In agency world the brief is key. It’s a cliche, sure, but it’s also true.

Usually with the traditional agency structural model departments are split from each other, divided, and those functions operate in silos. It’s a structure and approach that sees work driven by the account managers, using a brief based approach. The brief, simply, should set the scene.

If your creative environment offers something more ‘organic’ or more nebulous when it comes to roles, again the brief again is vital, offering direction, focus.

By proxy of being the one continual in a job/project the brief is an agency’s most valuable asset, and the quality of the resultant work is dictated by that brief.

With briefs being so fundamental to ‘the process’, I’d say there should be a lot of value put on them.

However, I have worked with people who hated writing briefs - and it showed.

I have worked with people who saw writing a brief as some sort of distraction - and it showed.

I have worked with people who banged a brief out in the ten minutes before they were about to go through it with, say, the creative team who would then spend all day (maybe more) working on it - and it showed, not only in the brief, but in the ‘outputs’.

Maybe those guys were actually alright.

Maybe they hated briefs because no-one had showed them how to write one. Maybe they saw briefs as a distraction because they had something off to print in half an hour. Or maybe they left writing briefs to the last minute because there were mitigating circumstances (like workload).

But too often I have seen this. And those briefs are there to set other people up to… come up with something. At the end of the day that’s what agency clients pay for: that something.

Here’s another observation: Pretty much every week of my time in agency life I have read (or heard) that a job “needs to inspire”, a job “needs to be inspiring”, a job “needs to be inspirational”.

I would hear AMs saying that on the phone to clients. I’d hear planners saying the research showed this. Other people say it as well. But usually this would all funnel into the brief, which would contain the word, and variations of, ‘inspire’ regularly - and that’s too much in my mind.

For me every thing that is briefed needs to illicit a response. For me, to illicit a response is a product/act of inspiring the audience. Every piece of work needs to inspire the audience to do something. And for me every brief needs to inspire the people doing the work.

But what is going to make them do that?

What are we looking to do? Inspire the audience to buy/remember the product next time they are in the /share the post on Facebook/etc etc

Would that?

In the first agency I worked - Brahm - we actually had a very good brief form. (The guys who ran the place put a lot on the briefs and people knowing how to Write a Good Brief.)

The Brahm brief carried the question What is the desired consumer response? which the writer tended to respond with an empathetic answer, usually a quotation of thought from the audiences point of view. It was a simple yet greatly effective method for putting the writer in the audience’s shoes.

It also put the people who had to do the work in the audience’s position as well. “I need to do something that makes the audience think like this.” Simple.

What are we trying to do?

Get someone, in this defined audience, to buy something (usually ‘the product’). Something of the highest quality. Something that is effortless. Something that is cheaper than a competitor’s product. Something that will save the buyer time. Something that is rare, will make you the envy of your friends, and is at an unbelievably cheap price. Something that is, even unique and will enhance your life in a way you couldn’t have previously imagined.

Anything but inspire.

So, here’s something I suggest: Stopping putting the word inspire, and variations of, in your briefs now - and think instead of how your audience will feel, and what you can do to persuade them, what you can do to inspire them. (Don’t know your audience? Find out. Don’t know what will turn their head? Find out.)

Make the time to write a brief that is informed and inspires the people who are doing the work for you - and even thnk about how you go through the brief with them. Take your time when you go through it, explain it, talk it through with them. Don’t just read the brief at them - you’re in it together. And you’ll have done your bit.

Personally, I have enjoyed briefing in work that gets the ‘creatives’ going from the off knowing it is ‘right’ - and have enjoyed being on the ‘other side of that fence’ as well!

And you’ll enjoy the work more - you’ll understand what you are asking to be done and know why you are asking - and you’ll feel more confident i) doing the briefing, ii) of doing good work, iii) of having a happy client, and iv) you’ll increase your chances of doing more great work all round.

Brazen plug: Over the years I have created and moulded briefing and studio systems within a number of agencies. If I could help you just drop me a line.

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