April 19, 2022

Making a case for creative briefs

Blank page of spiral notebook next to pens, pencils and a tray of watercolors symbolizing starting of a creative brief

It feels like your marketing team is always scrambling, fielding project requests that wash over the transom in addition to maintaining multiple ongoing campaigns. You’re working in the fast-paced healthcare industry, with tight resources. So the suggestion that you all take just a few minutes at the start of every project for a bit of paperwork might seem laughable. Who has the time?

But time invested yields time saved. 

We’re talking about making time for a creative brief, a written document that captures all the pertinent details of a marketing project. Even veteran marketers who know the value of the creative brief tend to fall out of the habit of using it when things get busy. 

Whenever you’re collaborating with an external marketing partner or kicking off a project with your internal team, you should always begin with the brief. 

4 Reasons to Use Creative Brief, Every Time

someone writing notes

Completing a creative brief at the start of every project isn’t just busywork; it makes your life easier and helps ensure marketing success. Among other benefits, a brief: 

Provides a framework for creativity

While it may seem like creativity is a magical process based on intuition and imagination, there needs to be an underlying foundation that such creativity is derived from. For any commercial creative project to be truly successful, you need a plan that informs and guides the creators. Otherwise, you can end up with a painful process that generates deliverables that miss the mark. By documenting goals, audience, and other criteria, the brief sets up guardrails for copy and design. Without them, you’ll brainstorm all over the place and fail to hit your target. 

Prevents delays and rework

Since the brief gathers all the information your marketing team will need to complete the job — and answers questions like what do we want to say, how should we say it, and to whom — it saves time as the work progresses. Nobody has to stop, ask questions, and wait for input before proceeding. And because it captures all relevant details upfront, in one place, it keeps the work on track. 

Builds path for success

The brief should include both the project goals and the metrics by which you’ll know if you’ve reached those goals. “Recruit more clients to our senior services agency” is a fuzzy target; “add 30+ new clients in the next six months and build our referral pipeline by 50%” is definitive and measurable. When you go to the effort of creating a brief, there’s a greater likelihood of a successful project.

Establishes a sense of professionalism in your team 

Having a formal intake process helps rein in those poorly defined, out-of-the-blue project requests. It forces stakeholders to think through what they’re asking for and clearly articulate what they need and why. It also sets expectations about your department’s level of service with your internal clients. 

What’s In a Creative Brief?

Team of people gathered around table working on laptops representing developing a creative brief.

When you’re working with an external marketing partner and depending on the size of the project, they’ll initiate a formal creative brief for every project. We also suggest that your team implement a brief document for your internal clients. 

We use a creative brief that’s basically a project summary with a questionnaire for stakeholders; a simple version is sufficient for simple projects and a more in-depth version gathers the detailed info and additional research needed for complex campaigns.

At minimum, the brief should answer these questions:

What’s the name of the project? (Use this in all internal communications, file names, etc., for efficient project management.)

What is the goal of the project?

Who is on the team? Who has approval responsibility?

What is the project scope? (Specify the deliverables and also the number of comps, drafts, and revisions.)

Who is the target audience? (Include audience research: demographics, needs, and so on.)

What is the budget?

What is the timeline?

How will we define success? (Note specific metrics like new patients, website conversions, sign-ups, etc.)

 We’re all in a rush, juggling priorities. And yet the creative brief represents the old adage: Measure twice, cut once. 

It takes a bit of discipline to sit down and think things through for 15 or 30 minutes before your team jumps into a project. But once you’ve outlined a format and baked it into your workflow, you’ll find that a creative brief actually saves you time. More importantly, it minimizes mind-reading and guesswork; nothing worse than getting to the deliverable and realizing you’ve missed the mark — and it could have been avoided if you’d had the right information at the beginning. 

If your team is challenged to keep marketing projects on track, feel free to reach out. We’re happy to share our version of the creative brief. 

Tenth Crow Creative is a brand marketing agency that creates, aligns, and promotes the external and internal messaging for organizations that support living healthier lives. Through insightful branding and compelling marketing campaigns, we help these essential organizations find their identities and effectively communicate to their stakeholders so they can fulfill their missions.