The Bulletproof Basic Creative Brief [download]

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—a solid basic creative brief is the backbone of any creative project. They are, in essence, a roadmap to project success that provides clarity for both your creatives and your clients.

Sometimes a good creative brief can end up taking a large amount of time to complete, and for large-scale projects, that’s a good thing. But for the little projects that roll in and are too small to merit a full client discovery session, it can be difficult to get all of your project managers on board with taking the time to write a brief. That’s why we’ve created the Basic Creative Brief. It’s short, sweet, and covers all the need-to-know project basics without requiring a comprehensive deep-dive for your project management team.

A creative brief: What is it?

Projects have a start and a finish, much like a journey. The majority of initiatives wouldn’t start without an itinerary, just like a journey. An itinerary’s project management counterpart is a creative brief.

A creative brief is a written description of the objectives and parameters of a project. It gives the crucial details the creative team needs to know in order to complete the project, such as the team members, objectives, audience, key messages, desired deliverables, specifications, and milestone due dates. Its goal is to direct and motivate the creative team to produce the best outcome.

Within most marketing, advertising, or design teams, creative briefs are pretty commonplace documents. The project manager or the account executives analyze the client brief and break it down into smaller internal projects (such as designs, templates, marketing assets, etc.). Typically, a creative team then takes over the original client brief and transforms it into a detailed creative brief that guides the project direction.

Although the idea of a creative brief may seem straightforward, it can be difficult to fit many important details into a finite number of pages. In order to fit on one to two pages, here are some key tips for utilizing basic creative briefs.

Key Tips for Utilizing Basic Creative Briefs

It’s ideal to have rules in place that will allow your brief to adapt to your project needs. It also helps you remain concise to the key points because each project requires different details depending on their participants, scope, and size. 

In order to encourage clarifying questions from your team, keep your brief focused on the important details. To get the project contributors started, concentrate on the objective, the data, and the directions, rather than the concepts. Resist the impulse to overshare.

Here are 3 key tips for utilizing basic creative briefs:

Before Writing Your Brief

Your objective when writing a brief for the first time shouldn’t be to compile a thorough background. Instead, try to provide the necessary information as briefly and in as few pieces as you can. A lengthy, complex text might intimidate readers and make them reluctant to use it. Keep it brief—it’s called a brief for a reason!

Do not include general corporate statements like your purpose, vision, values, or anything like. These resources only clutter up what should be a very clean paper unless they are directly related to the project, which is unlikely.

When in Doubt, Brief it Out

When your agency has already developed a solid working relationship with a client, small to midsize projects sometimes end up slipping into the mix without any proper documentation. This might not seem like a big deal: your designers understand the client’s brand guidelines, you tracked the project in your project management software, and ultimately the client is satisfied with the end piece. But if you’ve received a client request and are already restructuring your sprint to accommodate it, do your creative team a favour: grab your basic creative brief template and get writing.

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Speak with the Creative Team

Review your creative brief template with your creative team before going through it with the client. Take the time to gather the most precise, comprehensive brief you can because sometimes it will be the only communication your creative team has with the client. Graphic designers with experience are a treasure trove of information and frequently have excellent suggestions for the questions you may ask to understand your client’s goal.

Basic Briefs Answer Need-to-Know Questions

Do your creatives know the who, what, where, when and why of the project? No? Then be prepared for some time-wasting questions coming your way. Bring the correct questions with you and provide appropriate suggestions. This way, you can dig deeper into the project and develop stronger a bond with the client. However, asking incorrect or irrelevant questions can lead to briefs that are uninspired and lack focus. Want some more suggestions? This extensive list is a fantastic place to begin.

Rather than shooting a project request over via email because it seems faster in the moment, enforce that your creative briefs are part of your single source of truth. They live within your project management software and provide the core roadmap to project success.

Emphasize the Project’s Goal

At this phase, the creative brief gets more specific. The brief should give a concise explanation of the project’s objectives, timeframe, and target audience. You might say this in one or two sentences, but you could also be creative and style it in several ways.

In this part of the creative brief, it’s helpful to highlight how important the project is and  define project expectations. This covers the timetable, such as deadlines, and the intended audience. To ensure everyone is aware of the project’s expectations, keep it brief and straightforward.

You can concentrate on aims and objectives in this part if the client hasn’t identified any significant obstacles. Describe the characteristics of a successful project and how it will help the business.

Analyze the Marketplace for Competitors

For the benefit of the entire team, you should know what your rivals are doing. For example, you can use competition data to generate novel ideas, take lessons from unsuccessful initiatives, or get inspiration from their formerly effective tactics.

Make a list of companies that offer comparable goods or services as your agency. List a few similarities your company has with them, some ways your brand has differentiated itself from the competition, and how this project can help you advance. 

Basic Creative Briefs Create Order

Your agency designed a creative workflow to create efficiency, clarity, and order. When you’ve invested the time and energy into designing these processes, not sticking to them just seems silly. By saving themselves the 10 minutes it would take to write a simple brief, project managers risk due dates that slip through the cracks, untracked time, uncoordinated billing and a bunch of admin work later on down the line. Taking the time to write and share a basic brief shows a genuine investment in agency processes, and sets a solid example for both creatives and more junior staff. Your creative brief should always kick-start your project, no matter how small.

Creative Briefs Produce Better Work

It’s tempting for smaller projects to throw together a half-hearted brief for a familiar client. Maybe the last 4 campaigns you’ve run have been fairly successful, your team knows your clients well enough to just run with it, and the end result will be fine. But nobody goes into creative industries because they want to produce work that is “fine”.

Even taking 10 minutes to write a basic creative brief provides you with the time to consider your client’s overall well-being. It’s a time to reflect on your last few projects, from what went well to what could have been a little bit better. With your whole agency getting in the habit of taking these quick check-ins, you’ll find you’re avoiding the autopilot traps that can occur when working with long-term clients.

Recognize that It Won’t Be Flawless

It’s very difficult to completely capture a client’s vision that lets your designers hit the mark on their first try, even though a perfect creative brief could cure all of the world’s issues (well, all of the world’s design problems). A brief is only a suggestion, not a set of rules, and creative work is inherently subjective and susceptible to interpretation. Instead of aiming for perfection, focus on listening to the client’s feedback and input candidly.

Examine and Improve

You shouldn’t give up trying just because you’re not perfect. Have faith in your procedures, and keep honing and improving your briefing techniques. After finishing a significant project, spend some time reviewing your initial creative brief and your final outputs. Look back and create new questions that could have aided your team in achieving its objective more efficiently.  

Final Thoughts

It takes time to create a strong creative brief that fits your unique project management approach, but the effort is well worth it. With a strong creative brief in hand, you’ll enable your creative team to produce outstanding work and guarantee that your project yields the desired outcomes.Although going into detail is a good idea, keep in mind that too much detail could make your brief seem unwieldy. Make it readable while still being informative. Download your FREE package of Function Point creative briefs. It’s completely customizable to your agency’s unique needs and workflow style, just like our software.

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