs. This is something which you need to consider; why you’re busy considering your budget go check out that previous blog… 

Sorry shameless plug aside; money does affect everything and even more so in the world of business. It would be a good idea to carefully plan and discuss internally how much you can really spend on this project and then do some research so you aren’t a cash cow for some second rate agency who will deliver a subpar product. 

Now let’s discuss the second most valuable commodity you have: Time. Time is the one thing that we are all bound to and someone who effectively uses their time will ultimately be more successful. This is why you need to set out a timeframe for the agency to follow so you can keep yourself on track. It is worth mentioning that when you do create a timeframe it is incredibly important to keep it realistic, quality does take time after all. If you set out a reasonable timeframe and budget in the brief you can relax on the principle that you’ve provided the key information and it’s now in their hands.

Stakeholders are important… obviously 

The Stakeholders, it such a grand term in my opinion but whether or not you agree with me; one thing is true:  

They are important.

Stakeholders in the project will be people such as the head of the department at your company, the agency overall and yourself (presuming you’re the MD or CEO.) The stakeholders will play a key role and will be the people who the agency reports to with progress; they will also be your main point of contact at the agency. It’s important to consider the correct stakeholders and include their contact information; appropriate times for communication and what channels you’d like the contact to come through.  This point is a little simplistic but it’s nevertheless important as it looks incredibly awkward when you forget and need to be reminded by the agency. One last thing which can help you in your brief would be an example of what you think a perfect completed project would look like and how it would perform. This can help the agency see what your vision is or maybe even help you by explaining it at a different angle should it be too difficult or unrealistic.


And class that concludes Brief Writing: 101, good luck on your practical exam and I hope you attend any of my other classes.

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