Creative Briefs: Never Start a Project Without One

Creative Briefs: Never Start a Project Without One
Kate Headen Waddell - Thu May 28, 2009 @ 09:40AM
Comments: 70

Lost in TranslationRoadmap

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):

Project Background:

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:

Review team:

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?

Related Posts:

Check these out for more tips on creating irresistible collateral

Eight Things Your Prospects Wish You Knew and Create Content Sales Will Love: Tips From the New Rules of Sales Enablement by Michele Linn

Everything I Needed To Know About B2B Writing I Learned From My Kids and Try A Backward Approach When Writing Marketing Materials by Wendy Thomas

Comments: 70


1. Doug Kessler  |  my website   |   Fri May 29, 2009 @ 01:46AM

Nice one. I've always used something similar but with fewer chunks: Goals, Target Audiences, Promise, Support, Tone & Manner, Executional considerations.

If these are answered thoroughly, they ought to cover your points too -- but I can see the value in more granular questions.

2. Kate Headen  |  my website   |   Fri May 29, 2009 @ 02:35AM

Thanks for the comment Doug. I find that I only get into the granular questions with smaller or start-up companies that haven't made an organized foray into developing collateral. The bigger guys usually have a lot of this figured out already and just forward the tone of voice guide etc. Maybethe next post should be on how to sort through collateral overshare?

3. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Tue Jun 02, 2009 @ 02:02AM

Great post, Kate. As a writer with both project management and agency experience, I am a strong supporter of solid creative briefs ... you might even say I'm fanatical about them.

99 times out of 100, good business relationships are built on ultra-clear communications. The creative brief and scope of work documents are the foundation of this clarity.

The only comments/additions I'd make to your excellent outline are:
* I call out the Tone/Personality item as its own item. I think that hitting this particular nail on the head is critical to keeping everyone happy. I've also found that it's something that's easily overlooked unless directly addressed.
* Executional mandatories - logos, legal disclaimers, copyrights, tag lines, etc and also things like links, feature sets, or testimonials. I like to know up front what elements I'll need to work into a piece. It's always good to ask about them up front so you're not faced with the "Oh, we'd love to include x,y,and z" comment on your first draft.
* Budget - Although this may be better suited to the scope of work, some clients prefer to have only one document. In that case, I'd include some definition of the budget within the brief.

Having a well-built creative brief will serve you not only in the initiation phase of a project, but also at each review point. Being able to refer back to the creative brief as the "bible" for the project can be very helpful for all parties involved - helping to avoid any misunderstandings or lapses in memory. ;)

4. people   |   Tue May 27, 2014 @ 12:19AM

Nice one. I've always used something similar but with fewer chunks: Goals, Target Audiences, Promise.

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