The best agency-client relationships are partnerships of mutual respect. A well-written brief helps you get the best out of your creative agency.

Here’s why:

– You will inspire better creative work

– The work will be more effective

– The results will be easier to measure

– It saves you time and money

– It forms the basis of the contract between you and your creative agency

– If you put rubbish in, you’ll get rubbish out

Put it in writing

If you don’t write it down, there is no evidence of what was agreed. People have faulty memories. There is nothing to fall back on in case of queries.

Be clear about your thinking

Make up your mind about what you want, and don’t move the goalposts. It wastes time and energy (and costs you more). Make the brief simple and clear. In fact, make it brief! Include product demonstrations, trial samples or site visits if relevant.

Define your objectives

Tell your agency where you are now and where you want to go. It’s their job to help you get there. Set quantifiable objectives (often known as SMART goals) and you will be able to recognise success when it’s achieved.

A good written brief comprises eight main sections:

1. Project management – Basic overview of the project

2. Where are we now – The starting point

3. Where do we want to be – The desired outcome

4. How are we going to get there – The marketing and campaign strategies; who’s going to do what

5. Who do we need to talk to – Target market

6. How will we know we’ve arrived – What will success look like

7. Practicalities – Budgets; timings; other considerations

8. Approvals – Who makes the decision and signs off the work

The tighter the brief, the better work it can inspire.

Top tip: Creative people are problem-solvers. Give them the problem, not the solution, and let them do their magic. Your role is to stimulate their creativity, not to stifle it. Give them a brief, not a straitjacket!

“Can you just”

“Can you just” are words that creatives dread to hear. “Can you just move the logo to the top and make it bigger.” “Can you just squeeze in another 300 words without reducing the point size?” “Can you just use the colours from design A with the font from design B and the format from design C?” “Can you just change the target market to include men as well as women?” All these suggestions may seem simple but can take a lot of time to implement (and therefore lead to additional cost). Creatives should not be too precious about their work, and do want to produce results you are happy with. That doesn’t always mean you will ‘like’ the work, but both parties should agree that it ‘ticks the boxes’ you’ve defined in the brief.

Even worse than the words ‘can you just’ are the words: ‘Will you do me a favour?’ No! Like other business-owners, I love what I do but I work for money.

Top tip: Professional creative work is not charity. A reasonable number of changes are included in the fee, but anything beyond that will incur an extra charge (quoted in advance).

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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