A Brief on Effective Briefing

Author: Glenn Whitehead, M&a Creative Director

Briefing doesn’t have to be extreme but sometimes it helps to get loud.

Let’s chat about briefing…specifically how to do it well.

How often have you heard about a project running off the rails in a burning fireball with a one-way ticket to oblivion? Maybe that’s a bit dramatic but often that’s what it feels like to those involved.

When talking about it with peers, often i’ve found the most common reason is everyone is on a different page and in some cases a totally different book. Most of the time its been those projects we “don’t have time to discuss” and hence failed to plan effectively.

Let’s introduce the concept of a brief

While not a new concept, briefing is often labeled an unnecessary time-suck. It relegated to the land of copy/paste and whatever I need to do to get into a document to give the impression of a briefing.

I’m challenging that. A brief is essentially a set of instructions for getting others to realise your vision.

A brief is an exploration in your product, service and client. It’s the space for creative thought around how we are going to make a difference and it sets the direction for everyone involved in the project.

Ideally it will presented to the team and should be explored collaboratively to make it watertight. Most projects typically have more than one team member involved and each person comes prepackaged with their own experiences and perspectives that add detail or clarity to a brief.

Breaking it down

Let’s get to what makes a brief great. These are the questions you should be asking upfront to develop the bones and give the rest of the team a platform to discuss.

1. What’s the problem?
Why does this project even exist? What are we trying to solve?
2. What’s the product?
Time to educate and help everyone become an expert. Dust off the sales pitch and get the team excited about the product. Get them to experience it or speak to people that have experience it and can offer opinions. We typically look at a description of the product or service, features and benefits, differentiators, any negative marketplace / audience perceptions and their competitors activities.
3. Who’s the audience?
Here’s a tip…in most cases is not the client.
4. What’s the strategy?
How will we reach the audience?
5. What are we going to tell them?
Time to distill that single-minded proposition

Now is the time to get the team together and debate the information gathered above. After this session you’ll have a great base for approval before we jump into production.

Wrapping up

Getting this together in a way that includes the team starts the project on the right foot. The brief will provide a focussed direction that can be referred to time and time again throughout a project and serves as a great reference to ensure the team is meeting objectives.

Not every project requires an elaborate all-singing, all-dancing production to get it briefed in but if time permits it doesn’t hurt. At the least the team gets together for a bit of bonding.