More tips for beginning creative-brief writers

As it turns out, Ramona Liberoff's post last month, Creative briefs for beginners, was the most popular and most read post on my blog in months. So, in honor of my esteemed planner colleague from Movirtu Limited in London, who clearly struck an important nerve, I'm continuing on the theme she started with a few more tips for those of you new to the creative brief. It's a subject I'll return to again in the future.

Tip #1: Before you ever write a single word, talk to your client.

This is so obvious is may seem silly. But it's all part of the collaborative process I've been preaching. This time, you collaborate with the most important person in your world: the client for whom the creative project is being produced.

Now, I have no idea who your client might be. "Client" is a generic term for, say, that big software account you work on called Microsoft. It could be the product manager at your company. It could be your next door neighbor who asked you to write content for her new petsitting Website.

Whomever your client is, you have to understand exactly what he or she is expecting. Chances are you'll get some kind of document, whether it's a brand statement, a Marketing Communications brief (MarCom brief) or something else.

You might not be so lucky. You may get nothing more than a 10-minute conversation. And if you don't take notes, you're in trouble.

Your creative brief is meant to be your interpretation of the MarCom brief. Or the 10 minute conversation.

This is when it will pay to have a blank copy of your creative brief template in front of you. Ask your client the questions as they're listed. Ask them verbatim.

Get your client to put into her words what she thinks should be in the communication.

Ask her to propose a Single-Minded Proposition (SMP).

Write down her response. It's from your client. It may be dead wrong, but it'll likely have a gem of truth to it. No one knows her product or service better than she does.

Now you have first-hand information from the source. You'll be in a great position to write your brief. Even better, you'll have built rapport with this person.

Tip #2: Write more than one Single-Minded Proposition.

There will never be only one way to solve a creative problem. Therefore there will never be only one single-minded proposition. There is likely to be only one truly outstanding SMP, but it pays to explore many approaches.

If you can identify three or four unique benefits of your product or service, each of those benefits could be your SMP.

As a creative director who often has to write my own creative brief, I make it a habit to give my creative teams more than one SMP. I've given them as many as four SMPs for a single product. I often suspect that one or more might inspire truly outstanding ideas, just as one or more might go nowhere.

Believe me, creatives will appreciate the breadth of thinking you offer. You'll earn a reputation for clear direction. Clear being the operative word.

More tips in the months to come. Happy brief writing!