State of Brand Management Tools 2024

How to Write Creative Briefs That Always Deliver Great Projects

It’s such an unfortunate but also, so common situation, isn’t it? 

You’ve launched a project. You told the creative team all about it. And then, as you opened their draft …. you sighed in resignation. 

It’s all wrong! Well, that, or at least, it hardly resembles what you had hoped to receive. 

Unfortunately, the problem mightn’t be just the creatives. In fact, in most cases, projects don’t meet expectations because they start without a clear and laser-focused game plan. Sure, you’ve provided the team with a brief. But often, such a brief comes in the form of a loose description of the final asset and leaves it all to the creative to decipher. 

Luckily, the solution is simple – You have to be incredibly precise when providing a creative brief, and in this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to do it. 

What’s more, at the end of this guide, we’ll show you one amazing solution that will help take your creative briefs from “almost guaranteed to confuse the creatives” to “this has never been so clear!”

Intrigued? Let’s take it from the top, then. 

Table of Contents

Your Creative Brief Can Make or Break the Project

Before we explore this further, though, let’s understand what a creative brief is.

And usually, when we talk about a creative brief, we refer to a document that sums up a project.

Think of a creative brief as an all-rounder for a project. One that provides everyone a clear overview of what is to be done, why, and for what purpose, along with instructions that would help anybody involved in a project meet the expectations. 

Pretty much everyone uses creative briefs:

  • For example, in-house marketing teams use them to describe what assets they’d like graphic design teams to create for a marketing campaign. 
  • Sales teams use creative briefs to tell writers or other creative team members what sales collateral materials they might need. 
  • Creative briefs help product teams tell photographers all the details for the upcoming photo shoot,
  • Creative or advertising agencies use creative briefs to define project specifications with clients, and so on.

 

But unfortunately, creative briefs don’t always work out as intended.

We briefly illustrated what the problem is at the start of this guide:  

Although the concept of a creative brief is relatively simple, often, teams find it hard to execute it so that it assists and does not confuse anyone. 

Naturally, part of the reason could be that everyone’s expecting creative briefs to be short. 

It’s also tempting to try to summarize a project into a couple of paragraphs and hope that others will be able to discern the most important information from that. 

However, the problem can also lie elsewhere. It’s not uncommon for creative briefs to lack the structure that would allow other stakeholders to extract the most important information from it quickly and have it available to them at a glance. 

Granted, most creative briefs do follow at least some structure. They typically comprise of several parts, each defining a different aspect of the project. For example, most creative briefs include:

  • Goal of the project
  • Challenges the project aims to eliminate
  • Target audience information
  • Project’s scope of work
  • The intended outcome, and so on. 

 

But even in this case, creative teams often face the challenge of having to decipher the most critical project information from long passages of text. 

A long brief copy has to be deciphered by the creative teams, which can lead to misunderstandings.

As a result, poorly outlined and unclear creative briefs can lead to:

  • Delays in production
  • Costly mistakes
  • Lost time
  • Not to mention the low morale of creative teams who have to face their work being criticized.

 

So, what’s the solution? Well, for one, you need to ensure that your briefs pass at least the most critical characteristics of a good creative brief. 

What Makes a Good Creative Brief - Creative Brief Characteristics

There are two ways creative teams define what a brief should look like. 

One way is to focus on what information it should include. Unfortunately, this is quite a difficult thing to define since each brief is, in fact, different. One creative asset would require account managers to specify different information from another, making the process of defining one single creative brief template impossible.

The other, a better way, is to define what criteria a creative brief should meet in order to deliver the right instructions to all stakeholders. 

In this guide, we follow that approach. So, without any further ado, here are the top characteristics of an effective creative brief. 

Clear project goals

For it to work and deliver the exact creative asset as intended, the brief must clearly explain why the project exists in the first place. 

The project’s goal, in other words, defines why your team should bother with creating the asset in the first place. Or, to put it differently, what outcome is their work going to deliver, or at least help deliver for the company? 

Some examples of such goals include:

  • Enhancing brand recognition
  • Differentiating the company on the market
  • Engaging customers better
  • Increasing sales
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Promoting new products or services
  • Strengthening the customer communication, and so on.

Project background information

This section should talk about the reasons for launching a project. 

However, contrary to what it may seem, there is more to this section than explaining project goals in more detail.

You see, this section is your opportunity to provide a situational background and tell everyone why the project is being launched, what prompted the company to initiate it, and what specific outcomes it is hoping to achieve by it. 

But naturally, you shouldn’t provide the history of the company or an in-depth market analysis. Granted, some projects might require such information. However, in most cases, the background should focus only on the information that’s relevant to the project. 

Let’s use an example of a product photo shoot you’ve commissioned from a creative agency.

  • Naturally, it’s hard to expect your creative agency to know that this particular project relates to a new product line you’re launching and plan to promote with a visual marketing campaign across your website, online ads, and social media.
  • They might also not know the importance of this new product line to establishing your company in a completely new market. 
  • Similarly, they might not know that you’ve launched similar projects before and what you’ve learned from their success or failure.

And that’s exactly what the product background section can help you communicate. 

As a result, the agency will be fully aware of the importance of the project, as well as the overall expectations regarding the entire campaign.

Specific project information

FACT: The previous two characteristics we discussed – goals and project background – would relate to many different projects. 

After all, it’s perfectly fine for photo shoots for different product lines to have similar goals and backgrounds. 

This section, however, should be custom to every project as this is where you tell other stakeholders about the project’s requirements and specifics. 

Naturally, these specifics will be different depending on the project. Even photo shoots might require different types of images, depending on what they’d be used for or even the type of product being shot. 

  • For one project, the company might require several shots of the same product in different colors. For another, only one color is being photographed but in different locations. 
  • How these photos would be used might be different, too. Whereas one project might focus on delivering visuals for the website, the other focuses on a new advertising campaign, and so on.

 

Having said that here is a list of information you commonly find in project specifications:

  • Target audience along with their characteristics
  • Required formats or sizes for a project
  • Required style or tone of voice for text-based projects
  • Reference of similar projects for inspiration (if applicable)
  • List of all stakeholders involved
  • Reference to similar projects that were conducted in the past, and more. 

 

TIP: Download creative brief templates for several different project types, including product information, social media ads, product photo shoots, and more.

Get Your Free Guide Now

A list of resources

Not all projects would require additional resources. But many might. Creating a simple blog post, for example, requires the writing team to review internal documentation or third-party research into the topic. If you have such resources already, it only makes sense to deliver them to the team. 

To streamline that process, add them to the brief so that the creative team could use them as a reference when working on the project. 

Timelines

It’s a bold statement, but it’s true – By far and away, timelines are the one element no creative brief should ever do without. 

How else the creative team could know when each stage of the project is due? And how else could they deliver the project on time in turn?

Luckily, defining timelines is a relatively straightforward process. Most project types require only a handful of dates:

  • Project start date
  • Project due date
  • Completion dates per project stage, if any
  • Project review date
  • Date of campaign going live. 

How do you make sure that creative teams can use this information effectively?

If there’s one prevailing challenge we’ve mentioned in this guide over and over again, it is this:

Regardless of how well you define the creative brief, in most cases, you’re still leaving many of its aspects for creatives to interpret (or even distill from all the copy.)

Of course, the freedom of interpretation can work particularly well with some creatives. It can boost their creativity and open up the project to completely new heights. 

But it can also backfire.

  • Stakeholders might miss important project info
  • In the fervor of work, teams might also skip critical project characteristics and fail to deliver that aspect of the asset, and so on. 

 

But could anyone prevent it? 

Yes, we believe so. In fact, we’ve just added an exciting new feature to CELUM Content Collaboration that allows you to ensure such situations never happen!

It’s called Briefing Forms, and with it, you can create templates for various project types and list all the critical project characteristics for other stakeholders. 

Here’s how it looks in a project card. 

A project card using Briefing Forms in CELUM Content Collaboration

Notice that the brief is no longer a large body of text. 

In fact, the description is only a paragraph long, while each critical aspect of the project resides in its own section in the ADDITIONAL INFORMATION part of the page. 

As a result, all the information is easily accessible and noticeable to other stakeholders. 

Another important aspect of Briefing Forms in CELUM is that they are custom. In other words, you can create different creative brief templates for different project types. You then add the relevant template to a project and fill in all the required information as if you were completing a form. 

Looking for inspiration for your creative briefs? Look no further! Download our creative brief templates that will help you communicate your projects with others right.

Download now.

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