The first step in the planning process of any creative project should be composing the creative brief. This is a standardized document that your project requestor fills out and will serve as the project guide and key communication tool throughout the entire creative process. The creative brief should be submitted with a formal request for work.
At a minimum, the brief should capture:
(I’m not providing a template here; there should be some good ones through a browser search if you need to see some examples.)
OK, But Why Are Briefs Important?
Clarity and Alignment - Creative briefs help establish a shared understanding among all persons involved in a project, (so all of those in your RAM) but especially among your stakeholders and the creative team doing the work. By outlining expectations and objectives, briefs reduce the chances of misunderstands and miscommunications, ultimately leading to better alignment and collaboration.
Standardization of Information - Creative briefs create a standard set of information for all projects by establishing a baseline of information that creatives look for when kicking off a project. Briefs can additionally help identify throughlines to other, similar projects so that creatives are not reinventing the wheel every time.
Strategic Direction - A creative brief acts as a strategic guide for the entire project. It defines core messaging, positioning, and overall brand strategy. By clearly articulating the project’s purpose and desired results, briefs help creative teams stay focused and make informed decisions throughout the process. They provide a foundation for brainstorming and idea generation that aligns with the strategic objectives (and creates a guideline for editing down those ideas for consideration).
Scope of Work - Creative briefs play a vital role in informing the scope of work for a project. They provide a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished and help define the boundaries, deliverables and timelines of the project.
Efficiency and Time Savings - When a project lacks a clear brief, it can result in endless iterations and revisions, leading to wasted time and resources. A well-crafted brief should provide essential information upfront, thus minimizing the need for constant back-and-forth. By establishing parameters and expectations, briefs allow teams to work more efficiently and deliver better work, especially when on any kind of time constraint.
Brand Consistency and Integrity - Creative briefs help maintain consistency in brand messaging and visual identity. By outlining brand guidelines, tone, and visual considerations, briefs ensure that the creative output aligns with the brand’s personality and values. This consistency strengthens brand recognition when your audience sees a consistent look/feel/tone in-market, and it also fosters trust with your target audience.
One caveat here: I have always found that most marketers rely on the creative team to be the SMEs (subject matter experts) in brand guidelines, tone, and visual considerations, which sometimes means there will be little upfront direction, and also a learning curve when reviewing work. Ensure that the team presents their work and provides reasoning behind their creative decisions.
Client Approval and Feedback - Creative briefs serve as criteria for client approvals and feedback. By clearly presenting the project’s objectives, target audience, and desired outcomes, briefs provide a framework for stakeholders to evaluate the creative work against their expectations. This facilitates constructive feedback and streamlines the revision process. More on guiding feedback here.
Evaluation and Measurement - A creative brief sets clear objectives and measurable outcomes. It helps define key performance indicators (KPIs) and criteria for success, enabling the evaluation of the creative work’s effectiveness. (This could be anything from impressions, to click-thrus, or purchases/ registrations, depending on the type of creative asset and business goals.) By linking creative efforts to specific objectives, briefs allow for more accurate assessments and adjustments of strategies and tactics.
Creative briefs are critical tools in the creative project management process. Without them, projects will lack clarity, alignment, and strategic direction, and will force you into inefficiencies, inconsistencies and guesswork. But by outlining project objectives and guidelines, briefs enhance collaboration, minimize misunderstands, and ultimately lead to successful creative outcomes.
The better the brief, the better the work.
The most critical stage of a project and where a creative project manager is needed most. Get the deets.
Defining roles and responsibilities so you can ensure clarity, coordination, and accountability.
Explore the project manager’s role
during this critical stage of creative production.