The perfect creative brief

Mar 20th, 2014

The perfect creative brief looks like a Ron Mueck sculpture. It’s hyper detailed. Every possible thought a client may have had for their piece of creative work will be contained in its papery/ pixelated confines

It will have so much information you will wonder how a thing of such beauty ever existed. What you’re usually presented with is a Monet; OK from far away, but up close a big mess. So why are creative briefs so often impressionistic rather than hyper-helpful? The answer lies in this blog. These documents are so vital to a piece of creative work that a whole blog is necessary to explain its importance. If you want to understand why creatives roll their eyes every time they are given an insufficient brief then read on. A brief is a conversation, so let’s get talking.

Good form

First things first, let’s establish what form the creative work is taking. ‘The Work’ is any piece of creative content, so for this blog we’ll stick to written content. Let’s say we’re writing a blog post. What’s important at this stage is to understand what that piece of content is and what function it will perform once it goes live. Will the blog post appear on a client’s website? Is it being posted on someone else’s? Education is the enemy of ignorance, so educate yourself on the different types of content available. If you don’t understand what something is or its purpose then ask before you commit. This kind of open dialogue will stop future problems arising.

Here are a few examples of written content:

– A Blog Post
– An Optimised Blog
– An Interview
– A Long Form Article
– A White Paper
– A How To Guide
– A Glossary

There are lots to choose from, so make sure the piece of content chosen is appropriate to its purpose. For example, choosing an FAQ section for a site that already has a successful FAQ that functions well and helps users’ queries wouldn’t be a relevant choice. However, if this section of the site is irrelevant or non-existent and it would improve customer service then you should have one written.

Readership and target audience

Any piece of writing has a reader in mind. Writing to an audience or readership is integral to a piece of content becoming successful. Knowing who you are writing for may even influence your decision as to what form the content will take. Think about what information you have about your readers. What are their ages? What are their interests? What would you want to read if you were them? This information on a brief is beyond helpful. It will stop mistakes being made that could have been avoided and will give the writer a deeper insight into their target audience. It’s also important not to patronise – if you have a knowledgeable audience on a subject don’t ask someone to write you a ‘beginner’s guide to…’ it may end up alienating your readers.


This is important and often ignored. If the writer doesn’t know why you want the piece written then it will be hard to make it sound persuasive or helpful. Giving short answers in this section will only hinder the creative process. Knowing a piece’s purpose gives it direction, it adds focus. Is the piece being written to promote services? Is it raising brand awareness? Is it trying to describe a process? Or is it to entertain? Make this crystal clear and it’s hard to go wrong. A lot of what a creative brief does is solves problems, so stop the problems before they start and communicate clearly.

If a piece doesn’t have direction then it will come out sounding vague. Content has taken a new precedent in 2014 so creating bland, generic content has a bigger impact than it did before. Stating a purpose to your content and why you wanted it written in the first place will distinguish it amongst other pieces of content. Be clear. Be direct. Be helpful.


Now that we’ve established the substance of the piece let’s address style. Style includes many things; formal or informal tone, American or UK English, accessible or high-brow – what is important here is to establish what a company’s style is. Style is a big indicator to a company’s attitude and how they want to present themselves. Are they an eco-friendly company that wants their copy to sound like a relaxed conversation? Or are they striving for a professional and slick image that demands technical language and formal tone? If you’re not sure what tone you want to achieve then look to other companies that work in a similar field. Why does their copy work? Why are you drawn to it? Read and then read some more and find out which you reacted to best. Pass this information on to your writer.

Getting style wrong can mean alienating potential or existing customers. Style is the suit that your content arrives in to its interview. Your readers will ask questions of it, if it is written wrong – don’t give them the chance and get it right first time.

Inspiration is divine

One of the most creative (and fun) parts of a creative brief is where you get to show examples of work you have seen and liked. Research the type of content that is being written and share the ones you like. Visuals are a big help – if you’ve seen a website that has done it well then include a link to it.

Here are a few examples of helpful resources that you can share with your writer:

– Images (These are particularly helpful if you’re filling out a design brief)
– Links to other sites
– Downloadables (Particularly for white papers)
– Scanned hard copies, particularly if you work with pen and paper when you first draw up an idea – but only if the handwriting is legible!
– Idea sharing websites such as that display your thoughts in a mood board

Showing what you do like is equally as important as showing what you don’t like. Sometimes it is easier to find examples of things you don’t like – still pass this information on in your brief as it is relevant. This is a useful resource as it still shows where you’re heading with your creative vision. Also mention exactly how your company should be referred to – capitals, apostrophes, acronyms and all.

Specifics are a holy thing to a writer, so get as detailed as possible.

Collecting thoughts

Ultimately a creative brief is an interpretation of wishes. It’s a document that allows you to be demanding and to ask exactly what you want. So be demanding and be specific! We live in a time where information is available at our fingertips, so embrace this overload and put it into your brief. Even if you provide more information than is needed it is still more helpful than too little. It’s part of the writer’s job to interpret what you give them, that’s where their creativity comes in. So be kind to your creatives and help them out. Fundamentally a piece of copy (or any creative work) needs to deliver on its intended purpose, so make sure this is clear.

Here’s why creative briefs are so important:
– They set realistic expectations
– You will have a happier working relationship
– It will save time as less amendments will need to be made
– You’ll get more from it and the piece of writing will be more successful

Taking this approach to a creative brief may seem obvious, but it is important to keep it at the front of your mind. Remember: detail, detail, detail.

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