What's in a brief? by Nicki Banks, 18th Dec 2015

I was chatting with a guy who works downstairs from me at my office and he was talking about the fact he is going to start work with a social specialist for his social media. When I said 'Just make sure you brief them carefully', to my slight surprise the answer was 'why?'.

Hence this blog post re why I believe you should  always write briefs for any companies you work with on marketing activities from design to social media, as well as what you might want to include.

How can your partner company know what the desired result is if you don't tell them?

Take a step back - what is it that you want the design/press release/Adwords campaign that you are briefing to actually do?

'Improve sales' isn't really specific enough. How do you want it to do that? Do you want to make people think that you are the best product or service in that area if they need it at that moment? Do you want to remind people that they have a need for the kind of product or service they provide and why you are the best company to provide it to them?  Do you just want them to be intrigued enough to pick up the phone or click on a link to find out more.

With the myriad of different marketing messages people see every day, unless yours connects with the people seeing it in some way then they are really unlikely to take action.  If you don't even know how you want that message to connect with them then that chance is even more reduced.

Who are you trying to reach?

This doesn't just matter for where you are putting your message, but also for how that message is portrayed.  This is rarely just demographic - even for a mass market product there is usually an attitudinal element to how the team working on it would describe their target customers so their agencies have something to work with.

If you want an ad or any other marketing material to connect with your target then you are going to get a better result out if you can let the company you work with know not only who those people are but also what's important to them and ideally where your product or service fits into that.  So for example I have done some work recently for a gin client - but by helping them to understand where gin fits into their customer's lives and what's important to them when choosing a gin, then they have been able to use this information to inform not only their marketing materials but also their packaging.

What's your positioning in the marketplace?

You've probably heard the words 'unique selling proposition' (USP) when people are talking about marketing. In my view it is rarely one thing that differentiates you from other people but a number of things that work together to provide a reason why people should choose to buy your product or service ahead of your competition's.

If you can describe this to the company you're working with, then you are much more likely to get an 'on brand' design/blog etc back - which in turn is more likely to prompt action from your target audience as it helps them to understand why they should be giving you rather than your competitors your business.

It is also sometimes good practice here to let them know a little about what your competitors do as that can help them to ensure you stand out. For example I did some work with a financial services company focused on the medical market - and whilst I was researching their competitors I discovered that almost all of them used blue as the dominant colour in their marketing materials.  I was briefing a rebrand and at that time their materials were also blue. A simple piece of information like this was fantastic for the branding company as they the realised if they stayed away from blue immediately that was going to help this company stand out in their crowded marketplace.

Likes and dislikes

If you hate purple, for goodness sake tell your designer. Or if you love something another company has done - either in your sector or another then tell them that too. It's not a license for them to copy that, but does at least help them to produce something you are more likely to be happy with.

The basics - the 'must haves' and your expectations

  • When do you want the work completed by? Remember to allow times for sign off and changes in this timing.
  • How do you want to sign it off - in person or by e mail for example? 
  • If it's a blog, do you have a preference for long or short blogs or will you leave that to them?
  • If it's not already been agreed, then what is your budget?
  • Do you have logos, straplines etc which need to be included?
  • Do you use a specific tone of voice in your marketing materials
  • Do you want your phone number, address... on there - and if so which is the way you want people to contact you ideally.

These will seem obvious when you're reading them but often when you hear people say 'my website is taking ages' or 'they didn't include my phone number' - then the chances are the brief wasn't clear enough in the first place - which can lead to extra time, costs and frustration!  If you are clear about the must haves in the brief, then if there are issues with timing, budgets or other expectations then if the company you're working with is professional then these will get flagged at the beginning rather than when the work has already started.

In short

Even the most gifted designer, copywriter, photographer etc.. can only produce something great that meets your needs if they have a clear brief to work from. Don't expect them to read your mind - if you want the best work from them take the time to write a proper brief and it makes it much more likely that's what you are going to get.





Hi, I'm Nicki Banks. After years working in Marketing for other people, I decided to take the leap and use my skills to start my own business.

That was in 2009 and since then I've worked on companies in a number of sectors from food through leisure to business to business. They had one thing in common - they wanted a marketing plan that was developed specifically for them and could never be muddled with anyone elses. Hence why even companies originally sceptical about marketing companies following prior experience now hire me on a retainer.

Want to know more? Email or call Sugar Bullet on: 0117 911 7337