The Power of a Good Brief Can't be Underestimated

Don’t start a project before you get a proper brief. Why? Because it’s likely to go wrong. 

It could be that what you think you have to do might not match the expectations of others. That’s the reason a good brief, no change that, a great brief, can save misunderstanding and ensure all parties are on the same page. I don’t know about you but crystal gazing isn’t a pastime of mine. Without a proper brief setting out the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ of the project at hand then it’s like looking into an uncertain future and expecting clarity.

I know why briefs are sometimes missed. Typical reasons range from too busy, think you can wing it without one, or just not appreciating how this device is in fact a time saving piece.

For a classic, minimum viable brief it’s best to include these elements:

Background on the project

- provide some context on the project to give your supplier a view of your world


– what are you trying to achieve? What outcome is expected as a result of this project?

Target audience

– who are they? Who is going to see this project, why should they care, what do you want them to do as a result of it?

Key messages

– as succinctly as possible, what is the key point you want to make? If you have many, distill the top three messages you want your target audience to understand/know

Deliverables required

– this concerns the mechanics of the project. For example, is it a four page sales document, a creative direct mailer, or perhaps a website with 20 pages? Be clear and be specific. Leave no room for vagueness now.

Competitive picture

– if it’s relevant it might help to understand how this project positions in the market, whether there is competition to be aware of or not. It’s all about deepening the context to make the project more successful.

Mandatory inclusions

– is there anything that must be factored in, no questions asked? Make it known or else.


– be clear how much time you have to complete this project or better still state a definite deadline. Use the time before the deadline to communicate about the progress of the project as this should be ongoing.


– if the project has a budget state that too. Avoiding negative financial surprises is best.


- don’t take this list too literally if you have something else you need to include, just include it. Again, the clearer you are, the better the result.


I have to state one big caveat to all of the elements above and that concerns communication. I have found it is the single biggest ingredient to a project running smoothly and to expectations. There is no project I can think of where open and ongoing communication isn’t a factor to its success. With great communication even if things go off track you will have a system to catch any deviations and make the necessary corrections before any looming deadline.

So the morale of the story is, always prepare a brief when working with your suppliers. If you’re a supplier, always demand a good brief and if one isn’t forthcoming ask why not? Maybe there’s a reason and you might be wise to be wary. The other morale is communicate well and the process is likely to go a lot smoother and be more pleasurable for all involved.

Check here for more creative brief templates.


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