Opinions, best practices and research into B2B marketing strategy and practices

A good brief goes a long way

many briefs hanging on a washing line

If saving time and money is high on your agenda, then giving your agency a good briefing is essential. With everyone pressed for time, it’s something we are all getting poorer at. It’s time to rein it in, though. Why should you invest time in getting the brief right?

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the underwear kind. I’m talking about the bee’s knees of getting anything started on the right foot in the agency world – a good brief. Whether it be a simple blog post, press release or magazine article, or a complex account-based marketing (ABM) project spanning six months, take it from me – a good brief goes a long way in saving you time and money (and headaches).

At a time when businesses are focused on increasing efficiency and productivity to keep operating costs down, a good brief, actually an excellent brief is needed more than ever. But I get why this step gets little attention or sometimes missed altogether!

Busy bees

Today, time is such a valuable commodity. We are rushing all. the. time – rushing to meet our friends for coffee, rushing to drop the children off at school, rushing to get to work on time – does this sound like you?

Recently, I feel like the jobs I’m given are doing the same thing. Rushing. It’s not uncommon for me to receive a frantic email with a couple of lines and an attachment asking, “Can you do this by the end of the week?” or a half-assed brief that optimistically declares the project will be finished before the start of the (Danish) summer.

Energy in, energy out

Putting in the time at the start means you will reap the benefits later. With a concise brief, things are clearer, there is no back and forth, frustrating emails and phone calls, and no time wasted on working on something that completely misses the mark. “I was thinking that it could be a bit more personal, like Tony himself was saying it.” Umm – maybe you should have mentioned that in the brief!?

Not only is this a waste of time and brainpower, it means that creatives, including your favorite copywriters, end up banging their heads against the agency office wall, dropping to our knees and asking, “Why??!!” (maybe I should’ve written screenplays?).

Not mind readers

I wish I could read minds – the world would be such an interesting place and people watching would take on a whole new angle. I’d call it “people mind-reading”. My dear boyfriend wouldn’t have to put up with me asking him to talk about his feelings, either! What I’m trying to say is if you have a genius (or not) idea, direction or angle on the project or task at hand, please communicate it in the brief. I can’t read your mind.

Don’t worry, I’m not perfect either. This morning, I realized I made an ass out of u and me (sorry, Andrea!). That’s right – I assumed something. That my colleague would know to send the article to me before sending it to the researcher she interviewed. What happened? I got busy, I was rushing and then I simply forgot. If only I had prepared a good, sorry, excellent brief!

Co-dependent relationships

There are times where a project or task is relying on something or someone completing another piece of work, delaying projects for days, weeks or even months. So it’s understandable that at the time of briefing – you simply just don’t know what you want. That’s fine. It’s just a matter of being a crystal-clear communicator and staying connected.

A brief offers good support

An excellent brief covers the following things:

  • What
  • When
  • Scope
  • Why/Background
  • Where
  • How
  • Who
  • Examples of similar project/task and learnings
  • Other important bits and pieces

It’s good business practice to have a process and template in place to cover these bases every time you embark on a new project. And it’s also a great idea that you sign off on the agency brief, essentially agreeing that you have done your best to communicate what you want. There are free templates available online and you can adapt them to suit your projects and company branding.

Running out of time

I know what you’re thinking (because I’m a mind reader). You’re thinking, “I don’t have time to fill out templates for each and every task I send to my agency!” and perhaps, “Getting lost in processes and templates takes away from the task at hand and stops us from being agile!” Think again.

For someone who likes structure and processes, working at an agency has made me many things – and agile is one of them. Things move fast, clients change their minds, I change my mind, but in the end, we get it done. Good briefs don’t stop you from being agile. Yet instead of spending 15 hours on it, you end up spending just five. It’s a no-brainer – really.

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Pha Khem

My career moves to date have taken me from my home town Melbourne, to London and finally to Copenhagen where I work as a copywriter and project manager for cylindr BBN. I’ve worked in both the public and private sector, quite often capitalizing on my communication skills. My interests lie in public health, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. As a qualified dietitian, I enjoy working with food chemistry and human physiology yet can lend a hand with writing highly technical copy for a wide mix of industries.