What to Look for in a Creative Brief

December 05, 2018

If you’re a marketing lead at a college or university, your higher education marketing agency has no doubt handed you (or will hand you at some point) a creative brief for your review and approval.

In short, a creative brief—typically a one- or two-page document developed by an account lead in consultation with someone on your team—serves as the blueprint or guide for any project you’re charging your agency to complete. That could mean a traditional media campaign for your online programs, a welcome kit for your accepted students, and so on—so it’s extremely important that, as a client, you know what to look for when a creative brief is shared with you before your agency’s team digs in.

Here are a few pointers.

1. Make sure the creative brief covers all the basics. 

Every good creative brief starts with a thorough overview (of the assignment and campaign background), then clearly notes the following information:

  • Goals and objectives
  • Campaign launch timing
  • Budget parameters
  • Target audiences
  • Tone/manner
  • Primary messaging
  • List of deliverables
  • Calls-to-action
  • Traffic drivers/communication channels
  • You may also want your agency to know of any sacred cows—tagline, rankings, logos, or testimonials, for example—that are non-negotiables and must be included within the deliverables at hand.

Together, these critical bits of information set the expectation for the entire project, so we want to make sure that we get them right the first time.

2. Take note of the tone and language.

Check to ensure that the tone and language described in the brief align with what your institution is already pushing out to that particular audience; we never want to mix messages or create brand confusion when producing new work. The creative brief should outline not only the brass tactics but also the emotional element of the project.

What needs to be communicated, and what do you want your audience to do when they see the work? How do you want them to feel, and why? And of course, how does it fit into what they’ve already received or are about to receive?

3. Review the proposed strategy.

No matter the size of the project, you’re paying considerable amounts of money to have your agency produce something that your internal team doesn’t have the capacity for right now. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t understand the strategy behind it. Review the brief carefully, especially the list of deliverables, and think about if the solutions the agency is proposing makes sense given the challenge you’re facing or the situation you’re addressing. If it doesn’t piece together for you, speak up! Your agency has (or should have) a point of view, research-driven reasons for their proposed strategy, and familiarity with your competition. Talk to your account lead about any questions or concerns you have, and work with them until you’re all on the same page.

Above all, if your agency doesn’t have it in their process to share the briefs with you for approval, then make that a rule THIS VERY MINUTE. Before any work starts, you’ll all be in agreement on everything from timing to expectations, which only makes the process smoother and more rewarding in the end.

Want to talk more about creative briefs? Reach out anytime! Want to just keep reading helpful information? Check out this other blog post, 5 Essential Landing Page Tips For Your College or University.


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