News & Events
#013 – Writing A Creative Brief
- 23rd August 2017
- Posted by: Nicky
- Category: Episodes
I thought it’d be a really good idea to talk to listeners about writing a creative brief, by which I mean how to ensure you effectively get what you want when you are designing a new website, setting up some videos, or even doing some design and print. I don’t know about you but a clearly defined creative brief can have a host of benefits to a) the person commissioning the work and b) the creative working with that client.
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Great idea, it so important. And we’ve got a giveaway for listeners too, haven’t we, if they listen to the end of this podcast?
Yes, we have Liz, but more on that later.
Okay then. So the creative brief could be said to be the foundation of any advertising or marketing. It’s the treasure map that creatives follow, and it tells them where to start digging for those golden ideas. Or at least, it should, if it’s any good.
We understand that people are really busy and it would be so easy to ignore the benefits of preparing a good creative brief. A combination of lack of preparation, increasingly tighter deadlines, bad habits, laziness, poor account management, bad creative direction, and ineffective training, all contribute to this becoming something of a necessary evil.
Yes, so if listeners have followed our other podcasts, and I’m thinking of Podcast 004 ‘What makes your customer tick‘, listeners may have created a buyer persona. Remember listeners, you can still download a copy to work on if you have yet to do so by going to our website www.themarketingmenu.com. This creative brief bit is the next step on from this, I suppose, and is certainly a good idea if you’re spending money with a creative and particularly if you want to get the job done, quickly and easily.
Yes, I suppose we should talk about the merits of doing one before diving straight in.
Yep, so a writing a creative brief is a written explanation – given to a designer – outlining the aims, objectives, and milestones of a design project. It really is a critical part of the design process.
It helps develop trust and understanding between the client and designer – and serves as an essential point of reference for both parties. Above all, the design brief ensures that important design issues are considered and questioned before the designer starts work.
That’s interesting because I know quite often people have an idea of what they want but quite often that idea can change once you start talking to others, and of course, different creatives will have a different take on things, and then I guess the goal posts may move so to speak.
Yes, and I think that’s a good point, Liz, because if you are paying others for their expertise, you need to get to know them first to understand their ideas and to see how the conversation rolls because different agencies will have a different way of addressing your issues if they’re savvy and I suppose ultimately you need to choose someone who understands your goals and aspirations and what your vision for that piece of work actually is.
And someone who ultimately gets your brand! So how can you use this idea for your business if you want to develop this area? I know several large companies who fail to take the time to plan this part of the brief and who ultimately risk losing loads of money going down the wrong path. How many times have you heard about websites, or adverts not getting buy-in from the management team after all the creatives been done, and a whole lot of money wasted in the meanwhile?
I’m afraid far too many, Liz. I may be being rash but I think the little guys often get stuck with something they’re not entirely happy with because they just can’t afford to spend more money whereas in larger company’s marketers often get frustrated by the lack of buy in from management once they’ve done loads of hard work.
So, this is where the creative brief comes in. But done right, everyone benefits; the client, the creative and ultimately the customer, plus you save money, time and energy. So, who leads on this?
Well, I suppose ideally it’s the job of a good account manager or planner to extract everything they possibly can from the client but you as the client may like to organise your thoughts by writing a quick summary of what it is you want, why you want it, what the deliverables are (is it a website, tv commercial) what your budget and your aims are, and also add the timeframe, that’s very important. Then you can give this to a couple of creatives to steer the conversation around their ideas and suggestions.
So, tell your designer:
- What your organisation does
- How long you have been established and how many staff you employ
- What your niche market is
- How you fit into your industry sector
- And who your target audience is
- Then follow this up with your aims
Exactly. We know good design can have a huge influence on the success of a company’s marketing strategy – but for success to be ensured, clear goals must be set. So are you wanting to:
- Generate sales?
- Encourage enquiries?
- Gain newsletter subscribers?
- Obtain information from your audience?
- Encourage them to tell a friend? For example
I guess if your objectives are not this clear, then your design brief has already achieved another purpose… it helps to clarify your thoughts and can indirectly help to find flaws in what you initially thought was a solid idea.
Yep, this brief is just your tool to aiding that discussion so you start to understand the bigger opportunity; it’s your first look at the menu I suppose.
Then once you decide what you’re going to choose from that menu of creatives in this instance, you’re going to start to choose what bits to have from the sides menu.
Oh, Nicky, I like it, that’s a great Marketing Menu food analogy!
So now that you have decided who you want to work with, it’s time to start putting together something useful. Now every creative brief is going to be different, but they share similar traits. So, what do you think should go into these, Nicky?
Gosh the list can be exhaustive but I suppose now you can start to think about ‘Your Target Audience’ in more detail and, as I said, if you’ve gone through the buyer persona, this information should already be there but you do need to think about the language you’re using, any historic design that you’ve run with so that there is some synergy, if that’s important. and then imagery and design examples.
Yes, I agree it’s important to highlight any design style that you particularly like or dislike – then explain why in the brief. If you’re not entirely sure why you like a certain design style, then good starting points include:
- Quantity and quality of text
- The atmosphere that designs create
Yes, and don’t feel that you have stick to the medium that you are designing for when giving a list of inspiration and influences. If a television advert or music video creates the atmosphere that you want your flyer to create, then that is a perfectly reasonable statement to make in a design brief.
The more clues you give about your design tastes, the more likely the designer will be able to produce something close to your aims. Expecting your designer to second-guess what you require rarely produces the best results.
Remember that professional designers will not copy the ideas you send them… but will use them as the start of the design process.
Yes, and it’s here that I think it’s important to consult with colleagues at this stage as showing the design brief to different people may reveal remarkable differences in the way people see your organisation’s aims, objectives and look and feel. In many cases, it is quite subjective, but it is important to have these conversations now before any wasted work is started.
Yes, because resolving any differences in opinion will save considerable time and expense further down the line.
Conversely, it can also help the person commissioning the work to have that all important budget conversation with management, if you are part of a bigger picture, which in many cases can help avoid any nasty surprises or indeed could help you get more money for your project.
Yes, even if you can only provide a ball-park figure, a budget expectation will give the designer a good idea of the type of solution they will realistically be able to provide. And mention timescale too as a designer will have their own commitments which may well affect price, and this can be a good leverage tool.
Yep great, so let’s recap with an example then, Nicky. So, a client has a website that needs to be built, surely rather than having lots of individual meetings with web designers who may go for the hard-sell, they’re better off writing a specification and emailing this to numerous web agencies asking for quotes? Then they can pick the one they want to work with.
Yes, so firstly, let’s switch sector and relate this to buying houses. If you want a 3-bedroom semi-detached house with a garage, you would email each estate agent in your area, ask them for their ‘best’ 3-bedroom semi, and get them to email the details to you.
The estate agents will likely choose the property that they think may be the best, based on your short brief, rather than the property that you think is best. If for example, you forgot to mention that you have children, the estate agents may provide the best house overall, but in an area that not close to schools or isn’t child-friendly for example which obviously isn’t great for you, but of course, they weren’t to know.
Great example! Ultimately your inbox would be filled with a handful of random properties that, may or may not be applicable. So why should websites or any other creative be any different? The issue is that quite often the client writing the tender knows what they think they’re after, and the web agency interprets what they think the client wants, and make compromises or decisions on the client’s behalf. The finished proposal may not necessarily match what the client expected.
Yes, any creative professional worth their salt is likely to have the best chance of delivering an optimal solution if they have a chat to their client, and collaboratively arrive at a solution.
Similarly, if the budget isn’t generous enough, the web agency can determine the importance of each aspect of the functionality and omit those that are expensive but trivial to the client. From my experience, tenders often contain a list of all features that would be nice to have rather than those that are vital. Which goes back to sharing your brief with management if you need to.
Yes, so all this is proving how important it is to plan this brief and share it as it’s not about tying up creativity it about ensuring everyone agrees before any work starts as often the differences between the client’s expectations and end product aren’t apparent until the creative is almost built.
As with so many of our podcast subjects, there’s a lot to this, isn’t there? Once again, we’ve covered a lot today, Nicky, in just 15 minutes, so thank you.
Yes, so finally we mentioned at the beginning that we were giving away something to listeners at the beginning of this podcast.
Oh yes. of course.
Yes, so listeners if you would like your own template for a creative brief, you can do so above that we use that you can download for your own purposes.
And thanks, Nicky, for designing that, this was great insight, and thank you, listeners, for tuning in – we’re so glad you chose us amongst all the other podcasts and webinars out there. We very much hope that what we’ve shared today will give you some great ideas to put into practice.
Don’t forget, we also do offer a free transcript of all our podcasts on our website themarketingmenu.com so if you’re not listening on our website, do head over there to download your copy. In fact, we’ve had some great feedback that one of our listeners actually just reads the transcripts because it’s not always convenient to listen, and she really enjoys them!
And of course, we’re here to tailor the content to your needs so if you’ve any questions, please do get in touch. You can either get in touch via Twitter or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org but please most of all share our channel with others who you feel may benefit from tuning in because we’ve loads of news coming up haven’t we, Liz?
Yes, we do, we’re busy in the back room putting together some very exciting plans that are taking up a huge amount of time this summer but more on that shortly. But just to echo Nicky’s sentiment about following us on social because we do post lots of other content which you can enjoy on Facebook/themarketingmenu and twitter @mktngmenu. Remember we’re a new channel and we’d really like to make some impact in the British podcast community.
So, tune in again on Wednesday 6th September when we’re going to be discussing what?
Well Nicky, how about we look at some brand stories and share some ideas of what others are doing and then relate these back to all the content that we’ve been chatting about to date?
Yes, and we can share some good examples and perhaps some fails. I’m going to have to get my thinking hat on. So, thanks, everybody, this is a goodbye from me, Nicky Matthews.
And me, Liz Gordon, thank you and goodbye!
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