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Productivity / Outsourcing

How to brief a creative

Soloists wear many hats and while you may be happy to take care of admin and client management, at some point, probably early on, you’ll need the help of a creative. Here are some tips to develop a creative brief.

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Finding someone to help you design your logo or website, or write the words for your proposals or brochure is one thing. But how do you make sure your designer or copywriter is as passionately in tune with your business as you are?

Briefing is the most important part of the creative process. Yes, it takes time. But if you don’t do it right, you won’t get what you want – and that wastes more time and precious money.

There are also two other benefits of a creative brief – in the process you’ll learn more about your business, and you’ll quickly work out whether this creative is the right fit for you.

Every week, I give and receive dozens of creative briefs. So here are a few tips to make sure you get a result that goes above and beyond your expectations.

"Not everyone is great at thinking outside the box, so by talking about it at the outset you can gauge how creative (and valuable) their input could be."

Start at the beginning

There are a few fundamental things you’ll need to explain if you want your creative to ‘get it’ quickly.

  • Who is your audience? Who is going to read or use this, do they have any common characteristics (age, gender, location, profession, income, interests and habits)?
  • Why are you communicating with them? What problem do they have that you can solve? How is your business relevant to their needs?
  • What do they need to know? What is your unique selling point, your key message? How do you differ from your competitors?
  • What do you want them to do as a result? What’s your call to action? Is there a timeframe for response?

Then to the nitty gritty

Now you’ve set objectives, you can talk about the best way to make it happen. This is where your creative should start to share the briefing burden, and come up with ideas to make it work better – or cost less.

Website, brochures, newsletters, email, direct mail, social media, blogs, proposal templates, flyers, case studies, exhibition banners, packaging… the possibilities are endless and you may end up with a more effective option than you had originally planned.

Want more articles like this? Check out the outsourcing section.

Set expectations

Have you ever outsourced and then become frustrated when they ‘don’t think outside the brief’? I know I have – but I’ve finally realised that if you want someone to do that you need to make that expectation clear – and give them creative freedom to go for it.

Not everyone is great at thinking outside the box, so by talking about it at the outset you can gauge how creative (and valuable) their input could be.

The other major expectation is timing. How quickly do you need to launch your product, business or campaign? What does that mean in terms of content and design deadlines, proofing and print? And can you supply the information they need in time to make that work?

Finally, you can talk money

I’ve lost count of the times a new client has asked me for a cost before explaining the brief. Until I know exactly what they need, I can’t tell them. An hourly rate is meaningless unless we both understand exactly how many hours are involved, and a project fee is only a guesstimate until all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.

If you get to the end of the briefing process only to discover that the fee quoted is well beyond your expectations, let them know. It’s useful feedback for them, and it’s also useful for you to understand what’s involved before you start shopping around. Or, set a budget while you’re talking expectations and see what’s possible for a price.

What do you always include in your creative brief? And how do you know if you’ve picked the right creative? Let us know.

Sara Howard

is the Principal and senior writer at Writers Australia. She loves nothing more than pulling apart corporate waffle to find the hidden gem of an idea – and then bringing it to life so it resonates with customers, staff, donors or the general public. Connect with Sara on Twitter and LinkedIn

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