A creative brief should be a stand-alone document, which speaks for itself. Often, briefs will be passed from one creative person to another, without any background, context or explanation. If you’re lucky, you may receive an email, or a call, asking for clarification; but there is no guarantee.
This single document can be used to design entire campaigns, or provide direction for a single graphic. All of the research that’s been performed, conversations with the client, and market analysis, must be translated into a 1 – 2 page brief.
But just like getting to Carnegie Hall, all it takes practice (practice, practice).
Here’s an overview of the key components to any effective creative brief. Feel free to use this as a template for your own creative briefs.
Timing and Deliverables
Desks get messy, and sometimes things get overlooked. Putting the most important information at the top will make it easier to set priorities. A quick glance at any creative brief should remind you of deadlines and expectations.
Answer the question, “what and when?” This is where you put the most basic of requirements, and place it prominently.
People are busy at work, managing multiple projects, answering emails, and attending meetings. Don’t force people to re-read an entire brief every time. Instead, summarize the most important information in the overview section. This section, along with the timing and deliverables section should provide enough info to remind them what’s required.
Explain the work needed and provide only the most important information. This section should summarize the entire brief, for quick reference and recollection. Save this section until the very end; after you know exactly what the rest of the brief contains.
Every marketing piece has a purpose. Most often, it’s to encourage a consumer to take a specific action. It’s important to know what you want a consumer to do before you start working on it. If you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s easier to stay focused.
Know what you want the consumer to do, and state it clearly. If there are specific calls-to-action, include them. It’s important to understand the goal of each creative piece before starting the work.
Most Important Thing(s)
Similar to the objective, understanding the primary goals is essential. Where the objective details the purpose, the most important thing(s) lists mandatory elements, specific rules or essential things to include.
If there are elements or considerations which must be used, communicated, or included, list them in order of importance. The purpose of this section is to let the creative person know, that any work missing these thing(s) will be considered incomplete.
Target Audience and Insights
When you attempt to target everyone, you end up reaching no one. Know your audience, their pain-points and interests. Messaging should always communicate with audiences the way they communicate.
Briefly define the target audience. Reference market research or reports which can more thoroughly describe the demographic. Explain who the creative is for, and how communicate with them.
Messaging and Copy
Words can be persuasive. They can be controversial. Words can provoke reflection, initiate action, or make a person smile. Know what you want to say, and how it should be said.
If there are specific phrases or keywords that should be included, add them here. Provide direction to the copywriter, by defining communication styles, and the brand’s voice. If the creative will be used online, be sure to add SEO keywords and anchor text.
Design and Graphics
In the marketing world, looks are everything. In a rapidly refreshing environment like the internet, visual elements must stand out, or risk being ignored.
Describe the look and feel of the creative. If there’s a theme, make sure it’s explained. Any required elements, such as logos, trademarks, or product images, should be included.
Try to avoid telling an artist how to design, but give enough information and direction to get them on the right track.
Considerations and References
The structure of this brief places the key information at the top, and provides enough specific details to get started. A brief should be formal and consistent, since this one document may be seen by multiple creatives, who may or may not have context.
However, this is where you should break free from the formalities, and give any other information that may help get the work completed.
If there are previous marketing materials that are similar, reference them. If the client wants the piece to match something they’ve seen from a competitor, add a link. Anything else that can help, add it here. The more information you can provide, the better the final product.