Communication professionals are lousy communicators

I’ve heard this complaint for my entire advertising career. Anyone in the communications business tends to be tone deaf when it comes to being his or her own best advocate.
It shows.

Even in the age of instant communications and social media, we (and it’s a big group that fits into this we) just suck at it.

Just look at most creative briefs. They suck.

Do you write them where you work? I’m talking to you.

I’ll bet you suck at it. You had no training. Right? You just did what someone else did and copied it. Right?

You know I’m right.

You’d think something as inclusive and basic as a creative brief would be our bread and butter.

Instead, it’s more like our bread and water, a punishment even the best brief writers tend to slog through. Don’t even ask me about the ones who don’t give a damn.

Why is it thus?

I recently began a new gig at a company as the in-house ad guy. It’s a new experience being on the client side. I’m still getting my head around it.

But in the first meeting at which a new project was kicked off, we (the creative team) were handed a document that passes for a creative brief (not really) and the conversation got started. Or rather it got stuck on details completely unrelated to the creative business at hand.

After a few minutes, I just stopped the conversation and asked the only pertinent question worth asking:

“So what, exactly, is the big deal about this product?”


I’m attempting to introduce the creative brief into daily use at this new place. I’m going to succeed. Because they’re hungry for a better way. Until I asked this question, no one would have been able to answer it.

You gotta ask the right question.

And if you can’t answer that question, you might as well stay in bed.

And if you can’t answer that question on the creative brief, you might as well not bother the creative team.

It occurs to me that we, as professional communicators, need to step it up as we face a dramatically changed business environment in general, and an equally re-shaped world in adland. If we can’t justify our ability to engage with our customers on all levels, we’ll be out of business.

Which is why I’m continually puzzled by the dismissive and cynical attitude toward the creative brief that I see on display by fellow adland practitioners.

“It’s so old fashioned. It’s out of date. We need something new and different and better to do the work we do. I’m tired of creative briefs. What good are creative briefs…”


The creative brief is like water: it fills the space it’s given. Give it nothing and that’s what you get in return. Fill it with creatively inspired liquids, and you will be richly rewarded.

So, do you suck as a creative brief writer?

Prove it.

Send me an example. How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief

Anything: a well-written SMP. A finely tuned objectives statement. A dazzling excerpt from a customer profile. A probing insight.

Don’t send me anything that’s proprietary and would get you into trouble. Make it at least a year old.

The best 3 submissions that meet my high standards will get a free, signed copy of my new book.

And then at least three people will no longer have an excuse for being lousy communicators.

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