How to Write a Creative Brief: A Pocket Guide

People determine the success of a project: fact.

Projects can’t go from initial concept creation into steaming successes without the input, ideas and expertise of a lot of people.

But just how do you keep that lot of people working on the same page, toward the same goal, sharing the same vision and achieving the same outcome when there are so many ideas floating about?

With a creative brief.

However, it might surprise you to know that many agencies (not us), leaders and teams struggle with knowing how to write a creative brief, as well as knowing how to structure it and what exactly it should contain.

Allow us to peel back the curtain as we give answers to the most important questions surrounding one of the most important documents to exist for brands, agencies and businesses.

What is a creative brief (and why is it important)?

Succinctly summed up, a creative brief is a living document where everyone, from team members to clients, is given a clear understanding of project goals, challenges, target audiences and deliverables.

Used as a strong foundation to make sure any campaign is successful from start to finish, creative briefs act as blueprints with expectations and guidelines for any project, concept or campaign that is set to be launched.

Commonly, creative briefs are used as handy guides for agencies and clients to ensure that the brand and its vision are being communicated consistently internally and externally, and then outwardly into the project itself. Because of this, creative briefs usually include:

  • A brand or project statement
  • The key project challenges or objectives
  • The brands target audience
  • The brands main competitors
  • The brands values and its all important market positioning
  • An overview of the campaign delivery (e.g the channels that will be used to reach said target audience, like socials or emails)

Though at Huddle we’re big believers that brilliant ideas are an output of the environment we create and not things that are meticulously planned, without a creative brief, in-house teams will lack the vision necessary to reach who they’re targeting, and deliver project objectives.

What should a creative brief include?

There are some best practices to adhere to when it comes to writing a creative brief, and these inclusions can make all the difference.

When putting your creative brief together, make sure it includes:

  1. A thorough, but concise summary

Creative briefs are designed to give everyone working on a project a quick, clear and concise idea of who the brand is and what their goals are. A good rule of thumb is to describe the who and the why, but to not go into too much detail about the how.

A creative brief should contain only useful background information about a business, and single paragraphs that specify challenges, goals and target audiences.

A good test is if somebody without prior knowledge of a company can read through the creative brief and get caught up to speed. This includes information about brand guidelines, deliverables that will help agencies working on projects succeed -- all while not having to ask additional questions!

2, A focus on measurable results

Defining the results is one of the most important elements of a successful creative brief because it keeps team members working toward achieving the same goals.

However, goals can sometimes be interpreted differently. A goal such as “increase website visitors from last month” could easily be achieved if the website receives just a handful of new visitors, so fails to inspire and motivate team members.

To do so you will need to take into several factors, including speedy web hosting, SEO-friendly content writing and a technically sound website.

If this seems like too much for your to handle on your own, if you have the budget you may benefit from hiring an SEO agency to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Alternatively, the goal “increase website visitors to 55,000 in the next 30 days” drives motivation because there is an actionable target to work toward. This keeps everyone on track and focused on achieving a measurable outcome.

3. The brand’s tone of voice (TOV)

A brand will not benefit from a successful campaign unless it looks like, feels like, and sounds like the brand.

In other words: a brand’s tone of voice must be at the centre of any creative brief and should be rigidly adhered to at all times. If the campaign does not sound like the brand, it will fail to communicate with its target audience and therefore fail to bring measurable success.

For example, a children’s toy manufacturer might use softer, warmer and lighter language that is fun and playful in nature to enrapture young audiences and reassure parents.

On the other hand, a major international bank would use sophisticated language, speak in an authoritative manner and show thought leadership in order to cultivate a following of executives and assure its audience of its trustworthiness and expertise.

4. Input from various team members

Creative briefs are for everyone, which means everybody needs to have their say.

To collect team input, share the brief in-house or externally (depending on whether it is a project for a client) to make sure that deliverables, deadlines and goals meet everyone’s expectations. This prevents issues from occurring at key stages throughout the project.

The person organising the creative brief must also speak to stakeholders and ensure to establish the mission of the project, its challenges, goals and deliverables.

How do you structure a creative brief?

A creative brief sounds longer than it is.

When it’s completed, your creative brief will at most be 2 pages long and will likely contain more visuals than words - it’s just the immense amount of information required that makes these documents feel weightier than they are.

And that leads us nicely onto our next step: structuring your creative brief. A good creative brief usually looks like the following:

  1. A short brand statement

One or two sentences describing the brand: its purpose, its products or services, and which target audience it caters to. For example, “Huddle Creative are a branding agency who build meaningful brands for ambitious businesses of any shape or size”

2. A brief overview of the project’s background and objectives

The key here is brief. Make sure your overview is only two to three sentences long - basically a short paragraph. Include what the brand does (“builds meaningful brands through innovative branding and clever marketing”), and how the project will support the brand in achieving its objectives (“the project consists of developing a marketing campaign that will allow Huddle to connect with brand new business owners who are seeking to rebrand their business in line with business growth”.)

3. Key challenges that the project aims to overcome

Each project is set up with the idea of doing something: whether it’s increasing sales or brand awareness. (“The project will give greater visibility to Huddle and introduce the brand to the startup community”)

4. The project’s target audience

Give as accurate demographic information as possible here. Specify genders, ages, socioeconomic statuses, and other relevant information. (“Business owners, male and female, aged 25+”)

If you’re unsure about your exact target audience, user personas can help you to define the people you need to be targeting.

5. Brand competitors

List the names of any competitors within the brand’s space (we’re not allowed to fill this one in).

6. Key messaging

This could be as simple as a consumer benefit. The messaging of the project just needs to explain to consumers what the benefit of their engagement with the campaign is. (“Business owners will receive value and increased revenue from innovative brand design which reflects changing brand values and better connects with customers”)

7. Communication channels on which the campaign will run

Define which channels the campaign will be placed on, whether social, traditional, print, or affiliate.

How to write a creative brief

Finally, the good stuff. Now we know what a creative brief is, how it should be used, what it should contain and how it should be structured, it’s time to put all that together and get it down on paper.

Side note: If you sharing a creative brief with your team for input make sure you create it in a document that allows for easy collaboration, like a Google Doc, Miro board etc. Once it's ready you can potentially put it into a PDF version to be submitted, just make sure you have acess to an easy to use a PDF editor to make any changes after.

Here’s some general guidelines for how to write a creative brief:

1. Identify the why

The why of the project will guide the entire creative brief, and keep everyone aligned toward achieving the same goal.

Spend time with the client (or team members, if the project is internal) and truly define why the project is happening. Use questions like, “what problem will the project solve”, “what’s led up to it” and “what will change if the project is successful”.

These can all give greater insight into the vision of the project and ensure it stays true to its original purpose.

2. Gather background information

Once you’ve established the why, it’s time to gather the necessary background information needed to begin refining the brief.

Relevant information might include any research, background documentation, statistics, brand images or videos: anything that will help to build a comprehensive plan.

If you’re planning to use all this information, you may be able to speed this process up a bit and create a nice supporting document.

For example, if you are a fan of Airtable you can add all relevant data and information into a table and then add this into a PDF. Learn how to create a PDF like this.

3. Define measurable goals and deliverables

Just like earlier in our list of inclusions, this is where measurable goals need to be defined and specified.

Remember to keep them as detailed as possible, use numbers and make sure they are achievable objectives that team members can be motivated to work toward.

4. Identify your target audience

In this stage, you’ll need to go into as much detail as possible about the type of audience the project is targeting so that the campaign can then communicate with that audience.

Answer questions like:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What problem or pain point do they have?
  • What is their current relationship with the brand, product or service?
  • How will this campaign impact or affect them?

5. Assess the competition

The impact of the campaign on your competitors is just as important. Identify how it will help distinguish the brand from its competitors. Identify what the project may need to do to distinguish itself from competitors, and map out the competitive landscape to identify potential opportunities as the project develops.

6. Include brand references

The brand is at the heart of the project and it’s who everyone needs to keep in mind, so add in all the information possible to help build a wider picture.

Detail things like brand tone of voice, values, colours, typography and fonts, logo specifications and brand guidelines.

7. Structure your information

Use our quick structure above to organise your information into concise and logical sections.

Your goal is to present the most important information in a format that is comprehensive, yet concise, and always inspiring: it’s called a brief for a reason!

8. Get feedback

Briefs are usually devised by one person, but they still need team input. Send the brief to team members, stakeholders, and clients if necessary, to receive feedback before it moves to a finalised draft.

This is also the perfect opportunity to ensure that timeline, budget and objectives are aligned across the board before the project is undertaken.

9. Action the brief

Congratulations, you now have a shiny new creative brief. It’s time to share the document with as many people as necessary and undertake the project knowing that everyone has access to the information they need.

Still need a hand?

Reach out to us. If you need help writing a successful creative brief from scratch, we can write a concise, yet informative, creative brief that will guide your team to success.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can write successful creative briefs tailored specifically to fit your needs.