How to prevent the 11th hour veto.

The creative brief writer’s bane. You’re just about to send the creative team off to begin the project, or you’re about to send your brief to the ad agency, when you get a call or an email.

Stop. The brief needs work. Signed, your boss.

What happened?

Here are some pointers to smooth the way, brought to you by a guy who’s suffered the slings and arrows of many outrageous 11th hour vetoes. From a boss and from a client.

First, plan ahead.

Don’t say “Duh!” because I’ve been in too many situations when planning seemed so obvious, so clear-cut, but then nothing happened, and my team and I were caught off guard.

Planning ahead means you have to know your stakeholders’ proclivities, their moods, their schedules. If you don’t want the last minute veto, don’t wait until the last minute to find them and get your brief in front of them.

Second, don’t show this stakeholder (or stakeholders) the finished creative brief. Show them a draft. You might even leave blank the question or questions they tend to object to or re-write most often. Anticipate their objection.

Third, don’t even send them a creative brief. Send them the question or questions they have historically quibbled over in an email, completely out-of-context from the creative brief template. Ask them to send you a draft of their language of a good answer.

Then, when you plug their draft into the draft creative brief, and show that draft to your stakeholder, remind them of their contribution. This tactic won’t necessarily prevent them from objecting, but at least your stakeholder now has a, well, stake in the draft of the brief.

Fourth, know your stakeholder’s schedule and plan accordingly. The stakeholder(s) should ideally be present at the creative briefing, when the brief is “formally” presented and discussed. (The creative team should already have read and approved the brief long before the briefing.)

Sometime you play a game of cat-and-mouse trying to find, schedule in, and stay ahead of your stakeholder(s), so these tips are more about politics than creative strategy, but often the two are intricately linked and unavoidable.

Wasting time because your brief is shot down at the last minute is a morale killer and a money siphon. Brief writers have to take charge of their brief, and that includes corralling their stakeholders.

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