What’s a Creative Brief?

What’s a Creative Brief?

Part of my goal with moving my blogging here to LinkedIn is to ensure that the people who need information I can provide the most are able to get it.  That way, you can decide for yourself if you want to hire a copywriting company to help with those writing jobs, if you want to give it a go yourself or if you’re waiting to see what your cat pounds out when she walks across the keyboard tonight.

(I mean, personally, I’d go with the cat.)

Hiring a Pro: A Few of the Perks

When you hire a pro, they will sometimes walk you through the basics.  If you hire the right pro, they’ll walk you through every step until you have a clear understanding of what’s happening and what will happen in the future.  Unless you’re using a company that’s going to pigeonhole you in with everybody else, you’ll have a lot of say in how your relationship progresses.

Do you want to personally approve each and every article concept before the writer gets to work?  Will you want to see the articles again before they publish? Is it going to be an informal presentation, or do you need a creative brief?

Wait.  What’s a Creative Brief?

There’s a significant difference between a “creative brief” and “creative briefs” (sorry, you can thank my Uncle Alan for that inspired moment).  A creative brief is basically what it sounds like it might be: a short explanation of what the piece of creative work will be. Internally, we often work with informal notes that everyone can see, giving the writer more information about your audience and intentions so they can craft an article that sounds genuine and isn’t constrained too tightly.

However, some clients need the security of a creative brief to ensure that there’s nothing potentially damaging going onto their site.  For example, if you’re a veterinarian and you’re wanting to have your copywriter create an article on animals that carry zoonotic disease (stuff those critters can infect people with), you’d want to make sure there’s a note about which animals to cover, as well as a reminder about not giving medical advice.

Oh.  How Do You Write One of Those?

Creative briefs are the easiest things in the world, or the hardest… it’s really up to you.  On a basic level, all you need is a final headline and a paragraph describing the content. I’ve seen some beautifully designed and produced briefs, though.  They probably took longer to create than the content did, but these were things of unique and unexpected beauty. (Christina, I’m looking at you, lady!)

Most copywriters, however, are fine with a basic option.  Although members of my team have newspaper design backgrounds, we primarily write, so it’s far more likely you’ll get tidy sentences, maybe a numbered list, in a nice email.  But that’s the point of the creative brief. It’s about creative things and it’s brief: to create, to read and to implement.

OH NO!  Where’s Your LIST?

I considered this as I was reaching the end of the blog, but I got nothin’.  How about we do a list about the most important things to include in a creative brief?  It’ll be a mini list. I won’t tell anybody we’re throwing caution to the wind if you don’t.

So, if I’m doing a creative brief for my team, it’ll look roughly like this:

  1. Client Name
  2. Intended Site Destination (if the client has multiple sites)
  3. Other Requirements (word count, keywords, etc.)
  4. Title of Article
  5. Audience Description (example: this audience is hilarious, is aged 30-45 and likes cats)
  6. Main Point of the Piece
  7. Description of #6 (plus bullets to hit)
  8. Secondary Point (if applicable)
  9. Call to Action (if applicable)

That’s pretty much it.  It looks like a lot, but most of this is already on all of our internal assignments by default anyway.  That’s how I keep everything straight. After all, if your bird-watching site needed a blog called “Seeking A Hard-to-Find Birdie?” it would be awful to confuse that with a golf client who wanted an article with the same title.  Maybe not awful, but very bewildering.

Go Forward, Briefly!

Now that you know what a creative brief is, you can decide if you really need one.  They may end up costing you a little bit more, but that’ll be up to your provider. From me, it might just be a scribble on the back of a tea ring-stained napkin.  It’s hard to justify charging much for something like that. (I kid, I kid! I keep forgetting you guys don’t know me… this is all new insanity for you.)