“A creative brief is the best chance someone has to explain what they want from you.”
- Michael Wolff
Recently, a potential client posed the question “what does a great brief look like to you?”. We’ve never had the opportunity to break down what would make it easier for us to better understand the challenges we’re trying to solve, for an organisation we don’t have the inside view on. Here we wrote out some of our thoughts:
A creative brief is in essence, a story - the story of the client’s world and challenges. It’s important for the story to be compelling and articulate so that it fuels the creativity of the team dedicated to delivering great work and ensure that both the client and creative teams have aligned expectations and understanding of the project.
As with all stories, a brief can follow a standard storyline framework, including a beginning - context, a middle - conflict and an end - conclusion. The beginning explores the context of the situation’s current state, describing the when, the where and the who by introducing the characters (including the business itself, their purpose and their audience). The middle is where complications arise, and in this case describing the challenge the client is facing. The end focuses on the problem’s resolution, what is the desired future state or goal once the project is done.
Following this simple structure a brief has all the main ingredients to tell a compelling story to the creatives who have to respond to it.
How we approach this at Reason
When kicking off a project, one of the first things we do is to look at the initial brief together with the client and break it down using what we call story sheets. Story sheets help us delve deeper into the client’s challenge by better understanding the business context of why we’re doing this project, refine what the expected outcome would look like and flag potential risks and blockers. Story sheets are the basis for the narrative of the story we’re refining.
Story sheets in a nutshell:
Business and context: An overview of the client’s business, their brand’s mission, values and principles. What factors shaped this project, what is the challenge, what’s changed in how our target audience looks at the problem? How might we look at the problem in a new light?
People: The group of individuals we need to engage with to achieve our goal. Who is involved, impacted, interested? What are their roles and relationships? How are they affected by the project, if at all? What attributes bond this group of people together?
The Problem: The problem focuses on the now, what is slowing the business down from reaching where they want to be?
Critical behaviours: What things we need to action early on so they won't become blockers in the process. E.g. What access to other teams and people we might need, or what data we might need permission for.
Open issues and risks: Time constraints, tech limitations, security issues and other things that project teams need to be aware of.
Purpose and goals: Understand why the project is important now and what success looks like for the business. What is the business trying to achieve? What are the project goals?
The dreamy brief
When a brief tells a compelling story it engages and captures the audience, connecting them with the challenge. The more structured and detailed information is presented, the better the project is set up for success. With client teams asking the story sheets questions internally before creating the brief, the challenge is better refined, and they gain awareness of any complexities that might impact the project’s roadmap and timeline. Parameters are established rather than open-ended questions and ambiguous goals, ensuring the creative team is motivated and has all the essential information to kick off the project.