How a Creative Brief Can Save Time, Money, and Relationships

Imagine this common scenario: Your client calls and says they need you to whip up a brochure – and fast. They tell you they’re attending a trade show next week and they just need something “simple” to hand out that explains who they are and what they do; and “it probably needs some sort of call-to-action.” You hang up the phone and immediately hand the project off to your best creative, who wasn’t on the call.

, How a Creative Brief Can Save Time, Money, and Relationships

Two days later, the first draft lands on your desk and you share it with your client who immediately tells you it’s all wrong. The messaging isn’t in line with the trade show’s theme – that they’re sure they told you about; the brochure focuses on the wrong aspect of their business – even though you should have known better; and the call-to-action is wrong. “It’s just wrong.”

Three things just happened. First, you wasted everyone’s time. Two days have been lost on a project with a short deadline. Second, time is money, so that’s been wasted too. And third, your relationship with your client is now in a precarious position.

The title of this article probably gives away the punch line, but to be clear, a creative brief could have alleviated all of these issues.

A creative brief is simply a short, to-the-point document that summarizes all the important aspects of a project. It defines the purpose, the audience, the messaging, the supporting details, the must-haves, the call-to-action, and any other notes the team needs in order to get it right the first time. It’s also a fail-proof way to ensure your agency and your client are always on the same page throughout the process.

A common misconception is that the creative brief is strictly an internal document when, in fact, it’s just as important for the client as it is the agency. By sharing the brief with your client in the front end you give them an opportunity to reinforce their wants and needs while confirming that the directions are correct from the get-go. It’s also a document that can be referenced weeks later when someone claims that some detail was or was not discussed.

Is a creative brief an extra step in the process? Yes. Of course. Does it take some time and effort to get it right, potentially eating up valuable creative time? Sure. A little. But think of all the headaches and heartaches that small effort can help avoid. By simply filling out a creative brief and asking your client to sign off on it before jumping into a project, you have a much better chance of getting it right the first time, saving everyone time and money, and keeping your client happy and on your side.

Seems like a no-brainer.