How to brief a marketing agency? And why it's important to make the effort to get it right.

Uncategorized Jun 21, 2019

Have you ever engaged with an agency, whether it be a to create a new brochure, video, website or perhaps an advertising campaign, and the work that the agency presented to you fell short of your expectations? It’s a frustrating, time wasting and expensive predicament. 

In most cases, it’s not necessarily a lack of creative skill or mismanagement on the agency’s part that leads to this situation. More often than not, the real cause lies in the fact that briefing an agency is a dying art and has been reduced to a phone conversation or a quick meeting over coffee. If you take the time to write a brief BEFORE you engage with the agency you can more effectively set out your expectations and requirements which will result in better outcomes. 

What is a brief?

A brief can be called many names depending on the work that’s required. It can be called a Creative Brief, Media Brief, Video Production Brief, Digital Marketing Brief, Website Brief, etc. A brief, by definition, is a document produced by the client (customer) that outlines all relevant information to guide and provide inspiration to the agency when producing the work.  

The purpose of a brief is to set expectations, define the scope of the work, specify the objectives, define the target audience, communicate the brand requirements, set timeframes and responsibilities and provide budget expectations. Without a brief the agency is left to guess, hypothesise and draw from their own experiences rather than approach the work from your practice’s perspective. This is where the problems arise. 

What information needs to be included in the brief? 

Broadly speaking any information that is relevant to the task/project should be included in the brief. Here are our guidelines on the information that should be included: 

  • The scope of the project: This section defines the work that you want produced. It defines what you want the agency to deliver and the parameters they need to work within.

For example, if you wanted some “how to” videos for your website and social media. It is important to define the number and rough length of the videos you require etc. 

  • The objectives: By outlining the objectives, you are setting the targets of what you would like to achieve. Useful objectives are specific, measurable, relevant and time bound.
    For example, by creating these videos we aim to increase the number of visitors to our website by 20% by the end of June.

  • Project Details: In this section you can provide detailed information about the task / project. For a video, it might be defining the topic, where you would like the filming to take place or if you wanted animation etc

  • Brand Architecture: Brand consistency is extremely important. Defining the brand architecture will ensure what the agency produces is aligned with your brand. Information to include in this section:

- A copy of your logo, icon or any other branding device you use
- Brand colours
- Specific text fonts
- Tag-line
- Key brand messages
- Brand personality
- Brand positioning  

  • Competitive Overview: It’s always good to include a brief section outlining who your main competitors are. You can add in links to their websites and / or social media pages so that the agency can ensure the work they produce is distinct and differentiated from competitors.

  • Mandatories: These are the things that are non-negotiable to you.

For example, a mandatory we always include in all briefs for practice clients is that the work MUST comply with the Guidelines for Advertising Regulated Health Services.

  • Budget: Including a budget provides a guide to the agency about how much money you are prepared to invest. Sometimes clients may choose not to include a budget in case the quote comes in under their expectations or that they simply have no idea about a reasonable price for the work required. Conducting a bit of research will help you set an appropriate budget.

  • Timelines: “I need this yesterday” is not best approach to timelines. In order to get the best work out of an agency, it’s important to give them a reasonable timeframe to complete your work. Rushing agencies to get the work done will only compromise the quality. 

If you struggle to complete a brief because you are unsure of your requirements, then there is no harm in having an initial meeting with an agency to clarify your thoughts and then sending them through the brief after your meeting. After all, it’s perfectly normal to want to tap into agency’s expertise. 

Taking an hour or two to write a brief prior having an initial meeting with the agency will go a long way to ensuring that you get the results you are hoping for. In the end it will save you money, time and a lot of frustration if you create a solid brief. The old saying “Garbage in, Garbage out” rings particularly true here.


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