A field of dandelions.

The Why and How of a Creative Brief

We spend a lot of time in the weeds.

That’s one of the things about working on such a small team. Each person knows with excruciating detail the ins and outs of our product and process.

Which isn’t always a bad thing — until it is.

Until we have to take a step back to figure out our next move for lead-gen, but can’t stop focusing on the specs of the admin onboarding UX.

Until we have to determine whether the targeting for that marketing campaign was right, but keep coming up with use cases for every audience.

Until we have to give a 15-minute pitch to a potential new client, but are feeling overwhelmed trying to determine which details to share in that precious little time (because every detail feels important).

Not to mention that we each still bring our own internalized ideas and biases to those details — often with the assumption that our teammates think/feel the same way. The good news is that, when those things happen, we’re able to turn back to our creative brief to make sure we’re on the right track.

A creative brief is a document that strategically outlines the direction of a project. It’s loaded with prompts that force your team to think about every angle of your work, and then to develop succinct descriptions for each prompt. It covers everything from objective to audience, it ensures that everyone buys into the same vision, and it allows your team to map a path forward.

Once we developed the concept for our software, we dove immediately into writing a CB, and we’ve come back to it time and time again. For any creative project, we recommend you do the same. Here are the pieces we use to put together a strong creative brief:


Name your product, and outline your rough launch timing.


Explain what your product/service is in just a couple of sentences.


Describe the goal of this particular project in one (short) paragraph.


Outline any potential barriers to success, both internal & external (i.e. lack of awareness, misperception, market competition, etc.).

Target Audience(s)

In general terms, describe for whom you are you building this product/service.

Buyer Persona(s)

Okay, so this is arguably the most important part of your creative brief. Look at that target audience, and now think about an actual buyer. Give him/her a name. Who is going to buy your product/service, and why are they going to buy it? What is their life like, and how will your product/service improve it? Try writing from this buyer’s first-person perspective, and do this for two or three personas.

Action Insight

Prepare a concise statement outlining the drivers for, and barriers to, action, again in the voice of a buyer.

Ideal User Flow

Describe what an ideal user experience looks like, step by step, and what content helps to guide that experience.

I’m not going to lie — writing a creative brief isn’t easy; it will take revisions and time and more revisions and more time. But when your team needs an anchor point when planning your next steps, the creative brief can (and should) be that pillar you can all agree on and understand.

A teammate sort post-it notes during a metrics prioritization workshop.

Conducting a Kick-Ass Metric Prioritization Workshop

While we love conducting a great content brainstorm or launching a great new campaign, one of my favorite client exercises is a metric prioritization workshop. We facilitate these as a means to help brands decide what to care about when it comes to their data, and (perhaps more importantly) what to ignore.

Step 1: Map high-level marketing and sales objectives.

Before we dig into the detail, we start by asking our client to map their goals for marketing as a whole. What does marketing really do for their organization? How does that map to what they’d like to do?

This can include:

  • Prioritizing objectives (increased sales revenue vs. brand activity vs. audience growth).
  • Ranking target audiences.
  • Either/or scenarios. For example, would we rather have some read blog content or share the content.

Step 2: Map all that is measurable.

In this phase, we typically stick to a bunch of post-its and we begin by just creating one for every potential metric that is conceivably measurable. Then we bucket those into three key types:


All metrics that may impact the potential of the brand’s audience — those who have chosen to receive some type of communication from the band. For example:

  • Email subscribers
  • Returning website visitors
  • Social media followers


All metrics that map the audience (paid and organic) interactions with digital brand activity.  For example:

  • Facebook engagement rate
  • On page content consumption
  • Shares, comments, likes
  • Email opens


All metrics that are tied to the bottom line. For example:

  • Website conversions
  • Form fills (B2B)
  • Website revenue

It’s likely that you’ll have some debate about which metrics belong where, but at this point you will probably notice that you have more than you expected. This is where we add in two more categories:


Metrics that you want to intentionally ignore, for now at least. What things can we put off until a later date? To start, this is where you can bucket all metrics that require increased tracking sophistication that’s not yet in place.


Metrics that you do not want to measure, either because they are imperfect, or because they don’t matter all that much to your brand.

Step 3: Rank, re-rank.

Now that you’ve got your initial list of metrics for each category, it’s time to start prioritizing.

  • Start by looking for the one metric you couldn’t live without. Move it to the top.
  • Now find one you don’t think is all that relevant. Move it to the bottom.
  • Repeat.

Along the way, you’ll likely find a number of metrics that are duplicatory. Use that as an opportunity to cull the list a bit by moving some into the “never” bucket. The end goal is to drastically reduce the number of metrics you’re going to value, and thus report on. We aim to reduce each category to 5-10 key metrics. Fewer is almost always better.

Step 4: Create a reporting plan.

Once you’ve determined what to report on, it is key to spend an equal amount of time creating a plan for how you’ll get this information, when it is most valuable, and who will use it.

  • Start by outlining your audiences (leadership vs. tacticians).
  • Now outline when the data would be most valuable to each (before the marketing all-hands, prior to the executive team retreat).
  • Then look to automate. This can be done on platform, or using a tool or tools (cough, MeetBrief).


Generating demand through LinkedIn Lead Gen

Maybe you already get it. You’re not collecting leads because your form sucks. And now, you’re ready to change that, armed with antidotes to asking for too much, having a form not worth filling out, and creating a form that isn’t user-friendly.

One of our favorite ways to put these recommendations into action is through LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms. #NotAnAd… we just like this solution because it easily satisfies the guidance we frequently give to clients when they’re looking to do lead generation.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1:

As Campaign Manager for your LinkedIn Company Page, you can pay to create Sponsored Content within LinkedIn that displays as an ad in the news feed of users you target. Just like with traditional LinkedIn ads, you can determine who sees your lead gen ads by targeting users based on parameters like location, company name, company size, job title, job seniority, etc. The content basically looks like any update — with an image and copy — that you as a company or a user would share, but is only shared with the ideal users you’re hoping to get your message in front of.

Then LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms take it a couple steps further by including a call-to-action button on the ad that attaches to a custom and pre-filled form that LinkedIn helps you design. CTA options include:

  • Sign Up
  • Apply Now
  • Download
  • Get Quote
  • Learn More
  • Subscribe
  • Register

Step 2:

When a user clicks on the call-to-action button, he or she is then directed to a Lead Gen Form that automatically populates the fields you’ve selected/requested with information from the user’s LinkedIn profile, such as name, email address, company, etc. It doesn’t send them to an external page; users stay in-platform, using personal profile and contact information they’ve already authorized when they signed into LinkedIn. And the form is mobile-friendly/mobile-optimized, making it easier for them to fill in any remaining data if they’re on their phones or tablets.

Each of these characteristics seems to help eliminate some of the usual friction in filling out and submitting a form (and thereby leads to more form completions!).

Depending on the form fields, some info may have to be manually entered, so we suggest not going overboard with the number of fields you ask users to complete. In fact, LinkedIn acts as its own form police by limiting you to seven fields per form (though we still think that’s too many!). After all, who wants to type lots of information, especially on a tiny touch screen?

Step 3:

Once users do submit the form, they’ll see a “thank you” page where you can share next steps and connect them to the destination of your choice — your website, a webinar, a downloadable eBook, whatever.

What’s next?

LinkedIn stores your leads in Campaign Manager for easy download in real-time or, alternatively, can be integrated with your company’s marketing automation or CRM tool. Simultaneously, you can also track campaign performance across demographics and data that includes impressions, clicks, cost per lead, lead form fill rate, etc.

Other resources we dig:

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions: Lead Gen Forms

A presenter stands in a conference room with a handful of attendees.

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide | after

Missed the first two parts of our three-step social media guide for events? Learn what to do and what to consider before and during an event.


Things to do:

  • Thank the event host — or if that’s you, thank (and tag) attendees, partners and sponsors — in social posts.
  • Share a few photos that best summarize the event, while still using any relevant hashtags.
  • Share relevant content as a call-back to the event or an #ICYMI. This could include blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, videos or case studies tied to the theme, as well as recordings of presentations given during the event.
  • If this a recurring event that you’ll be hosting or participating in again, build on the momentum and excitement from the event that just wrapped, and encourage people to attend the next iteration.

You may have missed:

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide – before

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide – during


Other resources we like:

An iPhone photographer frames is subject on the screen.

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide | during

Missed the first part of our three-step social media guide for events? Learn what to do and what to consider before an event.


Things to do:

  • Arrive early and take pre-event photos. This could include the location or setting, a registration or check-in desk, or your booth (with your organization’s logo showing).
  • Try shooting photos from different angles, and experiment with flash. Take a few test photos to find out what works best in each specific setting.
  • Take candid photos, rather than posed pictures, and get as close to the action as possible without interfering. If there’s a presentation, position yourself near the stage to take photos of the speaker, rather than the back of listeners’ heads.
  • Frame your photos. Groups of three to five people in landscape format work well. And mix the images up with full body, medium shots and headshots.
  • Identify the subjects and subject matter of your photos. Double-check spelling, and if the pictured people or organizations have social media accounts (Twitter handles, for example), tag those relevant individuals, partners, clients, etc.
  • Take a lot of photos! They don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to post every single one. The more photos you take, the more likely you’ll find some good images to help tell your event and company’s story.
  • Post photos directly to your personal or brand accounts, and/or share photos, live event information and speaker quotes via WhatsApp with those doing the social posting.
  • Record short behind-the-scenes videos for posting to social media. For example, a 30-second clip of an executive interview could be shared without the need for fancy editing software to make it polished.
  • If using Facebook, post and “check-in” to the exact location or specific event. If tweeting, you can also check in by selecting the location of your tweet.
  • Use hashtags in your social posts, but don’t go overboard.
    • Facebook: One or two hashtags per post
    • Twitter: Three or fewer hashtags per tweet
    • LinkedIn: No more than five hashtags per update
  • Continue to alert people of activities happening as part of the main event or conference. Share reminders the day before, day of and 15 minutes to an hour before it kicks off as a last-minute call-to-action.

You may have missed:

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide – before

Up next:

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide – after


Other resources we like:

Hands taking notes in a notebook, surrounded by other books, a coffee, a laptop, photos, and eyeglasses.

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide | before

Let us set the stage. Your company is hosting/sponsoring/attending an event or conference, and you’re preparing email blasts, signs, flyers, booklets, speaker bios, giveaways, meals, booth design, A/V setup, accommodations, scheduling… Ready? Not quite. If you aren’t including social media in your event strategy, you might as well forget about the rest.

It might sound extreme, but if you aren’t using social media to drive awareness and attendance, the other efforts you’re making are far less effective than they could be. [Read: you’re wasting resources and money.] Now that we’ve got your attention, we’ve got you covered with our three-part checklist, which tells you exactly what to do and what to consider before, during and after an event.


Questions to ask:

  • Is your organization hosting, sponsoring, or simply attending?
  • Is there a link to an event information or registration page?
  • Will your organization have a booth? If so:
    • What are the dates and times that your booth will be staffed?
    • Where is the booth located? What is the booth number?
    • Will you be hosting any activities, presentations or giveaways at your booth?
  • Are there any speakers, presenters or panel participants from your organization? If so:
    • Do you have their high-resolution headshots?
    • What is the title or topic of their presentation?
    • What is the date, time and location of the presentation?
  • Are there any partner relationships you want to highlight through the event? If so:
    • What are their social media account handles/names?
  • What is the most essential element of your company’s involvement with the event?
  • Who will be posting to your brand’s pages during the event?

Things to do:

  • Create shareable social images with:
    • The event name and booth details
    • Speaker headshots and presentation details
  • In advance of the event, start teasing out your company’s involvement through social media (including links, booth, presentation and speaker details).
  • If the person (or people) posting to your brand’s pages will not be on site during the event, create a WhatsApp group for those on the ground to quickly and easily share photos and information from their phones with your social team back in the office.

Up next:

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide – during

Amplifying your presence at any event with social media: a three-step guide – after


Other resources we like:

Three hands working on a laptop.

Don’t forget to spelchek: A readability checklist for your content

We get it — you’ve spent a lot of time putting together your work, and you can’t wait to get it out in the world. Avoid potential missteps and check off the items below before you click “publish” with this handy downloadable .pdf!

Content Readability Checklist


An empty conference room.

Six questions to ask before you schedule that meeting

Meetings are the worst, am I right?

And open slots in our schedules become increasingly rare by the day. But the first step toward freeing up your own schedule is leading by example. Take the lead and quit scheduling meetings that don’t fit the below parameters.

Encourage your team to schedule fewer meetings, invite fewer people, and stick to video conferencing by default.

Before you schedule your next meeting, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have clearly defined goals for the meeting? (If not, come up with a plan before you schedule time with others.)
  2. Is this conversation necessary to progress work forward? In other words, does it need to happen in real-time? (If not, keep working until the next check-in.)
  3. To meet your goals, does there need to be a back-and-forth exchange? Are you making a decision, sharing information, or brainstorming? (If not, maybe you just really need some questions answered.)
  4. Must it be a verbal conversation? (If not, try email.)
  5. Does it require being face-to-face? (if not, try a quick conference call.)
  6. Will there be sandwiches?

If you’ve answered “yes” to all of the above, then sure, schedule that meeting.

(But you should probably get MeetBrief first.)


Other resources we dig:

Fast Company: Ask these questions before scheduling your next meeting

An iPad featuring a form sits on a desk, surrounding by accessories.

You’re not collecting leads because your form sucks

One of the most common questions we get is “how do we drive more leads?” (demand/sales, whatever). Brands spend months and thousands of dollars creating downloads, webinars,  and sales to drive new leads. But we find much less thought is put into the biggest point of friction: the actual form.

Here are three of the biggest reasons a form will fail to convert:

1. You are asking for too much.

  • Avoid optional fields. Stick with the fields you need (and only the fields you need) in order to simply meet your goal.
  • Limit required fields. Visitors can (and will) make up information for fields that are required and may be uncomfortable filling out. Or worse, just leave.
  • Do not ask for billing information (especially for a free trial) or equally invasive information.
  • Do not be too picky about the format of the submitted content (for example, May 22, 2018 is the same as 05/22/18 or 5.22.18, etc.).

2. Your form is not worth filling out.

  • Is there a clear value proposition/motivating reason for user to fill out the form?
  • Add a thank-you page or pop-up message upon completion of the form.
  • Reassure users that you will not spam them or disclose their personal information.
  • Make your call to action text clear when they send you their info (not just a submit button, but something like “sign me up”, “download”, “start”, “register”).

Studies show that using SUBMIT reduces conversion by 3% (Source: Unbounce).

3. Your form is not user-friendly

  • Add real-time validation to the form. If there is an error in a form field, have the form alert the user as they’re filling it out, not after they’ve hit the ‘submit’ button.
  • Make it mobile-friendly. For example, leave enough room between fields so that someone using a touchscreen can easily select one field without accidentally activating another.
  • Use social media lead forms that pre-populate info when a user is logged into the platform.


Other resources we dig:

Post-it notes on a wall, each with a note.

Six tips for running a kickass content brainstorm

Content marketing is easy to say. Hard to do. Even harder to do well. Having run hundreds of content brainstorms over the years for ourselves and our clients, we’ve developed a formula to deliver the best results most consistently:

1. Establish guide rails

It’s important that you keep everyone’s creative energy focused in the right direction. We do that by establishing guide rails (ok, rules) before each brainstorm. e.g. Only ideas that can be executed by X deadline, Content for corporate CMOs, etc.

2. Turn off the machines

We find our sessions work best using a whiteboard and some big post-its. No laptop needed.

3. Quantity over quality.

In a brainstorm, more is better. Set a goal for X number of ideas and don’t stop until you’ve hit it. That keeps the brainstorm from getting too focused on any singular idea.

4. In your back pocket

It’s inevitable that you’ll hit a creativity wall along the way. Have a few ideas to keep things moving along when the block arises. A few we use:

  • A Thesaurus search on words that are being used in lots of the ideas
  • Envision a specific persona, e.g. What ideas would work great for Carl in IT?
  • Build off the opposite of good ideas. e.g. Turn 10 great content brainstorm tips into 10 mistakes made during content brainstorms.

5. Build on successful ideas

Have a list of your team’s best content from the last year handy. Prompt for any common traits of those ideas that have resonated with your audience previously.

6. Yes, and…

Encourage team members to build off of each others’ ideas, rather than downplaying their value. There are no bad ideas.


Links we like: