In my previous post I covered how to make sure you are supplied with a focussed and complete ‘Business Brief’ (as written by the Product Marketing/ Business Marketing team). The task now facing you is to take the business requirements contained within the business brief and translate these into customer requirements within your marketing communications brief.

So why exactly do we need a marketing communications brief? This brief is written specifically for the creative agency account team (or alternatively your in-house creative team) – its purpose is to inspire them whilst leaving no doubt what is required from them. A good marketing communications brief has a clear focus and flow, and is written with real flair. The brief must therefore be written using clear, concise, unambiguous language, avoiding any confusing internal jargon or vague, meaningless adjectives, such as ‘friendly’, ‘warm’ or ‘dynamic’ (would any brand wish to be perceived as unfriendly, cold or static?)

Unlike the business brief, the marketing communications brief is not written from the internal perspective of the business, but rather from the external perspective of the customer. It therefore needs to be grounded in the real world rather than the world of marketing: how important is your product/ service to your prospective customer? Do they really care about your proposition? Many are indifferent. This honesty is important, since by recognising any indifference to your customer proposition, you are also recognising that the creative solution will need to work that bit harder in order to capture attention and interest. The agency need to be made fully aware of the scope of the task being asked of them. At the pre-brief session, the agency should be encouraged to give you their honest views on your customer proposition, and you should be prepared to work with them to refine it where necessary.

As you are writing the marketing communications brief, you need to maintain focus and flow right through to the end, in order to keep the brief clear, easy to navigate and inspiring. Always keep in mind that your audience is the creative agency, so try to write it from their perspective. What do they want to know? How do they want to be communicated to? Will it stimulate their imagination rather than overly emphasising the restrictive elements?

If you find yourself getting bogged down in too much information, then move any ‘nice to have’ background information to the appendix. Similarly, it’s better to move the restrictive aspects of the brief to the end, so that they don’t constrain initial creative thinking.

It often helps to develop a set of standardised briefing templates, to ensure a consistent structure is followed for each campaign. However, if you do choose to go down this route, you need to ensure that each individual responsible for writing briefs is clear on exactly what should be included in each section of the templates. Regular brief-writing refresher training sessions help engrain this discipline across the team.

But above all, always bear in mind the primary purpose of the brief – to inspire creative thinking rather than to constrain it. As John Hegarty put it: “Is it a box or a platform? Too often it’s a box”.

If you are interested in digging down into exactly what you need to include in your marketing communications brief, I’ll address that in my next post…

To explore this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

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