Writing better briefs: tips and tricks

If you’re a marketer, you probably think you’re good at writing creative briefs: 80% of clients said they were in research (1). However, only 10% of agencies believe their clients are good at writing briefs, as brandgym partner Anne Charbonneau posted last year here! Anne knows a bit about brief writing, having spent 17 years as a planner in top agencies including BBH, TBWA and Wieden & Kennedy prior to joining the brandgym.

Writing better creative briefs is a business imperative. An estimated 1/3 of marketing budgets are wasted on poor briefs and misdirected work (1). Key issues to fix include briefs being unfocused (83%), unclear (79%) and dull (65%).

Anne has put together a handy 3-page checklist to help write better briefs and then evaluate creative work when presented. You can get a copy of the checklist by popping your name and email in the form below.

In this post I share some highlight some of the key tips and tricks from the checklist.

1. Be clearer and more focused

Good creative briefs start with clear communication objectives. However, this section is often neglected: a staggering 55% of briefs lack clear objectives and desired outcomes!

Write very specific objectives including:

  • Brand & business objective: what is the brand and business issue that has led to the comms brief? This gives important context and roots the comms development in a business objective
  • Communication objective: e.g. Are you trying to make existing users feel better about the brand to limit transfer to private label? Or to challenge consumer perceptions about the category as a whole to reinforce your mental leadership? Each of these reflect a radically different scope and ambition, and would lead to very different briefs with a specific ‘spinal chord’
  • Think, feel, do: a simple and single minded sentence that describes how you want the target to behave seeing this communication. If you don’t simplify, the creatives will!

2. Be more inspiring

Anne suggests that 65% of creative briefs are dull not just because of briefs themselves but also because of the creative briefing process.

Don’t rush into sharing your own creative ideas about how to execute the brief, in an attempt to make it fun and inspiring. Instead, think about how to convey the brief in the most engaging and  inspiring way. The briefing should not be about ‘talking through’ the written brief.

  • Make it an immersive experience: now that we have less meeting restrictions, think about what would be the most relevant place to conduct the briefing (the factory? One of your farms?… the kitchen of an organic restaurant?..)
  • Bring the consumer and consumer insight to life: share articles that talk about the issue, create a video of some qual groups where where consumer talk about the brand…or even better, bring some real consumers into the meeting.

3. Set up the evaluation for success

The first part of the process is writing and delivering the brief. How you evaluate and feed back on creative work is also critical:

  • Before the meeting: ensure you have the right attendee list, including only people needed in the decision process. Ensure expectations are clear and you’ve agreed how feedback will be shared
  • During the meeting: guide the team to ensure feedback remains at strategic level (‘answering the brief’) and to avoid jumping straight to ‘likes and dislikes’. The checklist has a useful tool to help you articulate feedback, based on two dimensions: 1. Like/don’t like, and 2. On brief/off brief

In conclusion, writing and delivering better briefs pays off. As Anne explained in her last post, better briefs attract the best creative resource inside the agency. And having the best creative teams working on your brands gives you a better chance of success.


1. Better Briefs Project