You’ve hired at least six different writers for the same project, but you still haven’t received anything even close to the content you envisioned. The style is off. The tone is all wrong.
The content is not even the right length or for the right audience. And none of them used your all-time favorite resources or included all the links, keywords, and headers you envisioned.
But do they really know what you want? Do you know how to write a creative brief?
While writers may be fantastic at many things, there’s one thing they’re not: mind reading. Unless you specifically outline what you want with any given project, you’re probably not going to get it.
A creative brief helps you document everything important relating to the piece you are creating. Whether it be an internal project for your own company or an external project you’ve been hired to create for a client, the creative brief is a helpful tool to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
It does not matter what it is — ranging from a simple image to an app —, it is a helpful step in the planning process that helps you deliver quality.
Being able to write a good creative brief is not just a formality. It is a fundamental ability that will help your company develop its projects in a much more productive way.
Your team will be completely in harmony about what needs to be done, by whom, and how.
Would you like to learn how to write a creative brief? This article is a complete guide on how to do that. And we will use our own collaborative platform in Visually to show you how to do it.
Download this post by entering your email below
What Is a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a document that provides all the necessary details your creative needs to ensure the piece meets its goals. Think of it as a roadmap for content success. A great content brief will answer fundamental questions, such as:
- Why do we need this content?
- What is the content’s purpose?
- Who is the content targeting?
While the brief can contain additional information to help writers better understand your brand, it’s essential to keep it, well, brief.
You don’t want to send off endless attachments that include anything and everything ever researched, written, or created about your company. You need to tread the fine line between necessary information and information overload.
The best content briefs are designed to guide and inspire the writer, not drown them in a deluge of directives and details.
On the other hand, a bad creative brief can highly damage your company’s ability to deliver a quality product, piece, or service. It will contribute to huge communication gaps among your team that affect your ability to complete your project the way it was intended.
Why Is a Creative Brief So Important?
As many professionals know, the success of a large project often relies on the collaboration of a wide array of different people within various departments.
Between designers, copywriters, content marketers, and everyone else involved in the project, simply keeping everyone on the same page can feel like a monumental undertaking in itself. That’s where the creative brief comes in. Much like a football coach relies on a playbook to coordinate the actions of different players, a solid creative brief is an invaluable way to ensure that everyone knows exactly what they need to do and when.
The ideal creative brief maps out everything that needs to be done to complete the project and specifies exactly who is responsible for completing each task.
Not only does this help ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities, but it’s also a great way to solidify the overall vision of the project before it begins. By outlining things like key messaging, the target audience, and other pieces of data, a creative brief can help stamp out confusion before it has a chance to rear its ugly head.
A well-written content brief helps both you and the creative:
- Save time.
- Reduce frustration.
- Avoid unnecessary questions that could have been answered from the get-go.
- Decrease or eliminate the merry-go-round of revisions.
- Establish parameters with the scope, objectives, and deliverables outlined from the start.
- Create better content that’s consistently on brand.
While the creative brief is usually associated with marketing campaigns, it can be used in a wide array of other situations as well. Whether you’re making a promotional video, creating a new app, or embarking on any other creative endeavor, a creative brief can serve as the glue that holds it all together.
Why Digital Marketing Agencies Should Always Use Content Briefs?
Creative projects do not just appear out of thin air. For them to have quality, deliver the expected results, and contribute to the brand’s growth, they need the right elements during their planning stage. That is the role of a good creative brief.
If you’re creating a project for another company, then a creative brief is also a great opportunity to get to know your client and their product. While you’ll be supplied with the basics of the project upfront, sometimes in more detail than others, writing a detailed brief will force you to dig a little deeper.
In order to create a thorough vision for your project, you’ll need to get to know your client’s product or service in more detail. You’ll also have to develop a much more detailed view of the persona it’s geared towards and the type of messaging that will prove the most effective.
This research period can make for a great time to ask your client any questions that may come up and help ensure that your ideas don’t prove to be completely off base.
Additionally, it will help you get control of the project from the start so you can avoid ending up feeling like it’s controlling you. Assigning deadlines, budgets, scope, and other key components can go a long way towards helping both you and your client avoid nasty surprises down the road.
What Are the Types of Creative Briefs?
As you’ve already seen, there is a lot of variation when it comes to crafting a great content brief. And the options aren’t done yet. Briefs vary based on the type of content you want the freelance writer to create.
You can create briefs for:
- Social media posts.
- Blog posts and articles.
- Emails, email newsletters.
- Video scripts.
- White papers and reports.
- Books, e-books.
- Case studies.
Content briefs can be used for all types of content—and all types of content creators. They’re as useful for writers as they are for designers, illustrators, photographers, and other creatives working on any type of project.
No matter what you’re creating and who you’re creating it with, briefs are an integral part of your overall content marketing strategy
What Topics Should a Creative Brief Cover?
Now that you know what a creative brief is, you probably already understand the value of creating a proper one. For it to add value to your project development and help your team reach its objectives, you must make sure your creative brief covers the appropriate sections.
At the very least, every creative brief needs to contain the:
- Basic information: main topic, due date, length.
- Company and brand details
- Core objectives and expectations.
- The key message and call to action.
- Target audience.
- Critical keywords, tone, and voice.
- Creative inspiration.
- Competition analysis.
- Existing materials
- Execution and project management details
- Distribution details
- Main Topic: The general topic could end up as any one of the more detailed topics—or something totally different. Make sure you’re clear on what you expect and then include the necessary details so the end results meet your expectations.
- Project Due Date: For best results, the project’s due date and the project’s publishing date should not be one and the same. You want to leave a little breathing room for revisions and fine-tuning once the initial piece is submitted.
- Content length: The piece can be any length you wish, of course. Just give the writer a heads-up on what you envision so they can gauge their research accordingly.
Not sure how long a piece should be?
Long-form content has become the rage, with the average word count for articles on the first page of Google weighing in at 1,447 words.
If you’re going for long-form content, make sure:
- Your topic is meaty enough to merit it.
- You break up big blocks of text with proper formatting.
- You include images to keep the reader scrolling down the page.
Short-form content typically consists of articles shorter than 500 words. With the long-form trend in full swing, smaller bits of content are better suited for social media posts or subsections of longer articles.
Company and brand details
In addition to information about the project, you want to make sure the freelance writer has a solid feel for your company or brand. This means your marketing team may want to include:
- A Business Description.
- The editorial style guide and/or brand guide.
- Formatting options.
Your business description gives the lowdown on:
- Who you are.
- What you do.
- How long you’ve been around?
- Are you a small business or a large enterprise?
- Your industry.
- Anything else of note pertinent to the content?
Objectives and expectations
This is where the key goals of the project are highlighted. Every project needs objectives since it is the whole reason they even exist. In this part of your creative brief, it is necessary to describe what your company aims to achieve with the completion of the described project as well as its most important metric goals.
Such objectives need to be measurable and concrete. Working with vague goals can make your job harder since you will have no idea if you were successful or not. Also, specifying your objectives correctly in your creative brief helps the rest of your staff to be aware of your aims.
Example: “With this animated infographic, we intend to increase the engagement rate of our blog by at least 10%, focusing on social shares.”
Other objectives can include things like:
- Entertaining and informing.
- Building brand awareness.
- Increasing organic traffic.
- Prompting email opt-ins.
- Signing up for a free trial.
- Purchasing a product or service.
Key message and CTA
While your company or client’s goals are important, it’s essential that everyone understands how this project is going to help achieve them. What are the key messages you want your viewers to walk away with after reading or watching your completed project?
This is where you’ll really need to nail down the problem your marketing is intended to address, as well as how the service or product you’re presenting is intended to solve it. Short and sweet is generally the way to go, so select your strongest points and decide how to emphasize them.
Last but not least, don’t leave your viewers hanging. If you should manage to spark their interest, what do you want them to do next?
Whether it be visiting your website or calling for a free consultation, make sure you include a call to action that outlines what you want them to do.
This is the section where you will describe your target audience with as much detail as you can. Who your public is can greatly alter the approach to the development of your project. With that in mind, understanding these people’s needs, motivations, and expectations can help all members of your team.
For that to work, make sure to go into great detail when describing your target audience. Do not limit yourself to only talking about gender and age. Try to describe someone who could be real and part of a broader cluster of people that your company is trying to reach.
Example: “With this animated infographic, we intend to appeal to junior marketers who are looking for quick and effective information on how to do their work.”
You can provide a rundown on your target audience or, better yet, attach a copy of your buyer personas for the writer to review. Buyer personas are profiles of your ideal customers, and brands may have more than one. Buyer personas include details such as:
- Job titles and industry.
- Preferred method of communication.
- Favorite online hangouts.
- Go-to websites and publications.
Keywords are a must for your brief. It’s the only way for your writer to know which keywords you want to rank for. They play a role in search engine optimization, as well as shaping the direction of the piece.
Conduct your keyword research in advance, indicating which short and long-tailed keywords to include for SEO. You may also note how many times each keyword needs to be used.
Tone and voice
Tone refers to the tone of voice. That is, the writing style, the type of language you want the piece to use, and the overall feeling you want the piece to evoke.
As with all your content, the tone of the piece needs to align with your brand voice—although some types of content may be more casual and laid-back than others.
Examples of tone include:
The narrative voice you choose determines if you want the piece written in first, second, or third person.
- First Person: I | We
- Second Person: You | You
- Third Person: He, she, it | They
For content marketing, the most engaging narrative voice to use is the second person. Using “you” draws in readers and makes it feel as if you’re speaking directly to them.
The third person is the most formal and is often used for academic papers and similar types of content.
Your editorial style guide or brand guide is another handy reference for your freelance writers. Guides can be particularly helpful if your brand has exacting standards when it comes to creating content. You can include formatting preferences and any other details important to your brand. Freelancers will thank you a lot if you add some content samples.
In this section, you should add a curated set of references that identify the vision that matches the project. Having the right set of images, text, videos, and other pieces of media can help your team understand your scope and approach — a highly important element that should not be forgotten when creating your creative brief.
Do not forget that creative inspiration is not only related to image references. This is also where the brand tone is set, which is like your company’s voice. By focusing on that, you can make sure that all of your content has an unmistakable tone identity.
Competition is what makes the business world go round, which is also why it’s important to be familiar with what others in your industry are doing. By looking into the different approaches your competitors are taking, you’ll be able to learn a great deal about what’s working and what isn’t.
If you find that your main rival has been pulling in a ton of business with a series of witty promotional videos, then humor might be a good avenue to explore. Just make sure that you study their strategy well enough that your own isn’t too similar to ensure that your brand retains its own distinct personality.
Ironically, you can learn just as much from your competitor’s failures. Oftentimes knowing what doesn’t work is just as valuable as knowing what does.
Your brand’s history must be respected whenever you come up with a new project. This information can be added to your creative brief in a section for existing materials. The goal is to provide images, logos, colors, and any other kinds of pre-existing designs that must be included in the finalized product you are creating.
This will also spare your team from having to search for these pieces of information themselves, risking getting them wrong and negatively affecting your project.
Remember that the creative brief is a document, and as such, it must act as a reference for achieving your goals.
Here is the most practical section of your creative brief. This is where you will specify what will be done and how. Be as detailed as possible, since the information here needs to be able to guide everyone that is involved with your project.
To make everything easier to read, try to split your execution based on each aspect of your project. For example, if you are creating an animated infographic, this is where you specify elements such as the size, design, type of animation, and the data that will be in it.
The execution is where your project will begin to take form to help you achieve the goals you described in your objectives.
A creative brief is an organizational tool. As such, you must have a section that is reserved for project management information.
This includes the members of your team and what part of the project they are responsible for. Make sure to specify their specialties and how they are contributing to your goals.
You can also benefit from adding a project timeline with the estimated dates for each milestone you intend to reach. This helps you plan and keep your development at an appropriate pace.
Last but not least, this is a great time to break down your budget and how you want to spend it. By talking with each member of your team about how much they’ll have to work with, you’ll be able to address any potential issues before they become too serious.
Don’t get so caught up in your project that you forget to plan how to get out there to the masses! After all, there’s nothing more tragic than a well-done project that never has the chance to do its thing.
Make sure that your creative brief includes a solid plan that addresses your project’s ultimate destination. If you’re creating a promotional video, for instance, you’ll want to map out whether it will be posted on YouTube, a webpage, on social media, or all of the above.
This will also help you get ahead of various considerations such as the different sizing requirements of different sites. If your project is more of a multi-media campaign, then assign a subheading to each element, along with where each will be published.
How to Write a Creative Brief?
A good creative brief can compile all the important information on a project. It must bring everyone up to speed on the necessary components for it to be completed, which requires attention when filling it up.
After all, it is an important documentation process that your business can greatly benefit from.
Below are the top recommendations on how to write a creative brief.
And selected images from our creative brief running on our collaborative platform.
Give a project overview
Just as an article usually requires an introduction, your creative brief also needs an overview that sums up the information contained in it. At a glance, whoever reads the document must be able to understand the project’s most important traits, its goals, and the tools it will use to achieve them.
The overview should also bring your project’s context forward. What series of events led to its development? Why is it important? Besides, explain why the decisions were made.
Talk about your brand
Whoever reads your creative brief should get all they need to know about your brand. This knowledge is crucial so that your project can be completed in complete alignment with your company’s vision and identity.
Avoid being vague or throwing around too many disconnected ideas. Collect the most important information that can help your staff complete your project successfully while keeping it true to your brand’s history and current service or product offer.
Explain your objectives and challenges
Every creative piece or project is always born with a goal in mind. Their purpose should be highlighted in this document, as you have already learned when reading about the various sections it requires.
While writing these, make sure to contextualize everything. Explain why you have these goals and the main challenges that need to be overcome when completing your project.
List some creative inspirations
You can help your team come up with the right elements your project needs by assembling a good collection of creative inspirations and references. Make use of every kind of media you have available to you and create a compilation that captures your project’s essence.
For instance, if you are creating an animated infographic, you must bring together several other examples of such media so your team knows what they should be aiming for. In addition to that, try to keep a balance between references related to your project’s form and content.
Point out your audience
Depending on the audience you wish to reach with your creative brief, your project can change entirely. That is why you must be as specific as you can when describing the target public of what you are building.
Context is highly important in all sections of a creative brief, especially this one. Besides highlighting your audience’s traits and needs, make sure to contextualize why your business is trying to reach these people and how your project can be a solution to them.
Provide existing materials of your brand
Any logos, voice guidelines, previous designs, and established visual elements must be detailed in your creative brief. After all, such valuable information is required to make sure your project fits within your brand’s identity no matter what it is.
This means getting highly specific when describing these elements. Point out the appropriate uses of your logo, what colors are associated with your business, and the most common shapes that are used when creating content for it. The best way to illustrate all that is by bringing multiple examples of past materials.
Signalize the tone and writing style
Just as it is important to provide examples of past visual pieces for reference, the same must be done about the tone of your content and writing style. Whenever your brand speaks, it needs to have the same voice, which requires extra attention.
Whether it is subtle or explicit, a company’s way of talking must be highlighted in your creative brief. After all, your project must replicate that style so it fits with the rest of your brand’s content and still appeals to its usual audience.
Specify the technical requirements for the deliveries
By now, you probably understand that your creative brief needs to be as specific as possible. This also applies to the technical requirements for its deliveries, which refers to what is being created. Your team needs this information to work on your project.
For instance, if you are creating an animated infographic, then your creative brief needs to address requirements such as the image format, the frame rate of animation, the average size, and the precise dimensions it needs to have to fit your distribution channel.
Highlight publishing or releasing channels
As a part of your creative brief, you also need to indicate where you want to publish and share the project. This varies depending on the kind of material your team is creating but it’s still an important aspect of your planning that needs to be properly documented.
Also, take the time to describe the particularities of these channels, how they differentiate, and how your project needs to adapt to them.
Define deadlines and availability
As an internal document for your business, a creative brief also has the role of organizing your project schedule. This includes determining deadlines for each step during its development as well as the availability of the team for meetings and feedback sessions.
Those are essential to a productive environment and must be planned as part of your project. Forgetting about it might negatively affect your team’s ability to deliver quality.
What is an example of a great creative brief?
Taking a look at a practical example is a great way to learn what quality means. This is especially true when talking about how to write a creative brief the right way.
Check out below for an example of how you should create one for an animated infographic.
Increase the engagement rate of the company blog by 10% while prioritizing the content’s share rate.
- Examples of infographics with similar shapes and colors;
- Examples of equivalent writing style on other infographics;
- Snapshots of how infographics look on blog posts by other businesses;
- References of good animated infographics from any industry.
- Young marketers who are looking for quick and effective content that answers their questions;
- ages from 20 through 30, those who work either for a marketing agency or department within a company;
- A visual guide for the brand’s logos, colors, and font families;
- Previous infographics created by the brand (animated or not);
- Use the data attached to come up with an animated infographic that can communicate it to our audience;
- Make sure to use the appropriate colors for our brand;
- The animated infographic should be in GIF form with a size no larger than 2 MB, so it loads quickly even on mobile;
- The width should not be larger than 700 pixels, as that is the blog’s maximum width.
The team will hold a meeting to approve the piece during each step of its development — concept, design, and conclusion.
It is expected that the project will conclude in a week starting from the publication of this creative brief.
Now that you know how to write a creative brief, it’s time to start using that knowledge in your business.
Remember that such documentation helps you develop any kind of project but requires attention to detail when filling it up. Use this article as a reference for the next time you create anything in your company to make sure it contributes to achieving your goals.
Working with a good creative brief also requires the use of a tool that optimizes your content creation.
5 Biggest Struggles With Creative Briefs—and Workarounds
Although the concept of a content brief is fairly simple, content marketers can find themselves struggling with its creation and execution. Here are some of the biggest problems related to content briefs, along with workarounds to fix them.
Not spending enough time on the brief
Two lines in an email or a few scribbles on a sticky note don’t count as a brief. Neither does attaching random company history files to an order request and hoping for the best.
Workaround: Even small marketing teams can create powerful creative briefs if they put their minds together. Schedule a meeting, have a discussion, and use a creative brief template or tool to craft an amazing brief.
Then save it for future use. Do the heavy lifting right and you’ll only have to do it once. Subsequent briefs can be adapted from the original one, saving tons of time and energy going forward.
Although your content brief can contain loads of info, it needs to contain only a single message. If you find yourself compiling a whole list of objectives for the piece of content, your brief lacks the required focus to truly resonate with your target audience.
Workaround: Make the brief laser-focused when it comes to messaging. Determine the one thing you want readers to take away from the piece once it’s finished. That’s the message you want to communicate.
Forgetting each brief has two audiences
Every content brief has two audiences to take into account:
- The readers you’re targeting with the content.
- The writer creates the content.
Too many briefs end up containing a lot of juicy information regarding the audience but not enough info for the content creator.
Workaround: Remember the writer! Make sure to highlight the key thing your writer needs to communicate. Keeping the needs of your writer in mind will help ensure your message is on-target and your instructions are clear.
Drowning the writer in needless info
More is not necessarily better when it comes to content marketing. And the same holds true when it comes to content briefs.
It’s the quality of info, not the quantity, that matters. If your content brief is longer and more complex than the piece you expect the writer to create, you’re doing something woefully wrong.
Workaround: Again, remember the writer. How much info do they actually need to know to get it right? A succinct rundown on your brand personality? Yes. An 88-page report on the history of your company and why it’s now located in Poughkeepsie? No.
Failing to keep things organized
Let’s say you create and save a content brief so you can use it again and again. But you have no idea where you saved it. You’re also having a heck of a time finding your brand style guide, sample content, and other attachments you want to include with the brief.
Where did it all go?
By the time you find everything you need to send off the brief, it’s somewhere around midnight. And you think you might have an outdated version of the style guide.
Workaround: Make a master file called Creative Briefs. Then save everything you need right in that file. This includes:
- Brief templates.
- Completed briefs for various types of content.
- Brand style guide, instructions.
- Content samples.
- Anything else that makes sense.
For even greater efficiency, create subfolders within the main Creative Brief folder. One for blogs. Another for social media. You get the gist.
How Can I Use a Creative Brief With a Writer Who May Not Know My Industry?
Just because a content brief is supposed to be brief, it doesn’t mean it can’t contain supplementary info. This especially holds true for content writers who may not be familiar with your industry.
You can provide industry information that includes things like:
- Trends or market conditions making an impact.
- Your main competitors and what they’re doing.
- If you’re aiming to do something similar (but better) or something completely different.
- Industry content or approaches you like and don’t like.
- How you differentiate yourself from the competition.
- Links to industry resources and educational content.
Again, you don’t want to inundate the writer with too much information—but you do want to supply ample trusted resources where they can learn as much as they need to deliver what you want.
Need a Hand?
If you’ve found yourself long on ideas but short on talent, then look no further than Rock Content’s WritersAccess. You’ll find thousands of top-ranked industry freelancers who are happy to assist you with content writing, editing, design, and more.
Feel free to reach out today to see how we can help you streamline your next project!