Best practice agency briefing – 10 steps to success.

Briefing design, communications or advertising agencies is a central part of the Marketing role. It’s also one of the most important ones to get right.

The brief you give to an agency will determine the results you get. The agency’s ability to deliver a design that fits with your vision is dependent on the clarity of your instructions.

If you can convey what you are looking for, the chances of getting back a first proof that matches your expectations are dramatically increased.

So why is briefing often relegated to the ‘unimportant’ pile? Too often, we brief agencies verbally, via a email or – worst – not at all.

Familiarity can mean that we expect our agencies to have an inbuilt understanding of what we want. We neglect to explain exactly what we’re looking for. We assume that because they know our brand standards; because they have produced similar financial promotions for us many times before; because they did something similar for another part of the business last year – that they know via some sort of osmosis exactly what we’re looking for.

This isn’t good enough.

Inadequate or non-existent briefs can be one of the main reasons why your agency fees are higher than they need to be. Failing to explain exactly what you want can lead to expensive corrections, Compliance rejection and – worst case – a complete reworking of the project.

How to create the perfect creative brief

The potential to save money via best practice briefing is immense. That’s why we have pulled together 10 agency briefing tips, to help you save time and money through best practice briefing.

  1. Write a brief. Sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many times firms assume no brief is needed because ‘it’s the same as the last one’ or ‘they have done things like this for us loads of times before’.
  2. Be clear – make sure you convey what you need accurately. Use the briefing process to focus your mind and ensure you’re asking for what you really want.
  3. Be concise – a brief is called a brief for a reason. Make it easy for your agency to get to the essence of your project – dispense with the flowery descriptions and unnecessary detail.
  4. But be detailed enough – why is this financial promotion important? What are you trying to achieve? What messages do you want to convey? Who is your audience? A clear briefing template will answer all these questions and more.
  5. Be motivational – get your agency excited about the project. If the project is worth doing, your enthusiasm for it should be contagious, which will make sure your agency team put their best work into it.
  6. Make it clear who needs to sign off the financial promotion. If several people or teams are involved, how will it be circulated to them? Will you collate changes or do you expect your agency to deal with comments from a range of people?
  7. Get your brief signed off. It shouldn’t be just one person’s vision – working as a team gives you a higher chance that the brief includes everything it should and will get the results you want. Getting appropriate sign-off reduces the opportunity for misinterpretation, meaning your finished product is more likely to resemble your expectations.
  8. Make sure your briefing process is efficient. Think about how you brief your agency – is it via email; online? Does this make it easy to include all the detail you need? Do you have a briefing template to ensure consistency? One person’s idea of a comprehensive brief might be very different from another’s.
  9. Make sure your agency has received the brief. Again, sounds obvious but a quick call or email to make sure they have it and have understood it can save misunderstandings and delays.
  10. Consider harnessing technology to make briefing quicker and easier. Online briefing, and systems that enable you to share documents online with agencies, enable queries to be addressed ‘live’. Collaborative reviewing can minimise the time taken to turn proofs around, significantly reducing the time it takes to produce marketing materials.

Agency briefing, like so many aspects of the Marketing role, is a skill that is often under-estimated.

Get it wrong and you incur unnecessary costs, increase the time it takes to sign off marketing materials, add to the Marketing and Compliance team workload, and potentially harm your relationships with your creative agencies.

Get it right and you will reduce agency fees, improve turnaround times and ultimately get your financial promotions approved and published faster.

If you want to learn more about best practice agency briefing, you can read further tips in on How to write the perfect creative brief. It’s free and you can download a copy here.

Author: Steve Coleman – Perivan Solutions