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How to write a good creative brief

When you’re hiring a creative freelancer or agency, you need to remember that they’re coming from outside of your organisation, and might not know your brand guidelines, tone of voice, and so on.

So it’s important to make sure you provide a good creative brief, setting out what you need, and especially how it should be written.

The tips below are particularly suited to content and copywriting briefs, but many of them can transfer equally well to general marketing and brand imagery projects too.

What do you need?

Be clear about what you need – creatives can’t simply create from scratch, and they’re not mindreaders.

The more clear, consistent information you can provide about what you actually want, the better able they’ll be to get it right first time – saving you time and money in getting revisions or amendments agreed and carried out.

If you’re clear about what you need, you’ll also have more power to take action if the finished product isn’t up to scratch – without agreeing much upfront, it’s hard to go back later and demonstrate that what you received back wasn’t what you paid for.

Who is it for?

One of the biggest problems you can face with written content is an off-the-mark tone of voice.

Make sure you say who your target audience is – which is often done in terms of which newspaper they might read, which radio station they might listen to, and so on.

It’s helpful to specify whether the content is aimed at business readers or at consumers (B2B or B2C), as there are different marketing techniques involved in selling to each audience, and your copywriter will benefit from knowing which to use.

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Likewise, if you’re targeting a specific, knowledgeable audience, it can be more appropriate to use technical terms – whereas for a general audience, avoiding jargon can be the wiser approach.

How should it sound?

Independently of who your audience is, you also need to think about how you want to come across – friendly, formal, informative?

Some people go so far as to suggest a persona – so if you want your content written as though it was by Brian Blessed, say so. If it should sound more like Fearne Cotton, write that down.

However obscure you might think a guideline is, if it’s what you want, don’t be afraid to write it down. Creative types deal with weird requests all the time, and are experienced at turning them from odd snippets of information, into a full and sensible tone of voice brief.

When is it due?

Although it’s not a part of the core brief in the strictest of senses, any deadlines or milestones should be specified upfront, so your copywriter can make sure the content is ready in time.

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If you need time to have it checked over by a legal department, for example, make this clear, so the content can be with you a few days before the final deadline.

Likewise, make clear whether the specified date is for the first draft, or designates the day by which the full and final, proofed and edited version of your document must be in place.