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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Create a brief that delivers

Eight important steps to ensure you produce a brief for your agency that contains all the important elements. Plus, your Instant Expert quick checklist to keep you on track.

So, you've picked your ideal agency partner and all the initial meetings have gone really well. So now how do you ensure that they understand what you want and deliver it on time, every time? Simple: provide a written brief and take your agency through a strong briefing process. It sounds obvious, yet a study by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) shows that only 42 per cent of agencies actually get a written and verbal brief.   

What are the exact elements of a good brief? It depends who you ask. But the fundamentals remain consistent. The briefing process (written and verbal) should enable the agency to understand your objective better, as well as the issues that stand in the way. By sharing the information and insights you have at your disposal, you give the agency the tools to prepare a creative platform and ongoing solutions. 

1. WHAT'S THE OBJECTIVE?

What is the role of the material/activity you are briefing? Be specific – the 'specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bounded' (SMART) mnemonic is a good philosophy to work to. The strongest briefs always focus on a single communication objective and ensure that the same focus runs through the whole brief. Ask yourself, does the main message address the insight, and does the reason to believe support the main message? 

What about the 'must-haves'? Is anything mandatory (eg, logos, corporate colours) and what are the practicalities (eg, deadlines, budgets and the approval process)?

2. CONVEY THE MARKETING CHALLENGE

What issue is standing in our way? What positives can we build upon? Be specific and be open, because as the client this is your area of expertise. The only way you can improve their knowledge and understanding is to share yours. The better you do this, the better the relationship will be. Better relationships make for better results.

3. DEFINE WHO YOU'RE TARGETING

Consider what binds the target audience that this piece will be used with together – not just in terms of speciality or skills but in terms of their needs and emotive drivers. The more vivid the description the easier it is to create an effective brand dialogue. 

4. SHARE POWERFUL INSIGHTS

What single piece of insight can provide us the 'nugget of knowledge' to give the agency a real inside track? Customer research should help identify this and (if considered a true partner), the communications agency should be privy to all that research. Again, the better their knowledge, the better the results.

5. WHAT SHIFT IN BELIEF ARE YOU AFTER?

As a result of seeing this piece of communication, what can we realistically expect the target audience to think, feel and do? We know our 'point A' – where our customer currently is. This defines our 'point B' – where we want them to be. This goal should be achievable and in the context of the overall corporate marketing plan. Again, ensure there is clarity, achievability and accountability. 

6. OUTLINE THE BLANK MESSAGE

The message should include: 

  • A proposition – what is the one, emotive, big brand promise we need our audience to buy in to? Why us rather than the competition?
  • Reasons to believe – the facts of the brand. What are the most convincing rational messages we must help them remember? Make sure you pick your most important messages – a list of 20 isn't going to help with clarity.

7. BRING YOU BRIEF TO LIFE

Now consider how you will communicate this to those who will make the brief live. It's always sensible to augment any written document with a conversation about the elements and allow your agency colleagues to challenge. Be immaginative, brave and open in the briefing process to ensure clarity, motivation and engagement on behalf of your agency. You need these people to go away excited and enthusiastic, with ideas firing off in their heads. 

8. ENJOY THE JOURNEY

This is possibly the most important bit, ie, the part of the process where all the hard work and research, understanding and heartache gets turned into something challenging and beautiful which drives the brand forward. As the ice-cream makers Ben & Jerry once said, “If it ain't fun, why do it?”

QUICK CHECKLIST 

The process

Yes

1. Is the brief smart?


2. Have we clearly identified the issues and the positives?


3. Are the emotional drivers and needs of the audience clearly defined?


4. Has that essential 'nugget of knowledge' been identified?


5. Is the goal clear, achievable and accountable?


6. Is there a strong, convincing brand message?


7. Does the brief create true enthusiasm?



Article by
Phil Bartlett and Tim Warren

general manager at Torre Lazur McCann London and managing director at Triducive. Before which they worked together as agency and client partners, respectively. They can be reached at phil.bartlett@mccann.com, +44 (0)20 3350 0243 and tim.warren@triducive.co.uk

19th September 2011

From: Marketing

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