How to Write a Creative Brief + Useful Tips
Creative Briefs are an essential component of any creative project or campaign. They provide the overarching vision and the structure for teams to be able to work together to produce effective results. They are more than a guide and more than guidance. A creative brief states both what needs to be done and how to do it. It is the mapped-out journey from the opening steps to successful completion.
How you write a great creative brief is another story. Once you know the importance of its role, what it needs to achieve, and the components involved, then you have a chance of producing the document that will go a long way to making your creative business succeed.
1. What is exactly is the Creative Brief?
Any creative project from a marketing campaign to a website design needs an agreed purpose, function, and goal. The creative brief is the document the summarizes and outlines these aspects and adds in more specific information in order to achieve the required results. It the formal document that answers the key questions of any project:
- Who is it for?
- What do we need to do?
- Where will it be used?
- When does it need to be done?
- How will we do it?
And it is the breakdown of these questions into measurable and doable chunks. It is the document drawn up in the planning stage after discussion with the client, team, and any other appropriate stakeholders.
2. Whose Responsibility is the Creative brief?
You need a creative brief but who should write it?
Surely the client is the person who knows best exactly what they want, but often this isn’t the person with the required expertise on the creative side. So maybe we should look toward the creative leader or director, or should the client’s account manager be the lead player or even the manager of the actual project. Much depends on the nature of the project and the relationships involved.
Usually, there is a combination of client and creative forces. With the creative side, drawing the requirements, the vision, and other information from the client and then fashioning them into the brief itself. Often this is the manager responsible for the client services or the actual project account manager. The role the client plays in this process depends very much on their skills and need or wish for involvement. As does the way the project will be managed from his stage on.
Of course, the final brief is best produced after input from all the stakeholders and teams who will be involved in the process. You will after all need an idea of the budget from accounts, information, and data from marketing and sales teams, the sign-off from senior management, as well as the idea and practical suggestions of the creative team useful document.
Depending on the nature of your business organization this arrangement can be as formal or informal as you choose. however, the importance of the client brief should never be underestimated. It is a vital piece of documentation and doing it well can set the project up for success as much as doing it badly will almost guarantee problems.
The important thing is that the creation of a creative brief becomes a standard and routine function in your business. That it covers all the key components so that every single stakeholder involved is clear and can see the path ahead.
3. When Should you Produce a Creative Brief?
The creative brief needs to be established at the onset of any project. Most clients will expect the plans before they agreed to a contract of work. It will also be of great benefit for your creative team. They are consulted, obstacles and challenges are discussed, ideas brainstormed and decisions made. They can see a roadmap before they even begin work, and hopefully are all onside, motivated, and raring to go. And of course, as a manager or leader, you will have a document that has been discussed and agreed on, a budget to consider, probably a timeline of some sort, and therefore can have the confidence to plan and organize the work and workers around this focal point.
The Creative Brief puts everyone together on the starting line and makes sure they all head off in the same direction. So it’s upfront and central from the very beginning of the project.
4. Who is the Creative Brief Made for?
There are several answers to this question. The most obvious would be for the client. The Creative Brief lets them know what they are getting and how you plan to go about giving it to them. This is true.
However, a genuinely effective Creative Brief is written as much for the creative team as for the end-user. It is the point of inspiration for the team, it is the structure and framework that will allow them to work creatively and independently, and it spells out the challenges that they will face to produce truly worthwhile valuable results. It needs to be written with the team in mind, as a working document rather than just a hoop to jump through.
5. How Long Should a Creative Brief Be?
The clue is in the title. Brief. Clear, well structured, and well-formatted but no more than 2 pages, ideally one page. It is brief to be referenced not to be poured over. It is signposted bullet points, rather than long-winded detail paragraphs. A short story, not a novel.
6. Why Do You Need a Creative Brief?
The answer to this might not be as clear as you need it to be. Primarily the Creative Brief should set everyone off on the right foot, and keep them on track throughout the process. You may think that a good manager can do this without a Creative Brief, with plenty of communication and good strategies.
The fact is a good Creative Brief will give the creative team the responsibility, freedom, and trust in which their work will flourish. It will save time by anticipating and resolving potential problems and issues before they even begin. A Creative Brief assigns accountability and gives a clear scope and clear objectives for external and internal stakeholders thus smoothing the whole process. It improves communication between the client and the team and within the team.
The Brief acts as the central guide for the whole group to work around, the totem pole. The manager can then use this fixed point to progress from. The Creative Brief does not have to be a rigid binding agreement, in fact, having the planned structure means that you’ve got some landmark feature so you’ll never get completely lost, but you feel safe enough to wander and explore.
7. What Should be in a Creative Brief?
So you’ve realized just how important the Creative Brief is, but the important thing is what information it contains. There are some standard principles to the content that you absolutely shouldn’t ignore.
The context in a Creative Brief is what is the product and why you are doing it. These are the most important things. The goals and the aims.
Within this section, it is important to place the product into its market context. What kind of product are you trying to create or promote, who is the competition and what is the state of the market. Is there any background to the project, previous versions -successful or unsuccessful, does the product have a brand (ethos, values, perception, styling). What are the rollout plans? Who are the potential customers?
This is the introductory section that lays the foundations of what will come.
The broad and general aims of the project and any challenges that stand out. What are you going to create and what is it going to accomplish. What’s the goal.
What the client wants you to do. The client’s vision and what they expect to be delivered by your team. Or should we really say this is the agreed vision now the client and the manager has discussed the original vision and established what the client really wants and needs.
This should include the client’s business background, relevant information on previous projects or campaigns, the present branding and brand perception and the categorization of the project. It should also state what needs to change and what you need to keep.
The target audience should be kept in mind at all times. Once you know who the product or project is aimed at, then you can target the design and all the perceptions associated with it.
There are definite markers such as sex, age, income, and status. There are also deeper psychological and sociological factors such as interests, lifestyle, ambitions, where they see themselves, etc. You need to build up a picture of who you are designing for and from there how you are going to motivate them to engage with the product. For example, which platforms and messaging are you going to use.
Information on the direct competitors but also information on the market situation.
Collecting information on your competition is a more than a useful guide to what they do and what you can do differently. It’s also fantastic information on what they are doing well and why. What their strategy and messaging are, what platforms do they use to advertise and campaign. Who their target audience is.
Providing an overview of your competition in a creative brief allows you to focus on market conditions and how they are branding their messages to customers. You can then build a clearer picture of what your competitors are doing, and how you can market and advertise your product differently.
There is also room for some words on the current and possible future market trends, economic data, and general market context.
This is the way you are going to go about the creation and the solutions you are going to present. It’s detail but brief detail, the general outline of the strategy to accomplish the goals.
- The Big Idea
What is the key force of momentum behind the project? You know what you are trying to do, that’s in the context now how are you going to do it. What is the central, over-riding concept? And what parts is this broken down into.
- Campaign/Project details.
This is the specification of the details and the guidelines that are essential to the project. What are the required typefaces and fonts, what colors and combinations, logos, and even the tone. This is the framework that the creatives will operate within.
- Roles and Responsibilities
Who is the team made up of and responsible for what within the team. This gives ownership and clarity of communication to the team. What is the chain of command, who is responsible for communicating beyond the team with external stakeholders, who are the decision makers? Think about the team members and their skills, cross-collaboration with other departments and collaboration opportunities within the team.
- Publication, Platform, or Media Strategy
Every project or campaign will be designed with a channel of communication in mind. Don’t assume that the team knows what that channel is, especially as there are often multiple channels and diverse systems working together or alongside each other. There is a tremendous difference between a social media campaign and a printed or TV ad. And there a tremendous difference between the different social media channels. Make sure there is clear information on every aspect for everyone at all times.
The voice needs to come through loud and clear in all aspects of your project. the voice is what the target audience hears, how they react and how it makes them feel. All creatives need to capture the essence of this voice and consistently work at creating that atmosphere.
When are you starting and when do you need to have it finished by, essential information for an efficient business that is going to meet expectations.
There’s more though. If the project is broken into sub-sections, then when are they due? What and when are the milestones expected to be reached? Have you factored in time for revisions and changes if so how much and who is in charge of communicating these to and from the clients? This is another element of structure that provides a secure basis for the team.
Timelines should be estimates but realistic estimates, if so they are used as a valuable asset for progress management by all team members. They help with personal time management as well as large-scale project management. They may be relatively flexible depending on the project but get something in writing.
It depends. Some businesses want the budget and even the budget breakdowns to be a central feature, others prefer to keep the information back. This is one for you to decide.
8. Tips to Make Your Creative Brief Effective
As long as you include the key content a Creative Brief has no hard and fast rules.
You may be expected to follow ready-made guidelines for your own company, or allow to come up with your own format. There are even time-saving templates available online from which you can create Creative Briefs and customize.
That said a really special creative brief will not only contain the essential content but give something more. Something that can speak volumes about your own style, organizational qualities, and mindset.
Start with a title. A functional, clear, concise title that everybody understands immediately and knows what it is about. This is a functional document, not a headline article in a newspaper or magazine fighting for attention.
A single sentence summary of what is to come, directly below the title.
A good creative brief is easy to read and easy to understand. Format the document with space and clarity in mind. No one wants to read large blocks of text, and definitely, no one wants to squint to read blocks rolling together like a Russian novel. Bullet points, headings, sub-headings break up documents into readable chunks. Clear fonts and sizes. Images where appropriate.
The Creative Brief is written so everybody can read it and understand it, without the need for further clarification. Use the language that your team uses, specify when needed. Give enough information, without overloading.
S.M.A.R.T goals. Specific – Measurable – Agreed -Realistic- Time-based. These type of specific goals can keep a project on track. They keep a team together, engaged, motivated and working towards the same aims. They can see progress and feel it.
- Keep It Brief
We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again. This is a Brief, so it should be brief. Keep it to the point, direct language, remove unnecessary information. You don’t even need full sentences, they just need to be understood in the most direct way possible. You can furnish information later if needed….and it will be. But the Brief is the starting point, so get started!
A Creative Brief is not just another I to dot in the process of winning a project or getting it off the ground. A good Creative Brief is much, much more than that. It is the pulling together of the vision and ideas into a well-defined project outline. It serves multiple functions and contains vital information that is useful for the whole team. This document should be a central focal point, that is available and accessible to all the stakeholders, all the time. They are the practicalities.
What you write in the Creative Brief, and perhaps, as importantly how you write it can stand you out as a manager that really knows what he is doing, a serious leader who spends time and consideration on the planning, on the organization and has a definite direction of travel. Such a confident approach means that people are likely to follow your lead.