While often overlooked or underestimated, a creative brief can be the difference between success and mediocrity. In our experience, most marketing campaigns usually benefit when, at the very beginning, we think through the project and get that all into a creative brief. It’ll also save you time if you intend to add people onto the project at a later stage, bringing them up to speed quickly on the original vision and important aspects of the project.
Well, what exactly is a creative brief?
Creative briefs are a single point of reference for a project or campaign. Often, the process of writing a brief will spark ideas and ways to enhance the project. It will also ensure you’ve thought about everything as it forces you to look at the project from multiple angles – along with opportunities, you’ll see weaknesses and potential mistakes to avoid. We’ve actually killed projects after going through this process because the brief has highlighted that the project is either unnecessary, clashes with other marketing activities or the chances of failure are too high, which has saved time, money and efforts that could go into other campaigns.
Writing a creative brief really isn’t another boring form-filling exercise, and if you feel like it is you’re doing it wrong. Instead, it’s the entire story of your project so far, in one place. It’ll inspire ideas and strategy. Most importantly, a well written creative brief will keep everybody focused on why you are doing the project, what exactly you hope to achieve, provide guidance and set expectations.
1. Start with the foundations:
We use Milanote. You can check out our example template below:
We use this creative brief template for all types of marketing, PR and creative projects, therefore, not all of the questions will be relevant to your organisation, project or campaign. Take a moment to scan through the entire list and miss out any that aren’t relevant.
Why does the project exist? Short-term objectives, long-term objectives and how the project’s success will be evaluated?
Summarise the main benefit of the campaign/product or service.
Why should targets and the audience believe what you claim?
Assume the reader has no knowledge of the project, company or previous activities. It is all too easy for work to fail because of incorrect assumptions. Supply the essential information that the reader will need.
How does this project relate to your wider business strategy? What is the competition? Is there anything else you have done, or are planning to do, that is relevant? Where appropriate, supply examples. How do the target audience feel about your product or service in relation to alternatives available to them?
Who will care about this project? What are their objectives/agendas?
What sort of response are you seeking? To increase general awareness? To change attitudes? To buy? Is there an immediate action required: to email, telephone or to respond in some other way?
Which websites, publications and influencers will this project reach?
What is the single most important benefit to key targets? Why will this project be important to their audiences? Are there any secondary benefits?
The present and, if relevant, the required positioning of this project.
Tone of voice
What sort of language should be used: casual, formal, authoritative, friendly, humorous, serious, etc? It may be helpful to provide examples of existing material, as well as style guidelines, if they exist.
How will key targets find out about this project? By hand, in person, by email, posted, left behind after meeting?
Include a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), any relevant data and research.
Milestones to complete the project, such as initial concepts, detailed design, draft text, artwork, final revisions, to printer, delivery.
Are there, or will there be, related activities, such as advertising, exhibitions, posters or brochures? Will any subsequent activity be taking place, such as follow up mailings, telephone calls or personal visits?
Supply the information you wish to be communicated. In some cases you may have draft text, in others, you may only have the germ of an idea — so describe what you want to say. Indicate key phrases/terms relevant to the business. For websites, provide any information already held on keywords for SEO. Try to prioritise.
What knowledge, resources and capabilities are required for this project to be successful?
Before beginning work a budget should be provided and/or an estimate agreed. Any estimate given is based on present assumptions of the Before beginning work, a budget should be provided and/or an estimate agreed. Any estimate given is based on present assumptions of the nature of the item at this stage. These costs may be subject to revision once concepts have been developed, or if the brief changes substantially. Agree Terms and Conditions of working.
List and supply all relevant information.
Detail who is to do what and by when. For example, client to agree brief by a certain date.
2. Think about the structure
The structure of your creative brief’s narrative should be well-thought-out, rather than simply filling out a form haphazardly. Take a moment to consider the flow of the brief, making it easily scannable and, importantly, not stiff and boring.
3. Say it plainly
As much as the word “plain” sounds like it contradicts everything you’re working towards, it’ll be far clearer if you stick to simple language no matter how complex the idea. Avoid any unnecessary information, jargon or over-the-top language choices. When reading through, imagine your someone else on the project who doesn’t know the organisation or project as well as you – avoid them needing to Google what words mean.
4. Don’t be vague
Being vague may mean you might not get what you were looking for as it wasn’t quite clear enough what you expected. Balancing how specific you are is the best way to go about this and avoid misunderstandings and frustration. Again, when reading, imagine the person knows nothing about the project.
5. Make it a goal focused
Outlining your goals is the quickest and easiest way to actually achieve them, not to mention solidifying the reason why this needs to exist. Think about how you want people to interact and respond to your project, whoever it is you’re targeting, and how you’ll measure it. By defining what you envision success as at the very start, you’ll have a constant benchmark to guide you and the team in the right (and same) direction.
5. Share and collaborate
A good creative brief isn’t written in isolation with a single opinion, you’ll likely want input from multiple people, whether that’s at the beginning of the brief creation process or as feedback once you’ve written a first draft. Ask others what their vision and ideas are, any data they may have to contribute and, depending on your industry, what compliance considerations you need to make. Multiple revisions are a good thing. Once finalised, share with everyone involved to make them aware and aligned to what is being worked towards.
6. Never underestimate tone of voice
The creative brief is an opportunity to excite everybody involved. The best way to do that is to start telling a story and make it engaging. Kick it off by thinking about the problem your project is solving – that’s your beginning. Continue by adding tension (carefully is best) through potential challenges as it is a great way to inspire and create interest, as many creative people will naturally want to unleash their inner problem solver and resolve it.
With these best practices under your belt, you should be more than equipped to break the cycle of unhelpful, uncreative briefs and prime your projects for success. There are plenty of templates and examples out there should you get stuck.