With the right upfront input, the process of delivering great creative outputs – no matter how simple or complex – can be a seamless experience. Here, we’ve provided an easy-to-follow process to help ensure your input briefs are not only accurate and complete, but also that they’ll establish the right foundation for effective, impactful creative output.
Before writing an input brief, it’s important to fully understand the background, expectations, and function. Many clients, especially those who’ve never prepared an input brief before, have common questions about how to get started, thinking their brief must follow a stringent formula. What they discover is that the form is much less important than the content. If the right information is there, an input brief can take a variety of forms. Let’s look at some of the most common questions we’ve received, and how their answers help inform the level of effort and detail a good quality input brief requires.
- Does everything need a brief?
- Yes – a brief is required for any creative agency outputs. The format of the brief may vary but good direction is always needed if we want upfront alignment, flawless execution, and great creative.
- Is a brief always a Word document?
- No! The form a brief takes is not as important as the function the brief serves. Never feel confined to a specific format. Whether a brief is a document, a presentation, or an in-person download, a brief is what you make it. It’s helpful to consider what will be the easiest way to communicate the information in the clearest, most concise way.
- How long does it take to develop a brief?
- Creating concise, effective narratives takes time. A simple rule of thumb is tactical briefs should be measured in days, while strategic briefs should be measured in weeks.
- Are there different kinds of briefs?
- Yes! There are three main types of briefs: (1) input brief; (2) creative brief; (3) tactical/project brief.
- Can a client phone call or email serve as an input brief?
- Of course. However, it is important that adequate, detailed information has been shared to determine the right direction from the outset.
Constructing Your Brief
The input brief must establish a framework which all creative strategy, thinking, and executions can be built upon. If a good framework is not established as the first step, you can expect lots of questions, multiple iterations, timeline extensions, and budget overruns. The perfect input brief has certain qualities and benchmarks to be measured against.
First, your input brief needs to be a clear overview of the business problem that needs solving. If we don’t have a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, the right solution is increasingly difficult to pinpoint.
Second, your brief should always be as efficient as possible. Concise language, only applicable details, a focused direction, desired results; these are all crucial to creating a brief that will allow an agency to move forward with creative output without confusion or hesitation.
Third, the brief should be reviewed and discussed in person (especially with larger initiatives) whenever possible. While communicating via email or phone call can be effective, in-person conversations are always the best method of getting everyone on the same page. Questions can be asked and clarified in real time; ideas can be shared in the moment; and issues and/or concerns can be addressed before they become roadblocks down the line.
Finally, a great input brief should include measurable KPIs. By providing a quantifiable measure of performance over time for a specific objective, you’re also providing specific targets to shoot for, milestones to gauge progress, and insights that help people across the entire agency make better decisions when designing and executing the creative output you need for a successful initiative.
Articulation of the Ask
Whether it’s a strategic problem we’re trying to address or an update to existing executions, it’s important to have a clear, succinct overview of what needs to be accomplished. The articulation should help someone fully understand the need, why it’s important, how it supports the business, how success will be measured, etc.
Helpful Articulation Prompts:
- What is the business objective?
- What is the current situation?
- What do we want to be happening differently?
- What is the risk of not doing this?
- What is the business strategy that supports this ask?
- What KPIs will be used to measure success?
- What are the budget/time parameters?
Paint a Picture of the Audience(s)
Qualitative and quantitative information about the target audience(s) is imperative to a good briefing. Ideally, this information paints a vivid picture about what makes them tick. For example, it’s more beneficial to say the audience habitually watches a particular news outlet as opposed to simply listing their age, household income, etc.
Helpful Audience Prompts:
- Who is the primary audience for this effort?
- What are they looking for?
- What makes them tick?
- How are they influenced?
- What are their current behaviors?
- How do they engage with us currently?
- What prevents them from acting?
To round out the input brief, it’s crucial to provide any additional directional background that may help frame up the initiative. For example: Has something been done in the past that did/didn’t work? Is there a competitive concern? What level of effort are we willing to invest in solving it?
Helpful Background Prompts:
- What’s worked in the past?
- What hasn’t worked?
- What should we stay away from?
- What should we lean into?
- Any additional channels/properties affected by this effort?
- Are there any segment or competitive insights that would spark (or limit) creative ideas?
The Desired Outcome
Output is a direct result of input. By using this approach and the prompts provided, you’ll be able to ensure the resulting brief is well-informed, accurate, and ultimately helpful in producing creative output that’s strategically designed to accomplish the end goals of any initiative. Once you’re familiar with producing input briefs, you’ll find all phases of your initiative work with creative agencies run smoother and result in more impactful, successful outputs.
- Need an easy way to get started?
- Download our Client Input Brief Template.