The Brief

During my many years of working with clients, advertising agencies and design companies, I have been surprised how often there is no proper brief to detail requirements and expectations. This can leave both parties disappointed: clients may be frustrated that they do not get what they want (or expect) and the designer or writer may feel that their client is being difficult or indecisive. I thought I would share with you a 'Briefing Form' that I have developed over the years. This covers most of the aspects I would normally expect to consider, to ensure that I deliver work that will be effective in the job it has to do. While I don't always complete it in full, at the very least it serves as a useful prompt to ensure all the main things are covered. I hope it may help you. It has been prepared mainly with copywriting needs in mind, although its scope is also useful for many design projects. I would be pleased to hear from you if you have any comments or suggestions to improve it. If you would like me to work with you on a project, this would be the starting point; I wouldn't expect you to slavishly answer every question, but perhaps you could consider these points before we talk. If you like, you can download a copy of the Briefing Form here or from the link below.

This form is intended to help focus attention on the key elements of a brief. It should help in gathering thoughts, even at the very earliest stages of preparing a project brief. Whenever possible, it is best to talk through requirements. Time spent explaining objectives, requirements and constraints is usually rewarded by the avoidance of wasted effort and inappropriate approach through misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions.

This may not serve all occasions equally, and does not mean that more information cannot be supplied, nor subsequent changes made. However, brevity may produce clarity.

Client:                               Subject:


Briefed by (name and job title/responsibility):

Project Description:

What do you believe you require? For example, a corporate brochure, website, sales literature, sales aid, letter, form, PR, exhibition, TV, radio or print advertisement. (Sometimes, based on the information you provide, it may be that a different or additional approach is recommended.)

Why is this wanted? What do you want to achieve in the short-term, in the long-term? For example, to generate immediate enquiries or to explain something. How will you evaluate its effectiveness?

Target Audience:
Who do you most want to reach? Qualify and quantify. Describe relevant aspects, both in professional terms - nature of business, position held, etc, and in personal terms - age, sex, etc. Use socio-economic classifications if appropriate (ABC1 etc).

The present and, if relevant, the required positioning in the marketplace, both actual and perceived. SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).

What is the single most important benefit that will appeal to your target audience? Why is this important to your customer? What are the secondary benefits?

What is the key statement that summarises the main benefit of your product or service?

Why should the audience believe what you claim?

What sort of response are you seeking? To increase general awareness? To change attitudes? To buy? Is there an immediate action required: to email, telephone or to respond in some other way?

Executional Guidelines:
The use will inform the design/copy approach. For example, will information change frequently? Is there a need to provide different information for different audiences? Give details of any other elements to be included - for example, 24-page booklet rather than loose-leaf binder, colour essential. State quantities required. Include any expectations/assumptions you may have.

Tone of Voice:
What sort of language should be used: casual, formal, authoritative, friendly, humorous, serious, etc? It may be helpful to provide examples of existing material, as well as style guidelines, if they exist.

How will this be received? By hand, in person, by email, posted, left behind after meeting?

Other Activity:
Are there, or will there be, related activities, such as advertising,exhibitions, posters or brochures? Will any subsequent activity be taking place, such as follow up mailings, telephone calls or personal visits?

Assume the agency/designer/writer has no knowledge of your activities. It is all too easy for work to fail because of incorrect assumptions. Supply the essential information they need.

How does this relate to your wider business strategy? What is the competition? Are you aware of any similar activity? Is there anything else you have done, or are planning to do, that is relevant? Where appropriate, supply examples. How do your target audience feel about your product or service in relation to alternatives available to them?

Supply the information you wish to be communicated. In some cases you may have draft text, in others you may only have the germ of an idea - so describe what you want to say. Indicate key phrases/terms relevant to the business. For websites, provide any information already held on keywords for seo. Try to prioritise.

List and supply all relevant information.

Next Action:
Detail who is to do what, when. For example, client to agree brief by a certain date.

Before beginning work a budget should be provided and/or an estimate agreed. Any estimate given is based on present assumptions of the nature of the item at this stage. These costs may be subject to revision once concepts have been developed, or if the brief changes substantially. Agree Terms and Conditions of working.

Agree now on the first action required, and by when. Agree a schedule to show stages and dates for each stage: agree brief, initial concepts, detailed design, draft text, artwork, final revisions, to printer, delivery.

Briefing details

Date ..............................

Brief given by ..............................

Brief taken by ..............................

Brief agreed by ..............................