The five principles of a good brief

Getting the best out of a marketing programme begins with being clear about what you want to achieve. Mark Rollinson explains why the success or failure of a marketing project begins with the brief

The most common reason for a project failing in this business is the lack of a clear creative brief. The process of developing, discussing and agreeing a clear brief with your colleagues and your agency will focus your thinking on what it is you are expecting from your marketing activity and what you expect your agency to contribute/come back with. Finally, a written brief acts as the benchmark for evaluating any resulting creative work so avoiding purely subjective reactions.

So here are suggestions on how to brief an agency:

Write it down

The first tip seems simple enough. Make sure you write the brief down. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of prose - but the act of writing it down will focus your thinking on what you need to achieve from any given piece of marketing activity.

A written brief is vital in ensuring the ‘buy-in’ of other key people in your organisation. This buy-in is essential in order to avoid the wasting time and resources when senior executives – often outside the marketing department – challenge key assumptions in the brief, leading to belated changes in direction. Written briefs should have the approval of all key decision makers before they are sent to your chosen agency.

Clear and simple

Briefs are called briefs because they are meant to be brief. Make sure they are a summary of your thinking and requirements and don’t overload them with information. It is better to add any details or research as appendices.

Too much information can fog the process. Relevance and context are more important than loads of stats and data.

Clearly define your objectives

Define your objectives and what you want to achieve. Use concrete business objectives and avoid vague terms such as “improve our brand image”. Every objective should start with “to..."

Lastly make sure your objectives are focused and measurable otherwise you can’t create 'success criteria' for your project and consequently measure the success of your agency in meeting those objectives.

Give a budget

There is nothing more frustrating than coming up with a great creative campaign and then finding out it costs five times more than the client’s available budget. At the very least set a ballpark figure to inform your agencies thinking. Mind games that go something like “if we tell them what we’ve got to spend they will spend it” are not helpful. A written brief that includes ‘objectives’ and ‘success criteria’ is vital for accountability and creates the ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of your advertising, media, branding, PR, direct marketing, sales promotion and indeed all forms of commercial communications.

If you can demonstrate the effectiveness of your marketing spend and your agencies you will find it much easier to secure your marketing and communications budgets.

Set a deadline

Be clear about the delivery deadlines and give your agency as much time as possible. Remember, there will already be other work when you brief them, so don’t expect them to be able to drop everything and start right away.

Of course, there are going to be times when you need your agency to respond swiftly to a tactical opportunity. On those occasions, it is not unreasonable for a communications company to drop everything and accelerate the delivery of a project. But this should be the exception not the norm. You should normally allow time for the agency to absorb the brief, discuss it with their creative teams and come back for a question and answer session if needed.

After that, unless the project has an exceptionally quick turnaround, they should supply you with a schedule highlighting the key stages and deliverables of the project. This schedule should provide for an initial concept presentation, time for you to digest the concept thoroughly, and for a second or even third concept presentation if you are not excited by the initial ideas. Once the creative concept has been selected and approved your agency can provide detailed production schedules.

Remember the old adage - you can have it good, you can have it fast, and you can have it cheap. But you can’t have any more than two of the above at the same time!

If you practice these five principles you will demonstrate that you know how to treat an agency and that you respect their work. If you give them the best possible opportunity – as co-custodians of your brand – to blow you away with their creativity will be the winner. Nothing motivates creative people more than producing great work. You will find that you will establish an upward spiral of creative excellence that will drive your brand and consequently your business forward faster than you ever thought possible.

Mark Rollinson is All About Brands’ creative director.

For more information, videos and advice for SMEs, visit www.freshbusinessthinking.com

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

HR Business Analyst, Bristol, £350-400pd

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Account Manager - (Product & Account Management, Marketing)

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Account Manager - (Produc...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried