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What is a Creative Brief in Content Marketing?

As a content creator, you need to start every project by developing a creative brief to guide the production of your content. A good creative brief ensures that both the members of your creative team and your client are on the same page, by giving everyone guidelines for all the elements in your project.

If you use a creative brief, then you’re more likely to achieve your goals and satisfy your client.

So, why is a content brief so important in content marketing?

A creative brief covers the who, what, when, where and how of your creative campaign. By breaking your strategy into these digestible pieces, you will save time and make it much easier for everyone on your team to collaborate.

Ultimately, a good creative brief should save you from the numerous back-and-forth conversations that result when you’re unclear about what the client wants and you have to keep clarifying their goals. At the same time, this process helps keep your client informed of the steps you’re taking to meet their expectations.

Before we tell you what goes into a creative brief, let’s first talk about why you need it.

Why do I need a creative brief?

Would you go on a treasure hunt without a map or, at the very least, clues of some kind? No. It’s the same with a creative brief. Starting a creative project without a brief will only lead to you wasting time wandering around aimlessly as you try to understand the client’s expectations.

Once you know how to use a creative brief, you’ll understand why it’s such an essential tool for working with clients. A good content brief should help you:

1. Define expectations

Developing a content brief before you get to work gives you an opportunity to clarify the client’s vision and understand exactly what they want. In the process of filling in the brief, you can ask questions and define specific goals.

When done well, your creative brief should reduce the chances of your client walking away disappointed. This is because it helps ensure that everybody is on the same page. With a good content brief, everyone on your team should understand exactly what needs to be done when.

Sometimes you’re halfway through the project when the client suddenly says, “Since we’re redesigning our social media pages, we might as well also redesign the website!” If you don’t have a creative brief, then you have to decide between going along with the client’s requests and absorbing the cost yourself or increasing the final cost and risking upsetting the client.

However, with a brief, it’s very easy to refer to the deliverables and agree on an additional fee if the client wants any extras.

2. Lay out your timeline

In addition to helping you manage expectations, your brief is a good time-management tool. By laying out what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, a content brief keeps you on track and helps you meet your goals.

Including a timeline in your content brief also helps your client understand what is needed from them and when you need it. It saves you from going in circles trying to clarify things with the client in the future. This makes it easy for you to meet your overall targets.

3. Give an overview of the project

Since your brief outlines your project and all its requirements, it is a valuable resource for your creative team. With this document, your team can start brainstorming and making plans for everything immediately.

4. Keeps you organized

Once you have an overview of the entire project with all the deliverables required, you can plan better. Moreover, having an outline of everything that needs to be done will help people feel less overwhelmed by the immensity of the project.

5. Match the client’s budget to your ability

In the process of laying everything out in your creative brief, you can also determine whether the client’s budget matches your strategy. Alternatively, you can use the layout of your strategy to prove to your client why they need to increase their budget.

6. Refine the quality of your finished product

As we have discussed, a brief helps you understand the client’s vision and work efficiently with your team. Ultimately, if you use a creative brief the right way, then the quality of your final product will satisfy the client’s original expectations.

Who makes a creative brief?

In order to understand client expectations, someone on your team should fill in this document with the client. Failure to do so could result in:

  • The client misunderstanding the brief.
  • The client filling in confusing information.
  • The client giving up and leaving you with a blank document and a confused team.

Ideally, your account manager should sit down with the client and go through this document with them. However, it’s also important to get input from the creative director and, eventually, everyone on your team. By doing this, you can be sure everyone understands the contents of your brief.

What should I put in my creative brief?

1) Company Background

The first and most crucial step is outlining your client’s background and purpose. You can’t carry your project out to completion if you don’t know the brand you’re working for and its values.

To understand the brand, you need to find out who they are and what they do.

2) Campaign Objectives

In order to satisfy your client, you need to define the problem they’re trying to solve. Do they want to increase sales? Do they need to grow their social media channels? Or are they trying to increase traffic to their website?

While working through this section, this is a good place to make sure your client has developed some SMART goals.

3) KPIs

As long as you have identified SMART goals, then Key Performance Indicators should be easy to outline. If your client wants to increase sales by $1,000 every month, then this is your measure of success. Once you nail SMART goals, it’s very easy to know if your campaign is a hit or miss.

4) Target audience

What use is it producing content if you don’t know who you’re producing it for? Understanding not only the demographics but also the psychographics of your target audience will help you produce content which they care about.

In fact, missing the mark on your audience’s psychographics can result in your campaign being a flop. To get this information, you should ask:

  • Who is our target audience?
  • Where do we find them?
  • What matters to them?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What do they think of this brand?
  • What do we want them to think of this brand?

These questions, especially the last two, will help you manage your client’s reputation and grow their audience. Understanding what the target audience thinks of your brand is an essential part of improving your brand image.

5) Deliverables with deadlines

This is the part of your creative brief where your client will tell you exactly what they want you to do. Whether you’re revamping their website or creating a video campaign for their social media, knowing your deliverables will help you move on to the next step.

Now that you know your deliverables, it’s easy to break your project down into more manageable parts and assign deadlines for each individual part. As previously stated, deadlines will help keep both your team and your client on track.

6) Key messages

Your key messages are an extension of your target audience profile. To answer “What do we want our target audience to think of this brand?” you should develop at least three key messages which you want your audience to walk away from your campaign with.

7) Distribution plan

The final part of your creative brief is your distribution plan. Where will you share the fruits of your labour once you’re done? What social media networks will work? Where are you likely to get the highest engagement?

Knowing where you can find your target audience will help with this. What social media platforms do they hang out on most? Where else can you find them? Will traditional marketing do the trick, or do you need to use digital marketing?

parts of a creative brief

Creative Brief Examples

Before we leave you to it, let’s look at some examples of the above concepts in practice. Below, you can see the Lay’s Potato Chips creative brief:

lays creative brief

Image courtesy of Idea Hall

As you can see, Lay’s has created a profile of their target audience – potato chips aficionados and identified how they feel about potato chips. Finally, they have chosen the single most important message they want people to get from the campaign and outlined how the message adds personality to Lay’s as a brand.

Let’s compare the Lay’s creative brief to this one created for Go Girl energy drink:

ceative brief insights

Image courtesy of Alicia Collins-Saulsky

The biggest difference in this creative brief is the opportunities which have been highlighted for the client. This is a good starting point for brainstorming with your team once it’s time to get down to work.

Over to you

As you can see, a creative brief is quite easy to use and will save you from wasting time going back and forth with your client. Now that you know what is required, it’s time to transform your workflow with your very own creative brief.