Content Marketing:

Client Side: Tips on How Best to Brief Your Marketing Agency

Nicole Porter
  • Client Services Manager
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The secret to any successful Creative Agency is getting the balance right between creativity and meeting the requirements of each project. Requirements are often seen as restrictions, however they needn’t be! This is actually what makes our job so exciting – the challenge of defining parameters, uncovering different design directions and creating a solution that not only meets the client’s needs, but also exceeds their expectations!

And what makes this possible? The Client Brief.

So, what is a Client Brief?

A brief is a verbal or written statement of the requirements of a project, containing supporting information that will help to steer your chosen Creative Agency to deliver the most achievable and successful solution possible.

As a Creative Agency, why do we need a Client Brief?

Initially, the brief is used to determine the key objectives of the project and to develop a solid understanding of your brand. Most importantly, it is also the first step in inspiring and motivating the creative team – the Joint Industry guide, Briefing an Agency, highlights ‘inspiration’ as one of their key principles to effective briefing; it’s “the springboard to a great creative leap”.

At each stage in the process, the Client Brief will continue to be used as a measure – it is considered the most vital tool in an agency to ensure subjectivity is left at the door.

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When reviewing proposals, the number one question we ask ourselves is "does the solution match the brief?"
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If yes, then we are on track to deliver an outcome that works. If no, then it’s back to the drawing board!

The benefits of a Client Brief

A brief is not just there to guide us as the Creative Agency; it is an amazing way to help you, as a client, to decide and outline exactly what you and your team want from the project.

It is often the case that clients find out during the brief-writing stage, that what they thought they wanted isn’t actually what they need for their business – and don’t worry if this happens, it’s the perfect time to really hone your requirements!

If the final brief is lacking information, is unclear or inaccurate, this can cause problems throughout the project. At the very least, this will lead to a loss of project time. In the worst case scenario, this can prove to be costly; if an agency works to a brief that is incorrect, it is likely their solution will not meet your expectations and a re-brief (a corrected or alternative brief) will need to be written.

So invest in getting the brief right to help ensure you get the results you want from your project the first time around… on time and on budget!

What’s the best way to provide a Client Brief?

98% of marketing professionals agree that a combination of written and verbal communication is the best way to brief, however it is reported that the most commonly-used by clients is verbal-only (50% of briefs received).

It is understandable that verbal briefings are often the go-to practice for many clients, especially those who have built long-standing relationships with their Creative Agency. We pride ourselves on being able to anticipate the needs of our clients, however this does mean we are often not provided with a written documentation of the project requirements.

A written brief will act as a formal record between the agency and brand, outlining your expectations, and defining what should be delivered. If you feel that the solution offered by the agency does not meet the requirements stated in your brief, this document will support you in pushing back later down the line. It is therefore vital to get it down on paper (in a digital sense, that is!).

Remember:

  • Use clear language, avoiding industry specific jargon and acronyms
  • Use facts rather than making assumptions
  • Give as much detail as possible – the agency can filter out what they feel is irrelevant
  • Keep it engaging

Following a written brief, we make sure we schedule time to discuss it with the client before moving forward (we refer to this as the ‘Kick-Off Meeting’). Having a call or a face-to-face meeting to communicate how we have understood the brief at the beginning of the project eliminates the risk of misunderstandings during the process. If this is the first time you have worked with the agency, this call or meeting is also a great opportunity to find out how well you will work together; “how have they understood our brand?”, “do they get what we want to achieve?”, “are they like-minded?”… the first test of the relationship!

If any requirements of the project do change, update your written brief and resupply to all parties to keep everyone up to date, and in the loop!

What to include in a Client Brief?

Whether it’s a digital or an offline project, the core elements of a strong Client Brief remain the same; primarily, you need to cover what the project is, why it is necessary, who the audience is and when the project should be completed by.

However, there are a number of best practices that can help to ensure the Creative Agency deliver the very best results:

1. Budget
So often missed from the Client Brief is the budget. The saying “given enough money, anything is possible” goes, which is why outlining a ballpark budget is vital. This will help the agency determine the scale and scope of the project; if you don’t give a budget, the agency’s proposal could well be unachievable.

Communicating a ballpark budget should not make you feel vulnerable; if your exact briefed requirements cost less than budgeted, a good Creative Agency will tell you so. If the project is likely to exceed your budget, the agency should explore a number of options with you that meet the objectives of the brief, but differ in scale, so you are equipped to make a decision on exactly how much to invest in the project.

2. Measuring Success
We often refer to the outcome of a project as a solution, and I feel that this is a great way of viewing the project when considering your brief. Ask yourself “What problem am I trying to solve?” – this immediately identifies a way of measuring the success of the project…

Think about how you will tell if the problem has been solved? Is it an increase in Social Media followers? Newsletter subscribers? Website footfall? Sales? This will also ensure that only necessary work is carried out – there is nothing worse than investing in a project that provides you with no improvement on what was already in place.

3. Project Proposition
Depending on whether you have an existing relationship with the Creative Agency, the level of brand information needed in the brief will differ. Generally speaking, if in doubt, give as much information as possible.

One point that should always be present in every brief is your proposition – what you would like the end solution to communicate to your audience. This may simply be your USP (Unique Selling Point), or it may be a specific message targeted at a segment of your overall audience.

4. Competitors
It is always helpful to know who your competition is and what they are up to. This will help the agency understand where you are positioned as a company, what sets you apart, and the best route to capture the attention of your shared audience.

5. ‘Must-Have’s and ‘Nice-To-Have’s
If you have a number of requirements from the project, highlighting ‘must-have’s and ‘nice-to-have’s is a fantastic way to help the agency prioritise the importance of project elements. This will in turn allow them more creative flexibility, resulting in a wider variety of in-scope solutions.

6. ‘Likes’ and ‘Dislikes’
Adding examples in the brief of what you like and dislike in terms of design and creativity is a simple way of igniting the creative process and motivating the agency team. This is also useful to the agency as a benchmark during the project!

7. Long-Term
It may be a while off yet, but once the project is complete, will you require any on-going support with it? This could be technical – for example, website hosting or system upkeep – or it could be editorial, where regular brand updates, news or social media management is required to maintain the existing project.

Key Takeaways

The briefing process can be a daunting one, especially if you are working with a Creative Agency for the first time. However, there are many ways to simplify the task to ensure you get the very most out of your agency team…

A briefing guide, for example, gives you a platform to get all of your ideas down on paper and ensures nothing is missed from your Client Brief – check out our Briefing Template, or for those who are more comfortable with the process, download our Briefing Checklist to make sure you have covered all required elements!

To recap:

  • Follow up your written brief with a call or meeting
  • Use easy-to-understand language, avoiding jargon or acronyms
  • Keep your brief motivational and inspirational
  • Outline a budget and prioritise your requirements
  • Think about how to measure project success

And remember, your chosen Creative Agency are specialists in their field and can aid you even at the briefing stage; don’t be afraid to seek them out for support!

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