A brief writer’s checklist.

Newbie and veteran brief writers alike need and value reminders. Here are some thoughts to keep top of mind next time you prepare to write a brief:

If you’re a marketer, find a co-brief writing partner.

The majority of my workshop participants are marketers or account professionals, not strategists or planners. As brief writers, marketers face different challenges. They all tell me that writing briefs is just one of many responsibilities they carry on their shoulders.

So first on the checklist: Find your brief-writing partner or partners, but keep the group small—no more than three total. The point is, no one, not even strategists and planners, does or should write a brief solo. The extra burden a marketer carries is that she has so many other duties, whereas the strategist/planner’s focus is narrower.

This reason alone is why it’s so important that a marketer-brief-writer needs other brains with whom to collaborate. It’s both logical and intuitive. Bill Bernbach changed the entire universe of advertising by introducing creative teams to our industry. He put art directors and copywriters together for the first time. The result was revolutionary.

Why would marketers even consider writing a brief solo? It’s just crazy.

The good news is, more and more marketers are collaborating with their colleagues to write a brief. But I still encounter marketers who do a pretend version of collaborating: They write a draft, send a copy to…their boss, another colleague, maybe two…then wait for feedback.

This is not collaboration. It is a painful version of proofreading. The marketer is then stuck trying to organize and synthesize all the comments, even the contradictory comments, into a new draft.

Good luck with that.

If you’re an account planner, team up with the most senior creative leader.

I don’t know a single strategist or account planner who does not do this already. If this is you, I tip my hat.

If you’re ducking and trying to hide because you don’t do this, well, you know who are. Stop it! You know what to do. Now do it.

The justifications for this tip are axiomatic: You build rapport and trust with your creative director, first. Second, your creative (or creatives because you may work with more than one) will likely see things differently and help you write a better brief. Enough said.

Figure out how much time you need to write your brief, then ask for five times that amount. More if you can get away with it.

You have no idea how many times I hear brief writers tell me they have ________ minutes to write a brief. Yes, “minutes,” not hours, not days. One marketer told me she usually gets 20 minutes, typically just before the kickoff meeting.

So not only do creatives not see the brief in advance (a huge no-no), but the brief is always a first-draft document.

You’ve heard the warning before: Garbage in, garbage out.

When you have no time to write a good brief, you guarantee garbage creative. Guarantee it. Give yourself enough time to write a great brief. You’ll be rewarded in the end:

Better work in fewer rounds of re-dos.

Make your creative briefing as important and inspiring as the creative brief itself.

A creative brief writer who simply hands out a brief, reads it out loud and asks for questions isn’t taking their job seriously.

The briefing is as important as the brief itself. Repeat: The briefing is as important as the brief itself.

The briefing is your opportunity to launch the project to a new level. But you must have the skill and strategic chops to pull it off. Too few of us do. Too few of us even give it much thought.

Keep the conversation going.

Once you’ve written your creative brief and you’ve done your briefing, stay visible to creatives. They will always want to ask questions, pick your brain, maybe even share early thinking. All of this depends on the level of trust you’ve established with them and the creative director.

Their thinking will influence your thinking. Their thinking may change, and yours may too. Stay humble. This is what happens in good conversations.

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