When you reach out to an agency for help on a specific project they will ask you to supply them with a brief that they can analyse. Without this, it will be difficult for them to send you a detailed proposal that matches what you are looking for.
Often, most small to medium-sized businesses do not have a briefing document “template” ready and waiting for you to use. So, what do you do? How do you go about drafting one? And where do you start? I have been in this situation in the early years of my career and I remember feeling helpless and (if I’m honest) a bit stupid when I was asked for a brief that very first time. I know how hard it is to write an agency brief when you have never done one before and, in this post, I’m going to show you how to do it.
The work may seem long and tedious this first time but just remember that once you have it done, you will be able to use it time and time again as the basis for other briefing documents. It can be used for anything from pitching for public relations help, tradeshow stand design, creative resources, and branding design elements, video production, website design and maintenance, the list is endless.
So here are the simple steps to follow in creating a detailed and informative brief that will help you help your agency or consultant to understand exactly what you want and need and ultimately serve you better:
Begin by putting your business and the project in context:
List the reason for the brief:
- What needs to be done (example: create a new website)
- Why (example: the current website is outdated and not engaging, increase visibility, grow awareness and drive sales)
- What are the challenges to overcome (example: small startup company who nobody has heard of)
Supply detailed background information:
- Market overview – what market are you in, describe the key issues and the driving factors in your market
- Key trends in your market – refer to research documents
- Company Overview – Who you are, what is it you do, what do you do differently to everyone else, why customers buy from you
- Product/Service information – depending on what you sell, give as much information as possible on each of your key products and/or services and how they help your customers. If you are a technology company – please translate your technical specifications and language into plain simple English. It is vital that the reader (who is not technically minded) fully understands what you are saying.
Detail the competition:
- Who are your main competitors (supply detailed information with links to their websites)
- How are you different from your competitors – give examples
- Detail your target audience(s):
- Primary (example: all broadcasters, all system integrators)
- Secondary (example: trade press, trade associations)
- Principal segments within target audience(s) (example: CEO, CTO, CMO)
- Secondary segments (example: operations, purchasing and legal departments)
- Where you are – what communications activities have you undertaken to date (example: have relied solely on customer reviews and word-of-mouth).
- Where you want to be – here is your opportunity to list your objectives (example: build awareness, grow sales, change how people perceive your company)
- Key messages – what are the 3 main messages that you want to tell your audience about your company (example: 10 years’ experience, award-winning products). Be very careful what messages you convey – they must be 100% accurate and backed up with proof and facts.
- Tone of voice – what tone do you want to use when talking to your audience in all your communications (example: friendly, helpful, fun, professional)
- What exactly do you expect the agency to deliver to you (example: full website design, creation, and implementation)
- Show them some examples of what you like (other websites, logos that have caught your eye, the types of articles you find the best)
- When do you want it to be delivered by?
- How and in what format (example: an advert campaign could be delivered in print, banner, skyscraper formats)
- Language – do you expect deliverables to be in English and translated into other languages?
- Don’t write “to be defined”.
- Out of respect give an idea of how much you expect to pay or state the amount you can honestly afford.
Give them an idea of the process for selection and approval (example: you could be briefing 5 agencies so how will you go about meeting them, who meets them from your company, who makes the final decision, when do you expect to decide)
Get them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement so that any information you have detailed in the brief, some of which may be company confidential, will not be leaked to a third-party.
Help them help you:
Be prepared to discuss the brief with them over the phone so that you can clarify any information. It’s important that they have fully understood your needs, wants, and expectations so that they can meet your expectations.