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:

Logistics

Name your product, and outline your rough launch timing.

Overview

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

Objective

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

Challenge

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.

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

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: