Brief By Name, But NOT By NatureBy Liz Appleby on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 09:00
In previous blogs, at first glance it may seem like my specialism is stating the obvious, with advice on complete transparency, attention to detail, and the importance of consistency and communication. Surely these all go without saying and should spring automatically from everyone’s basic level of common sense? One would like to think so. But if that was indeed the case, the day-to-day undertaking of all our jobs would be made a whole lot easier.
Under pressure we are ALL guilty of getting distracted by the bigger picture and glossing over the simple basics.
A prime example of what I mean by ‘simple basics’ is getting a marketing brief right first time. Be the end product a website, brochure, TV or radio advert, leaflet, banner, e-shot or the concept for an entire re-brand - cut corners at the briefing stage and I guarantee that the time saved early on will simply be added on at a later stage, with interest!
Having been at the receiving end of a variety of briefs from colleagues and clients, as well as being responsible for giving out my own briefs to suppliers on many different products, I would like to share with you a few useful tips I have picked up along the way for how to get the brief right first time. The following have not only come out of my own observations and experiences, but also from the feedback I have been given from designers/suppliers who have been on the receiving end of:
Specify a concrete deadline. Let me repeat this point again for emphasis – please please please specify a concrete day/month/year deadline!
ASAP is not a deadline! Never forget that while you have your own priority list and hierarchy of tasks to complete so does everyone else and 9 times out of 10 they are not the same as yours. ASAP means simply AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. But it will likely be squeezed in after the other 10 things on THEIR task list that do have concrete date deadlines. Meanwhile your ‘ASAP job’ will get planned in around them. It may be that your job needs to be done in time for a client meeting on the 14th, while the designer has until at least the 16th to do all the others on their list, but if you don’t communicate this to them, how will they know what to prioritise? Never assume that your priorities are the same as everyone else’s around you, which leads me into my next point…
Never make assumptions in your brief!
When you know a client, brand, product or target audience inside and out, like the back of your hand, it is easy to assume that others are subliminally endowed with the same knowledge. But unless they have been privy to every meeting, email and phone conversation, this is never the case. The only safe assumption is to assume everyone else knows absolutely nothing. Less is not more in this case. I’m not saying you need to include the client’s entire company history from the year dot in the brief, just take a minute and ask yourself - before I met this client, what would I need to know in order to do this job and create an appropriate and effective product? Don’t simply copy and paste the client’s instructions to you. Yes time may be tight and you need to get this brief in and work started on it. But this is pointless if the supplier does not understand the references in the brief - ultimately you just add further delay to the turnaround with the subsequent back and forth of having to clarify details that could have been made clear from the outset.
Be clear about the main marketing message.
This leads on from my previous point about not making assumptions. State clearly where the emphasis should lie and what the call to action is, as this will help the designer create an appropriate layout first time and minimise the need to move stuff around. Everything is subjective, we all have our own interpretations of material presented to us. Your job is to interpret the client’s and their target audience’s perception of a product, not necessarily your own or the designer’s. Unless you are clear about how the content is to be interpreted and presented you will end up with an inappropriate and ineffective message.
Get the brief in writing!
By all means discuss requirements over the phone but always request an email to confirm. Believe me, I know it may not always be possible to get this, but at least ask and chase for it. That way you have something concrete to refer back to.
Never blind copy and paste anything without checking! Proof read, proof read, proof read!
OK, so now you’ve got it in writing, this does not mean you can save time on writing up the spec by just copy and pasting what you have been sent. Never copy and paste anything without proof checking the content first, even if it’s your own work…actually, scrap that ‘even’ and replace with ‘especially’ – especially if it’s your own work. This also avoids stress later when you are right up against deadline and having to proof read under that pressure, when you are more likely to miss things than you would with a clear head at the start. It never looks good to a client to receive a product with text that has silly spelling mistakes – what are they paying you for?! Get the brief grammatically right first time and the whole process is made much easier. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar are much simpler to recognise and rectify in a plain text word document or an email than they are in Illustrator, set amongst distracting imagery.
Attention to detail! An oldie but a goodie.
When writing briefs that refer back to previous jobs or are linked to existing artwork, I take the time to state the ref number of that previous job, insert hyperlinks to the relevant files in the brief and if there is the likelihood of any confusion I will insert a screen grab of the associated object so the person I am briefing knows exactly what they are looking for. The less time they spend trawling through files on a server the more time they have to design an effective product or pull together a successful marketing plan. The third party’s job is to fulfil – yours is to provide the correct tools so they can do so as efficiently and accurately as possible. Which leads me to my final point…
Do not pass the brief to a third party until you have ALL the information.
Our Creative Director at Creation Media will not accept or begin any work on a design brief until he has everything he requires. There is no point. Time is money and if he were to spend half a day on a brief only to have the spec suddenly change because the account handler didn’t relay all the information in the first instance, then that is time that cannot be bought back. No one is denying that things do change. Mistakes do get made, we are only human, but as long as you know you have all bases covered at your end then any sudden obstacles are made much easier to overcome.
All this may seem time consuming, but better you take the time now, when you have it, than have to invent the time to fix it later!
A vague brief = wrong outcome = more work/time/money exhausted to get the right outcome.
Got a brief you’d like to run by Creation Media? Don’t hesitate to get in touch…