Skimpy or baggy? What’s the perfect brief?
Having worked in B2B PR since 1995, I think I can safely say I have probably seen every possible variant of brief – and before you ask I’m talking about the ones you receive as an invitation to pitch, not the ones you wear! These have ranged from highly focused and well written documents with clear objectives, to brain dumps of an oceanic scale, to a single sentence.
From an agency’s perspective, receiving a well thought through brief is not an excuse to relax efforts and be glad they have to do less work to understand what the prospective client wants. It means that they can see with crystal clarity what the job will entail and make sure they respond with something highly relevant. Essentially this means more value to the prospective client. They should get better proposals and responses from agencies, giving them more to pick and choose from.
In my view the job of any brief, whether for B2B PR, consumer PR or any other form of outsourced marketing, is to optimise the responses from each shortlisted agency. However it often feels more like a way of trying to catch them out. Once an agency is appointed it would be natural for the client to want to brief them fully and properly on specific work, so why not do this at the selection stage, too?
Let’s work harder collectively to get client-agency relationships off to a great start by ensuring briefs do the job they are meant to do. Here are my 5 ‘brief’ essentials for any brief:
- Briefs shouldn’t be too brief (or too baggy)
The more quality time spent on writing a good, clear, relevant but concise brief, the higher quality the response will be from agencies. Briefs that only cover the bare essentials leave too much to the imagination, whereas a ‘bloomer’ of a brief offering too much irrelevant information may well cloud the agencies’ thought processes, resulting in off kilter ideas or irrelevant proposals.
- There should always be a price tag!
It’s a popular trend to ask agencies to ‘recommend a budget’. This says to an agency that either:
- You don’t actually have a budget and want a proposal as evidence to fight for one
- You don’t know what is a realistic budget and are unlikely to accept what’s proposed
- You’re just seeing who comes in cheapest (which is an RFQ, not a creative proposal)
Not providing a budget also leaves the potential client open to pie in the sky creative ideas that are completely out of scope, and therefore irrelevant.
- Don’t forget the need for ‘good support’
What you put ‘on paper’ really matters in terms of giving agencies the base knowledge of your requirements that they need. However, be prepared to support their additional needs for information. Any good agency will want to meet with you, ask questions and double check things before they present their proposal. OK, this can consume your precious time but the more you help, the more you get back. And don’t forget, you’re going to be working with the agency you choose. Conversation and dialogue with agencies during the process will tell you a lot about each one and which ones you feel you’ll work with best.
- Check the measurements!
Even creative briefs need to talk specifics. Ensure yours make it clear what your objectives are and how these link back to your wider marketing and business goals. Tell the agencies what metrics matter to you most, what success looks like, what outputs and outcomes you want to achieve. All of this should give you more viable options to choose from when it comes to the final decision.
- Room for expansion?
While it’s vital to have a good structure and objectives in your brief you should leave room for expansion, too! If you’re too prescriptive and restrictive agencies may struggle to come up with really creative ideas. Opportunities for creativity is a useful way of seeing how an agency can go beyond the day job. For instance if your brief is strictly for day to day PR support, why not test the agencies on how they would contribute to a wider marketing campaign you’re running. They might be able to help you on a wider basis and become a key partner for your marketing programmes.
Double entendre aside, a good brief really is vital to a good working relationship with your future agency. Check what goes into yours.