How to Write a Creative Brief Your Team Can Actually Use

by Katy French

Before you design an infographic, before you come up with that tagline, before you even have your first brainstorm, you need to lock down one thing: your creative brief.

This important document is the foundation of any creative project, whether it’s a single e-book or a multi-media campaign. Unfortunately, many a project has been derailed, delayed, or disrupted by a weak creative brief.

Why a Creative Brief Matters

A creative brief isn’t a cursory piece of communication. It serves several specific purposes:

  • It outlines objectives.
  • It provides all pertinent information for the project.
  • It keeps everyone on the same page.

Above all, it acts as an anchor for every stage of the creative process. Whether you’re working on your own team’s project or gathering info for an external team, learning to craft an effective brief will put you on the right path from the get-go.

But it all starts with the right elements.

What Your Creative Brief Should Include

A creative brief should include the pertinent information your team needs to perform their job to the best of their ability. While your brief may vary depending on your work, it will usually include the following:

  • Title: Use the project name, campaign name, or other shorthand.
  • Overview: Sum up the impetus for this campaign or project.
  • Budget: Include a specific number or range.
  • Timeline: Include a start date, end date, and any other timeline information.
  • Personas: Detail the audience you are trying to reach. Prioritize as best you can (primary, secondary, etc).
  • Success metrics (if relevant): Identify how you will measure your success.
  • Key messaging: Spell it out simply. Include specific messages related to each audience (if applicable).
  • Tone: Specify how you would like to communicate. Include the adjectives or feelings that might influence your approach.
  • Specs: Width, length, orientation, etc.
  • Current and recent projects (if applicable): If this project fits into a larger campaign, builds on previous efforts, or is an extension of messaging, include a brief synopsis/link.
  • Additional considerations: Include any other elements that may influence the project, such as:
    • Competitors: What do you know about them, and how can you act on this info?
    • Important insights from past experiences: What previously succeeded or went wrong?
    • References or inspiration: Include any pertinent content, resources, reading, or viewing materials.

Download our free Content Brief Template to use for your next project.

As you craft your brief, keep the following tips in mind to make sure it’s as useful as possible.

1) Assume Your Team Knows Nothing

You may have emailed back and forth with the client. A few of you probably had a pre-kickoff meeting. These were good conversations about the project, but they are not your starting point. Your creative brief influences your brainstorm, so it must cover both small and big picture issues. (You’d be surprised how often seemingly irrelevant information to you is actually quite pertinent to someone else.)

As a rule of thumb, include everything a person would need to know if they were just brought on to the project. The more comprehensive the brief, the better-prepared everyone will be.

2) Highlight the Problem

The purpose of a creative brief is not to explain that you’re creating an e-book. It’s to educate everyone about the core challenges you’re trying to solve through your creative work. (That said, an e-book may not actually be the best solution.) The problem—and end-goal—is the most important piece of information.

All decisions will be informed by your primary objectives, from your brainstorm ideas to art direction. Make sure everyone is clear on what those are.

3) Strike a Balance

Take the word “brief” seriously. The only thing worse than no information is too much. Be thorough, but only include what’s necessary. (A link to the last 200 projects you did is not helpful, nor is including your entire employee manual as a little “background” about your thinking.)

A creative brief is meant to distill and disseminate the most relevant information. Think about how you can reduce the volume and complexity of key information. Use clear hierarchy for easy scanning, and provide context where needed. Your team will thank you.

4) Clarify Your Language

Cut back on the jargon. Avoid acronyms, industry buzzwords, or company slang. (Again, assume ignorance.) If a particular term or concept is particularly important, define it in plain language in the creative brief. Also confirm that your team understands any confusing content before you move on.

5) Vet Your Brief

Just because all the information is in your head doesn’t mean it’s all translated in your creative brief. Before you send it out to the larger group, have a relevant party vet it. This will help you spot areas to clarify, information gaps, inconsistent messaging, or other issues you may need to address before embarking on the project.

It’s also important to get stakeholder sign-off. It is incredibly frustrating to shift gears later in the process due to misinformation in the brief. Do this to save your sanity.

Let the Brief Be Your Guide

Check in with your brief at every stage of the creative process. It’s easy to get overly excited in a brainstorm or want to make a creative change on set, but these can sometimes stray far from your original objectives. Always strive to put your brief front and center. If you’ve done it right, it will get your team excited from day one—and that’s the best way to start a project.

For more tips on how to create great work, find out how to tap into your team’s ideas, how to work with different creative personalities, and what design mistakes to avoid in your visual content.

As always, if you need a little help with your content marketing, we’d love to talk it out

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