Creative briefs for beginners

by Ramona Liberoff, EVP Marketing, Strategy and Planning, Movirtu Limited, London Howard's book is a great tool for all of those with the weighty responsibility of writing a creative brief to fulfill their duties responsibly.

But in some environments, like tech companies, or start-ups, or for those not used to working with creatives or agencies, the need for a creative brief isn't established in the first place. (In case you're wondering, my environment is all three.)

In fact, there's very little experience or judgment available to help people understand what good communication looks like at all.

So you have to go through a pre-brief enlightenment process with your stakeholders. Below I share some best practices with readers in case you are in the same situation, or in case you just need to remind people why they go through the hard work of writing a creative brief.

Q: Why do I have to brief? Why can't I just "tell" someone what to write and have them do better words?

A: Two main reasons. If you don't give some background to the brief, particularly around the audience, you won't help the writer get into the audience's shoes and write something that will be useful to them. Second, there are many different ways to tell a story. Dictating your message and having it tidied up is the equivalent of trimming your astroturf rather than planting a lawn. The latter is harder, but it's clearly real.

Q: Why do I have to writing anything down? I don't have time for this!

A: The act of writing something down forces you to think through what you want to accomplish. Otherwise you are tempted to think that a creative communication can solve too many different issues, some of which may not be connected to the communication at all. Or you risk spending much more time later down the line in endless revision cycles when the work just isn't "right." How can it be, without a clear road map?

Q: OK, I accept that I have to do some kind of brief. What will my creatives find most useful?

A: Apart from read Howard's book, the things that stand out for me as most useful are brevity and verbs. Too often the brief is full of adjectives such as "Get to the point," and "Speak in a tone which is authoritative and innovative" and "Not fuzzy."

What may be fuzzy to me may not be fuzzy to you. Trying to follow instructions like those above is like chasing an endless piece of string, and pointless iteration is not a good thing for creative work. It can end up exhausting your creative energy to no good purpose.

Garbage in, garbage out is always a good rule of thumb!