The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Creative Brief

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Once you’ve decided on a new marketing campaign, you’ll be tempted to jump right in. Slow down! You’re missing an important first step: the creative brief. A creative brief is essential for getting all internal stakeholders on the same page before executing a project. All new creative endeavors should start with a brief, so use the tips in this guide to help you draft one that is clear, concise, and informative.

What is a creative brief?

A creative brief is a document that defines the scope and goals of a project. It provides essential information that the creative team needs to know about how to get the project done; things like team members for the project, objectives, audience, key messages, all deliverables, specs, and milestone due dates. Its purpose is to guide and inspire the creative team to generate the best possible deliverables for the project.

Tips for writing a creative brief

Brush up on some of these best practices before starting your creative brief (to prevent having to do rework later!):

  • Align with your team
    Before you get started, have a kickoff meeting to align everyone involved in the project. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face during the creative process is miscommunication between the planning and executing phases. When you meet at the start of the execution process, you can align on the project details before any work is started and clear up any confusion before people invest time in the process.

  • Review your brand guidelines
    Before writing your creative brief, make sure the project adheres to your set brand guidelines. This ensures all of your hard work will be usable when complete because it will cohesively align with all of your other branded collateral.

  • Be clear and concise
    As you’re writing the creative brief, keep the language as simple as possible. No need to overelaborate or provide excessive examples; too much information can hinder the creative process just as much as too little!
  • Don’t create your brief in a vacuum  
    Involve your key project teams in drafting the brief. You never know what insights and ideas other perspectives can bring to the table.

  • Be realistic in your timelines
    Most creative briefs include a project schedule with deadlines for milestones and deliverables. Don’t expect the content creation to be done overnight! Assign reasonable deadlines that allow your creative team the time to work their magic. Be sure to factor in time for revisions and approvals.

  • Create a template
    Starting your brief from scratch with every project is not effective. Create a template that can be repurposed each time to ensure you have all of the information you need. Iterating on your template with each project allows you to optimize it for your needs as your team, process, and company evolves as well.

Questions a great creative brief should answer

As you write, ask yourself the questions listed below. If your brief doesn’t address them all, you may need to flesh it out a bit further. The best creative briefs answer questions that go a step beyond the who, what, why, and how basics. Specificity is key.


What’s the goal?

In other words, what pain points are you trying to solve and what purpose will it serve? Defining your goal first will guide the rest of the creative brief. This will be the most important part of the brief, so make sure you’re very clear on the goal from the get-go.

Tip: Identify any existing projects with similar goals to avoid creating overlapping or potentially confusing content for your audience. This also ensures you’re not duplicating previous efforts and that you’re getting the most out of the content you create.


Who’s your audience?

Take time to understand where this project falls in your buyer’s journey. More importantly, understand why your audience will care about the project deliverables. Compare the audience for this specific project with the target demographic for your brand in its entirety. Are they the same? How are they different?

Tip: Clearly defining your audience will allow you to execute your distribution plan effectively. Ensuring you have the right filters in your customer relationship management (CRM) tool might take time, so don’t leave this to the last minute.


Who else is involved?

Marketing and creative teams are certainly essential in the execution of a creative brief, but who else? Perhaps other internal teams, like your social media team or web developers? Or external agencies, clients, or partners? Make sure all of these stakeholders (and their responsibilities) are identified in your brief.

Tip: Not everyone will need to be involved in every phase of the project. Defining a process for each step will keep meetings efficient by only involving key contributors and stakeholders at the appropriate times.


What are your metrics of success?

Make sure everyone understands the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to evaluate the success of the campaign. Everyone should understand from the start how the project deliverables will be assessed. Possible KPIs include the number of social shares, conversion rate, or number of downloads. Identifying these metrics in advance will help your team create the best possible content to reach your goals. Additionally, metrics give teams a sense of accomplishment by letting them see the impact of their work.

Tip: Being able to track each project will also inform plans for future campaigns and ensure you’re always innovating and optimizing with each project.


What are the deliverables?

Possible deliverables include videos, white papers, webpages, and more. In addition to describing each one, you should also identify the assets that will be needed. Your creative team— including copywriters and developers — will benefit from having as many specific details as possible. Make sure to include dimensions, resolution, word count, length, format information, etc.

Tip: Include the call to action (CTA) for each deliverable.


What is the timeline?

As mentioned before, you should keep your timelines realistic. The brief should be distributed well ahead of deadlines to give all teams time to review and execute their responsibilities effectively. Include dates for revisions and approvals for each deliverable in your timeline, so everyone can refer back to your brief as the project progresses.

Tip: Standard creative lead times gives project requesters timing guidelines to follow when submitting a project. This allows them to plan the timing of their submission accordingly and will help keep creative workloads in check instead of forcing teams to deliver projects within unrealistic time frames.


How will this content be used?

Define the marketing efforts that will be used to promote your new content. Include all the channels where content will be shared, whether it’s an internal or external resource, and any other necessary distribution information.

Tip: Include all of the available distribution channels in your template so you can review each and determine whether or not they’re appropriate for the project. Having a list easily accessible and understanding the goals for each channel will make it easier to determine your distribution plan.


Where will the project and its deliverables live?

There are many design components created as part of a project. Each one is crafted as a result of many hours of work, meetings, and planning. So leaving its storage and preservation up to chance could result in lost time and money. Determining in advance how and where your creative files will be stored will help ensure that it can be found for reference or even reuse in the future.

Tip: Investing in a digital asset management (DAM) solution allows you to securely store, organize, track, and distribute your files from a central location. It can also integrate with key creative and project management tools to save time by streamlining your project workflow.


Does the content correspond with any other projects?

If your project aligns with other past or current deliverables you’ll want to include links or relevant attachments. Few projects exist in a vacuum, so describing how this particular campaign corresponds with others — and how it fits into the larger brand strategy — helps limit redundancy among your various marketing campaigns and ensures consistency across audiences and channels.

Tip: Don’t duplicate efforts. Checking projects with similar goals or audiences before you start can save you a lot of time in the future. That’s why it’s important to properly store and tag projects so they can be easily found when you need them.  


Are there any helpful resources?

Visual examples can be an effective way of communicating the project’s desired outcomes, and reduce the need for rework later on. So if possible, include links to resources like mood boards, examples, storyboards, or outlines. Mood boards can inspire designers, while storyboards and outlines will help your writers and editors stay on track.

Tip: Review these links and resources during your kickoff meeting to align on ideas before work starts.

Bringing it all together

All of this probably seems like way too much to fit into a creative brief, especially if the best are only a page long! But that’s why writing effective creative briefs is such a valuable skill. Your brief will need to answer all of these questions while still being clear and concise — without overwhelming your creative team with unnecessary information. Don’t worry if it takes a few tries at first! Practice makes perfect.

If you feel like you need a bit more help with creative management, learn about how the Widen Collective® can help you.

Topics: Creative, Marketing

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