How to brief a creative agency – best practice tips

Aug 9th '19

The Marketing Manager’s role is more varied than most.


Your job might encompass both strategic planning and admin…writing sell sheets and reporting on digital marketing analytics…making decisions on SEO and organising events.


Not surprising, then, that marketing has a tradition of using external agencies to help shoulder the load.


From design agencies for collateral, to digital agencies for online and social media activity – chances are you work with a wealth of external firms.


And how successfully you work with them can have a huge impact on the success of your projects.


Why is briefing such a vital aspect of this, and how can you adopt best practice to improve your own approach?


What is a brief and why does it matter?

Most creative projects start out as an idea – unformed, possibly one person’s vision.


Making this a reality is a key part of the ‘magic’ performed by marketing teams and their agencies.


And the brief is key. A specific, well-thought-through brief will give your agency the exact information they need to create the result in your mind’s eye. Whether it’s an ad, a brochure, a poster or a website, the way you communicate your requirements to your agency is crucial in getting what you want.


Between idea and execution, though, there are many ways to slip up.


How often has a project not turned out ‘quite as you’d imagined’? Or needed numerous, painful rounds of changes between first proof and sign-off?


The secret is in the brief. Get it right and your agency are on board from the outset; they have a real sense of what you want and how it can be delivered.


The benefits of successful briefing

Successful briefing can:


  • Minimise proofs and amendments
  • Reduce time to market
  • Avoid unnecessary agency costs
  • Cut down the number of proofs and reviews
  • Ensure faster approvals by your Compliance team and senior management
  • Improve collaboration between marketing teams and their creative agencies
  • Ensure your brand is represented correctly


Whether you are briefing an online, advertising, PR or design agency, the principles are the same.

Here are our ‘must do’s and best practice tips when you’re briefing agencies.


  1. Make sure you do a brief

Might sound like stating the obvious! – but if agencies and clients are very familiar to each other, the formal briefing process can go by the wayside.


Providing a written brief, though, is an excellent discipline to maintain. It can help you convey exactly what you’re expecting. It can save time and fees in the long run – in fact, failing to brief properly is possibly one of the biggest false economies you can make.


  1. Understand what best practice looks like

As with neglecting to do a brief altogether, complacence in the way we brief can creep in, especially if we work time and again with the same agencies.


Rather than sticking with the way you’ve always done things, shake up your approach.


What does best practice mean? It means being clear, concise and enthusatic.


Communicate what you need accurately. Be concise but clear: don’t write a book, but make sure your brief is detailed enough that the agency can understand what you’re looking for.


And important, but often overlooked, make sure you really engage your agency, so they are as fired up with enthusiasm for the project as you are.


  1. Understand what information to include

All briefs should include some standard elements:


  • The project’s background
  • Your objectives and the ways you’re going to evaluate success
  • Any brand guidelines that need to be followed
  • Your audience
  • Your budget
  • Timescales and deadlines
  • Key messages and propositions
  • Review and approvals information – who needs to be involved; who needs to sign off


Miss out any of these and your brief risks falling at the first hurdle.


  1. Get your brief signed off

Getting approval for the finished product is standard, and built into the process for most marketing content. But have you ever thought about getting the brief itself signed off? In most cases, the answer will be ‘no’.


But getting appropriate sign off for the project brief can deliver tangible benefits, helping to ensure you and your senior management are in tune when it comes to the aims and planned outputs. Iron out any differences of opinion at the start and you can save time and rework later.


  1. Improve the efficiency of your briefing process

Inefficient briefing processes can lead to delays in work being started and frustration for both agency and client.


Do your agencies receive and read briefs as soon as you send them, or is there a delay? Are they easily able to ask questions or clarify unclear points? Is there a lot of ‘back and forth’ before the brief is accepted and work gets underway?


Maximising the efficiency of your briefing process will help the project run smoothly and ensure your agency delivers what you are looking for, on time and within budget.


It may be worth exploring solutions that can help you – good marketing automation tools will include a briefing component. This allows you to brief in real time, with agencies and client collaborating across a shared platform to minimise the potential for misunderstandings or delays.


Make best practice briefing an everyday occurrence

Employing best practice techniques when briefing your creative agencies makes a huge difference to the speed, ease and ultimate success of your marketing projects.


To read more tips on best practice briefing, you can download a copy of our free guide, How to create the perfect creative brief.


How can we help?

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