Using an external agency can be an expensive business, so you want to make sure you’re getting the absolute best creative product out of them in terms of quality, accuracy, effectiveness, etc. However, it doesn’t matter who the agency is or how good they are, it’s impossible for them to work in a vacuum. You are at least half responsible for the work that eventually ends up running in however many weeks’ time and so it’s crucial for you to recognise and take responsibility for the power that you wield.
How responsible do you feel for the creative output that actually ends up running in press, in-branch, as an email, brochure, or wherever it is, and how close a link you can establish between that work and your initial marketing brief to the agency? Unless something fundamental changes, then it should be very clear to see how the creative work derives from your initial brief, and that’s not always the case – dare I say it, maybe even rarely the case.
Here are my four top tips to ensure you deliver the marketing brief your agency wants and needs:
1. Know what you want
It all starts with knowing what you want, which sounds obvious, but all too often people write a brief without having this clearly defined, in the hope that it will pan out as the process unfolds. It may do, but it more than likely won’t. This is typically where you end up with creative at the end of the process that is completely unrelated to the initial brief, because you’ve zig-zagged your way to the finish line, and it’s invariably going to have been a more costly, time consuming and probably relationship-wearing process as a result.
2. Good communication skills
Secondly, communication skills – writing a clear and concise brief and delivering it face to face in a completely unambiguous way. A good analogy to use is to think of the creative team that will ultimately be working on the brief as having a bucket of goodwill, which they start out with at the beginning of the briefing process. Every time they are confused, or have to ask for clarification, or consume some info that they don’t need or use, they leak away some of that goodwill. The aim is to get them to the end of the briefing process with as much goodwill left in their bucket as possible, because there’s a pretty direct correlation between that and the quality of creative work they’ll produce.
3. Be inspiring
Intrinsically linked to communication skills is the ability to motivate the agency. That starts with believing in and being enthusiastic about the brief you’ve written. If you’re enthusiastic about it and can paint a really exciting and clear picture of the task at hand, then they in turn will feel motivated and inspired to come up with a brilliant creative execution. The key to believing in and being enthusiastic about your brief is to ensure you go through a proper brief writing process and feeling that you’ve come up with a really robust, clear and logical brief. Time is obviously the biggest enemy of brief writing, but it really is worth investing the time in, a) because you want to make sure you get the best work out that will make a difference to the business; and b) because there are few things worse than having to brief the agency when you, yourself, don’t actually believe that the brief is very good, because they will always ask the tough commercial questions that they need to, in order to ensure their response will stack up in the real world, and that will expose the holes in your brief.
4. Avoid the pitfalls
Lastly, it’s important to know where it can all go wrong with brief writing – the typical pitfalls – the idea being that if you’re aware of them, then it’s easier to avoid committing those crimes. This is a whole blog post in its own right, so I’ll save that for another time…