Importance of properly briefing your Marketing and Communications supplier

One of the biggest challenges for public sector and non-profit marketers is how to brief an advertising agency or a marketing and/or communications supplier. How well you brief determines what you get back. The communications or marketing supplier is only as good as the briefing they get from you the client.

Do all great marketing and communication campaigns come from great briefs? No. But the chances of getting good if not great work are increased significantly by a proper briefing into which some real thought has been invested.

Marketing communications, is a substantial financial investment, but have the potential to change the shape of your organization. Briefing marketing/communications suppliers/agencies requires the same level of professionalism, attention and thought as any other area of activity of your organization. For example, normally a fair bit of thought is given to briefing your accountant or financial consultant. Just because it involves creativity and ideas does not mean that these qualities are needed less, indeed they are needed more because of the degree of subjectivity involved.

It’s about working out what you want and communicating this in a way that gets the right result. The result of better briefing is that the right work is delivered faster. This can have a dramatic effect on efficiency and on costs. If on average it takes your supplier a number of presentations to get to the preferred solution imagine the saving in time and cost of reducing that process to getting it right first time. Better briefing will produce better results faster and at lower cost.

In addition one of the big mistakes is not having an overall marketing strategy before bringing in a marketing/communications suppliers. Worse is thinking there is no need for a strategy or that the supplier will do the thinking for you.  The reasons given for not writing a strategy or a creative brief often include:

“It’s a fast-track project” “I don’t have the time” “The communications/marketing supplier already understands what’s needed so why bother” Excuses are quickly exposed when the resulting work is not what is required. A little time writing a strategy and a creative brief pays dividends in the longer term.  Oral briefings are a recipe for disaster.

Preparing a marketing strategy and creative brief actually forces you to think. Written briefs act as a form of a contract between you and your supplier. They should lay out what the supplier is expected to deliver in a clear and measurable way.

Without mutually agreed SMART objectives, the supplier’s work can only be evaluated subjectively, leading to dissatisfaction. The point of a strategy and brief is to give clear direction on what’s important and to clarify the issue that you’re seeking to address. The problem with an informal briefing is that it makes a huge assumption that the person being briefed shares the unstated knowledge of the person doing the briefing. It’s likely that some key facts or knowledge in your mind aren’t written into the strategy or brief, because they assume the supplier will already know these. And that’s where the misunderstandings can begin.”

With respect to a creative brief there are few key principles to follow:

1. Be clear about what is needed

2. Provide the critical information necessary to complete the task

3. Focus more on overall strategy and less on specific tactics.

Of course there is room for attachments and additional material. Sometimes a large volume of background material can be helpful as one seemingly small bit of information could prompt a thought that leads to the solution. But best practice is to provide only the critical information that is needed. Do not overload your supplier with “tons of information”.

To motivate or inspire anyone, there needs to be a good understanding of what’s important to your organization. Understanding what’s important to suppliers comes from closer working relationships. Where both organizations recognize common aims then success is far more likely to be achieved.


See my post on how to How to Write a Creative and Marketing Research Brief for Social Marketing

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