Entrusting your project to a communications agency does not mean giving it carte blanche over everything. It needs a common thread, rails that guide it, precise expectations. The slightest misunderstanding between the company and its communication agency can put the whole communication strategy to the test. Sometimes it’s back to square one. Given its vital role, it is important to brief your communications agency to make it an effective collaboration. How do we do that? What approach methods are the best?  Sortlist is the perfect persona to debrief you on how to brief an agency.

Table of contents

Why write a brief?

Better, more effective, and measurable work

To have a visible and tangible quality result from a communication agency, the brief is the reference tool for the company. In other words, it is the basis of any successful communication campaign.  It serves to communicate your ideas and the actions you want to implement. The clearer and more articulate the company’s points of view, the better the communications agency will be able to identify the issues and implement an adapted marketing strategy.

Saves time and money

A repeated action generates losses that could quickly accumulate for the company, both in terms of costs and time. When objectives and expectations are defined simply and clearly on paper from the outset, the communication agency can achieve a relevant result in a short time. Taking the time to give a briefing avoids time wasted afterward. Moreover, the company must set its course, and not change its mind impulsively. Good cooperation and mutual respect are the keys to success.

Fairer pay

The remuneration of a communications agency depends in part on the result. This principle is only valid if both parties agree on the expected result. Hence the importance of drafting a briefing that stipulates the real performance objectives which, moreover, must be quantifiable. At the same time, it avoids misunderstandings between the different departments of the company: finance and marketing.

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The basics

Have a written brief

On the one hand, the editorial team alone encourages the company to reflect on its own expectations. On the other hand, a written brief is a common support for meetings, the launching, and the follow-up of the project. It also ensures that stakeholders are aware of the expected results. Of course, combined with a verbal briefing, the written brief is all the more effective in that the agency can ask for more details or bring its point of view. The written brief is all the more recommended if the company works with several communication agencies. In addition, it allows you to consolidate your choices with the company’s managers and avoids last-minute changes initiated by a department outside the department. Upstream, the brief must have the agreement of all those concerned before being submitted to the agency. An alternative is to write a media kit.

Be clear

It is not necessary to write a long and boring brief for a communication agency where you risk getting confused and repeating the same things. It is enough that the essential is defined as simply and clearly as possible. As its name suggests, the brief should be ‘brief’. It should contain only what is relevant, likely to arouse creativity and interest. Of course, additional information can be attached.

Define specific objectives

By having business-oriented and quantifiable objectives, the brief is more easily understandable. To do this, it is more than crucial to put in black and white what the company really expects, the strategy it thinks it will adopt… so the result can only be better

The content of the brief

Background

The context has three essential elements:

  • On the business – give the most information on the business: description, strategic policy, SWOT analysis…
  • The market – provide information on the competitive environment, consumer behaviour towards the product, the approximate number of customers, the communication channels, and the media used, both by the company and the market…
  • The product – give details about the product, and also provide details on the brand’s history (communication plan, the evolution of turnover, and evaluation of previous communication plans in terms of quality)

Objectives

The written agency brief has two objectives:

At a business and marketing level

  1. Increase sales
  2. Expand the target audience
  3. Generate traffic on the Internet
  4. Increase the number of distributors, etc.

At a communication level

  1. Improve brand image
  2. Sparking interest
  3. Increase brand awareness through word of mouth, etc.

Target

Do not limit yourself to the usual criteria (age, family and professional situation, geographical location, personality, etc.). It is important to take a broader view and try to put yourself in the place of your target. What could encourage or hinder a certain public to buy the product? In short, the study of psychology and consumer behaviour with regard to a similar product (insights) is necessary.

Answer sought

These are actions taken by consumers after they have been reached by the message or advertising campaign. This response must be engaging and bring about real change.

Message

The advertising message must be clear and unequivocal. It must have left its mark on consumers.

Promise

The message must be based on a coherent and real argument, but it must also arouse emotion. Thus, it is always preferable to design a “historical” part, testimonials from satisfied customers, a small gift, or even the participation of a celebrity who has confidence in the brand, etc…

Measuring tools

The company needs to define in advance the methods that will be used to measure the performance of the campaign, the service that is responsible for it, and the time to proceed. Then, a meeting with the communication agency is organized to explain the measurement tools used: sales or turnover monitoring, qualitative or quantitative tests, etc.

Media to use

Depending on the target, his behaviour, habits, lifestyle, you have to find the most suitable medium, the tone to adopt… The objective being to reach the right people at the right time. If you use several media, it is important to think about the role of each.

Constraints

To avoid interfering in the role of the communications agency, the company must confine itself to giving simple instructions. To achieve the “wow” effect, it is essential to give freedom to the agency’s creativity.

Practical arrangements

The written briefing should mention three main practical aspects:

  • Budgetary issues. From the beginning, the budget allocated to each stage of the campaign must be defined by the company, in order to optimize the total cost. It can be defined according to the result. However, there is an alternative that consists of asking the communication agency for the budget necessary to have a quantifiable result.
  • The timeline. It is best to establish a timetable with the main points of reference, i.e. dates for tests, delivery(s), distribution to the media, payment of invoices. You can add things such as focus meetings, etc.
  • The specific features of each project. Take into account the legal, ethical, and administrative constraints for certain campaigns and especially for certain types of products.

When all the points have received the agreement of the communication agency or at least the main interlocutor, it is necessary to sign the written briefing to start the machine!

Our advice for a qualitative brief

Bring everyone involved together beforehand

Even before the brief is drafted, all the players must meet, including the decision-makers within the company.  This way you have as many opinions and points of view as possible and can discuss all the details, especially budgetary details, which are often the subject of disagreement between the managers and the department concerned.

Be as ‘brief’ as possible

Precision is the very basis of a good brief. Each aspect, each section of the brief must contain a maximum of details to avoid innuendo and misunderstandings.

Make a summary at the end of your brief

For optimal practicality, the brief should contain a reminder and summary of the expected objectives. The goal is obviously to save time by avoiding browsing the entire content at the slightest action.

Meet your agency

Whenever the agency has a question or requests clarification on a point, the company must be present and provide the necessary answers so that the results best meet its expectations.

Check that the brief has been understood

The best way to verify that the brief has been understood is to hold a meeting (face-to-face or video conference). Thus, there will still be time to deal with doubts, obscure points, and differences of understanding.

Reduce the chain of interlocutors to a minimum

Too many people often misrepresent information. Thus, only the parties concerned should be present during the brief meeting.

Keep in touch with your agency to answer their questions

To be effective, the agency must have enough time to produce an initial version of the company’s expectations. Once this step is completed, organize a presentation meeting to exchange points of view and improve certain aspects that will lead to success.

A brief conclusion

To make it brief, a brief should be…brief.  It may be short and sweet but if done correctly, a brief can determine the make or break of a relationship between you and your communication agency.

Although our post has as its main aim a brief for a communication agency, the majority of our tips can be applied to any briefs you may draft for any kind of agency.  Be as informative and straightforward about your expectations from your partnering agency, but also take into consideration their potential wants and needs.  If you need extra guidance in drafting an agency brief, take a look at our public relations agencies ready to help!  If you have your brief ready but you need a communication agency, we can help with that too.