A creative brief is a quick worksheet that you fill out before you get started on any significant piece of communications work.
Using a creative brief forces you and/or your coworkers to consider important questions upfront, including the goal of the piece, the call to action, the style and tone, deadlines, how success will be measured, etc. It’s like a mini-plan for a specific communications assignment. When used in collaboration with others, it will help your team work out potential conflicts before you spend a lot of time on the project.
While this upfront planning and agreement is the primary way to use a creative brief, you can get so much more out them. Here are five additional uses for a creative brief.
1. Refocus a project that’s meandering.
Use your creative brief as a touchstone throughout the process of drafting, editing, reviewing, and publishing the content you are creating. If the project starts to wander in a different direction, come back to the previously agreed-upon plan. It’s OK to make changes to the creative brief but do so intentionally.
2. Educate your coworkers about marketing vocabulary and best practices.
The process of completing a creative brief and discussing it is a great way to educate your coworkers on marketing and communications terminology. Talk about what concepts like “engagement” and “target audiences” mean in the context of each specific project, and over time, those conversations will get easier.
Also talk about best practices. For example, if they request an email go out with a specific call to action, you can talk about whether one email will be enough (odds are it won’t). Therefore, instead of doing a creative brief for a single email, you should do it for an email series or campaign.
3. Create more accountability.
All good creative briefs include questions about resources and timing. Who is providing what? Who is reviewing and when? What are the milestones and final deadlines? If your organization isn’t particularly good about meeting internal deadlines, consistently using a creative brief and then tracking those internal deadlines can start to change those norms over time.
4. Listen to what your coworkers need from you.
If you pay attention, you will likely start to see some trends in the type of requests you get for communications work from your colleagues. It can help you get a better sense of what services your team should provide and ways to become more efficient and effective in providing those services over time.
You may also see more opportunities for education. Let’s say a certain program tends to lean too hard toward a certain type of communications (e.g. they always want to do print, or always want to do social media, when another channel or blend of channels would work better.) You may discover that certain people consistently want things to happen more quickly than should be expected. That could nudge you to work with that person to think about their communications needs earlier in their own workflows.
5. Prioritize some projects over others.
If you use a creative brief as a work request form where everyone who wants you to do something must submit the form, you can weigh these different requests against each other and prioritize accordingly. You’ll want to look at how complete the form is, but also which programs are being supported, how important the communications piece is to the overall success of the program, what resources are being made available, etc. as your prioritize.
Do you have other uses for a creative brief? Share in the comments.