A brief look at ‘the brief’

We use them in all our work. Our clients use them too.

But often, briefs can be incomplete, people can overlook their benefits, and they can be side-lined because of time.

To that we say, ‘no more! Viva la brief!’

The benefits of briefs

A well-crafted brief can be like an extra team member. It contains all the answers you’re looking for. It keeps you on track. And it helps you measure your successes.

As a strategic document, if you take time to write them well, they’ll save you time and money during the creative process. They often make the difference between good work and great work.

Let’s look at some of their benefits.

Briefs give clarity to your requests

First, briefs give clarity to your needs. If you’re looking for a white paper, your brief is the place to put that. If you’re looking for a short video, then your brief is the place to put that too. If you know the asset you want, you can ask for it – it’s as simple as that.

But importantly, if you don’t know what asset you want, but you know what your message and audience is, then the brief can help an agency (like us) home in on the right asset for you.

Often clarity in the brief comes from the briefing process too. There’s a briefing document, which is important, and there’s the briefing process, which is equally important. During the briefing process, you open a dialogue with your agency. It’s during this time that they can ask for more detail or make suggestions.

The brief can also force you to clarify things for yourself. When you’re writing a brief, you’ll have to say what your key messages are, what the proof points for your claims are, and what your objective is. If you’ve not already thought of these, creating a brief gives you a chance to make yourself think about them.

Briefs kick-start and constrain the creative process

The brief is also crucial to kick-starting the creative process. Often if you’re working on something creative, the endless open possibilities can stop you from getting started. It’s like staring at a blank white page and not knowing where to begin.

Without a brief for this blog, for example, we could have wasted a lot of time starting, stopping, and starting again:

‘First there was the steam engine, then there was ‘the brief’…’ Delete.

‘You need to write briefs fast, but you don’t have the time or money?’. Delete.

‘The brief has been an essential tool since the dawn of marketing’. Delete.

A brief can provide those jumping off points and set the direction, which can also save you and your creative team a lot of time. Written properly, a brief will have the right information to spark the ideas of the creative process.

Not only that, but briefs are also a way of constraining the creative process. You can use a brief to set the boundaries on the potentially limitless creative process. Your brief can act as a framework for your agency. This will help them produce something you want.

Think of it like scaffolding on a house. Without it, nothing can be built. It keeps the structure within the correct boundaries. And it provides the platform for the creative process.

Briefs are a chance to focus on your objectives

You can use the brief to focus on your objectives, your strategy, and how you’ll measure the success of the asset.

The objectives of a brief determine what your creatives will aim for. It’s like setting a target or a purpose. There’s a goal you want to achieve, and when you clearly articulate that goal, everyone can steadily work towards it. Taking time to make a well-crafted brief will give you the space to clarify and codify those objectives.

Clear objectives can also help inform many other parts of the creative process, like messaging and tone. For example, if you had an objective that was ‘boost downloads of our whitepaper with social posts showing we’re experts on smart lightbulb tech’, then you immediately know your tone and messaging needs to show expertise on the topic.

When your objectives are clearly stated, you can use them as success metrics too. If the asset meets the objective, then it’s been successful. If it doesn’t, then next time you can tweak things a bit, or a lot. It could require clearer objectives with measurable outcomes. Or it could mean the asset fell short. Either way, your brief is a chance to set the success conditions of the project, and ensure your creative team or agency clearly understand them.


To help you get started, take a look at the brief template we use to capture the conversation.