Another exercise you can do anywhere

Practicing your creative brief writing skills is easier than you might think.

In a previous post, I suggested that you could practice writing a brief by focusing on the single-minded proposition. Simply look around you, pick something like a chair or a colleague, and figure out its essence. That's the equivalent of a single-minded proposition. Or the brief.

This exercise requires you to find an existing advertisement. Any media will do. If you're reading a magazine, and you find a print ad you like, you can practice your brief writing skills by deconstructing the ad while you sit there.

No, this isn't an advanced lit class. You can deconstruct just about anything.

You already know what questions a creative brief asks. So think about those questions when you look at the ad in your magazine.

Start with the SMP, which is the hardest thing to write when you do a brief, but the easiest place to begin when you do things backwards, which is what this exercise is all about.

So ask yourself, "What's the one thing this ad is trying to tell me?"

If you can't figure it out, don't fret. It may very well be that the ad doesn't succeed. Or that its SMP is muddled. Or that it's trying to say too many things at once and ends up communicating nothing.

If you can figure it out, then it's probably a good ad. Or at least it has potential.

Next, can you determine who, specifically, the ad is for? Chances are good that you're the intended audience if you're reading the magazine because you bought it, rather than, say, you're at your dentist's office and you're just killing time.

You might have to read a bit of the copy to figure this out, but the headline, visual and tagline (if there is one) should be enough to give you a hint.

After that, see if you can determine what the proof is to believe the single-minded proposition. In other words, the substantiation. Meaning...what?

Meaning that the benefits are clear. Are they?

Okay, now ask: What am I supposed to feel about the product or service after seeing this ad? If it's a successful ad, you should be feeling something. It should tug at your emotions in some way or another.

You don't have to be bawling your eyes out or falling out of your chair laughing. Just something that resonates, that connects the product or service to a feeling. Even if it's subtle, then it's working.

We're getting into a deep drill here, but try this: can you figure out what the ad's tone of voice is? If you had to list a few words or phrases to describe it, what would they be?

So maybe you're nodding your head at this point and realizing that this is all old hat, familiar stuff. No brainer. Piece of cake.

You can do all these little exercises in a lot less time than it probably took you to read this far. And you can do it all in your head.

That's the point, really. You can do this anywhere. Consider it a mini-refresher. Or a warm-up.

And in no time, it's like muscle memory. Your brain focuses and bingo!

I'm not suggesting that writing a brief is easy. It's not. But if you work as a professional communicator, however you define that, this is stuff you do everyday.

Now you have a method to practice it without breaking into a sweat. Do it everyday. Do it once a week. Do it every once in a while. But make it part of your routine. Your creatives will thank you.

So deconstruct away.