Want your marketing to work? It all starts with a good brief.

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October 30, 2011

How do you get from a blank sheet of paper to a communication that achieves the results you want, with the least possible expense and grief?  You could learn from your own mistakes.  Or you could follow a proven process developed by people who have found out what works and what doesn’t.

To see further…stand on the shoulders of giants.

If you want to make life easier, and get much better results, I suggest you follow the simple three step process I’m going to share with you.  Developed and refined by the smartest brains in the industry this best practice approach certainly works for me.  But I’m constantly amazed by the number of people, both on the client and agency side, who don’t follow this three stage methodology.

Many of them are just unaware of it.  Others may be familiar with one small aspect of the process, but don’t get the big picture.  And some stumble across it, but choose to ignore it.  This last group is the most puzzling.  Why reject a proven process?  Because following it takes mental discipline, hard work and a serious personal commitment to achieving one’s very best.  Most people, frankly, can’t be arsed.  Plus there’s a very convenient excuse to hand – the idea that discipline is somehow the enemy of creativity and that those with talent can wing it.

Don’t go walkabout in a minefield – follow the footsteps of those who’ve reached the other side.

I’ve studied a lot of successful creatives in the marketing, design and advertising industries.   Despite being strong individuals with a broad streak of non-conformist originality, they all have one thing in common.  They take a systematic approach to their craft.  And those approaches tend to follow this three step process I’m about to describe.

Here, very briefly, is my explanation of the first stage – writing a good brief.  Stage two, coming up with an idea, I cover in my next post.  Stage three, expressing the idea, I cover in the post after that.

Don’t set off until you know where you’re going

The brief sets out the problem to be solved – and identifies the goal to be achieved.  It’s like a road map which explains where you are now and where you want to get to in the future.  The better the map the greater the chances of you successfully arriving at your destination.

In all likelihood a number of different individuals will be involved in the project – sales and marketing people from the client side, graphic designers, web designers, a copywriter, a consultant or two, a project manager, and one or two directors to sign things off.  They all have widely divergent agendas, attitudes, personalities, and ways of seeing things.  Unless everyone has the same clear and detailed map to follow the whole thing has been set up to fail – the only way to keep everyone pulling together is to prepare a proper brief, get them all to agree it, and refer back to it whenever confusion creeps in or differences of opinion surface.

How do you write a brief?  That’s a whole subject in its own right (and one I’m in the process of writing a short book about – if you’d like a quick overview of what it’s going to cover email me).  I’m not going to tell you what goes into a good brief.  But I can tell you what should come out of it – a clear statement of the message that needs communicating.  After reading the brief you should know what you need to say.

For stage two of the process now go to my next post, “You need a great idea”.

If you’d like more details of the book I’m preparing on how to write a good brief, please email me on jim@storiesthatsell.co.uk

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