Lost in Translation
When I first started freelancing as a copywriter, I had a couple of bad experiences. They went something like this:
The client calls and says they want to hire me for a writing project. We have a great phone call where we really click and talk about the project at length. I turn in the first draft and the response is: “What’s this? This isn’t what we talked about.” Huh? Where you on the same phone call as I was?
Speaking the same language
It only took one or two of these before I pulled my head out of you-know-where and created a “questionnaire” that I went through with each client on the kick-off call. I had a basic outline that I would customize based on the project, but it always covered the basics that would make sure the client and I were on the same page before I started writing.
It was several years later that I stumbled across a creative brief and realized that my “questionnaire” was really the same tool fancy ad agencies have been using with clients for years. The creative brief is a critical element of a project from both sides of the table. For the writer or designer, it provides a roadmap for the project. For the client, it ensures they are getting the result they expected. For both it ensures a smooth project that is faster and easier to bring to completion.
I am including a sample creative brief below. It’s a good idea to use one for every project – whether you’re hiring a freelancer, an agency, or handling the project in-house.
The Creative Brief
Client name and contact info:
Project contact person:
Project (brochure, website, case study, etc.):
Number of words / pages and/or any existing design or layout specifications:
Existing template or sample (give the title(s) here and then include in background info packet):
Why is this project happening?
What’s going on in the market or in the company?
What will the final piece be used for?
What is the MAIN point we want to make with the collateral?
What is the product? If there is existing background info, list the titles here and include with the background info packet.
What is the value proposition to the customer? (Hopefully they will know the answer to this. If not, continue to the sub-bullets)
What pain is the product addressing?
What other options do customers have for relieving the pain? (Your competitor, do nothing, handle it in-house, do it a different way, etc)
Who are your direct competitors?
Why should a customer buy your product over theirs? (Note if this is targeted at a sub-group of the competitor’s customers)
What are the reasons a customer might not buy from you even though your product is superior?
Who is the target audience? (Be as specific as possible)
What are their most important considerations when purchasing a product like yours (price, ROI, reliability, location, speed of implementation, quality of service, name brand, etc)
What do you want the reader to do when they finish reading? (Call, go to the website, request the white paper, etc)
Deadline / schedule:
Number of reviews and revisions:
Person responsible for final approval:
Any other relevant background material: (Company voice /style guidelines for example) List titles here and include with background info packet.
What do you think?
Have you used creative briefs – if so, what kind of results have you had with them? What other questions do you include?