Better Briefs

Briefs are a critical link between strategy and execution. They also stink way too often. What can marketing leaders do to up their briefing game? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • This handy new guidebook—created by the IPA with help from Mark Ritson and the team at BetterBriefs—bills itself as “a practical tool to help marketers write better briefs for agencies”.
  • It’s free to download (no gates or forms) and you should think about giving it a read. And sharing it with your team.
  • Briefs are a good news / bad news thing. The bad news is that we marketers are generally not good at writing them. Or, more accurately, we think we’re amazing at it—but our agencies strongly disagree.
  • The upshot here is waste. And lots of it. Earlier research from BetterBriefs found that more than a third of marketing budgets are wasted as a result of bad briefs. Yikes.
  • The good news—remember we said there would be good news?—is that it’s actually not very hard to get good at this. That’s where this guidebook comes in. Once again—it’s really worth downloading and sharing.
  • So how did things get this bad? The problem is bigger than the briefs themselves. Because briefs force us to put pen to paper, they have a way of magnifying bigger issues—within our team, our organization and even in our profession at large.
  • These issues are myriad. Messy processes. Clunky collaboration. Heavy workloads. Lack of training. Risk aversion. A penchant for buzzwords. We’re only human, after all. 😉
  • According to Ritson, the most common (and nefarious) issue here is a lack of clear strategy: “All the briefing expertise in the world will not help you if your core strategy is not ready for tactical execution; or, as is often the case, simply does not exist.”
  • There is, once again, some good news mixed in with the bad here. According to Ritson, all you need to do to achieve strategic clarity is answer three questions. Concisely and decisively.
  • If this feels too simplistic, here’s Ritson’s rebuttal: “Simply answering the three questions above with clarity and focus will put you in the top 10% of marketers. The bar is really that low.”
  • (He wouldn’t be so beloved if he didn’t twist the knife there at the end, would he? 😀)
  • Once your strategy is in place, it really is just a matter of learning and applying best practices. Consistently.
  • With that in mind, let’s close with a few handy tips from the guidebook.
  • We like this one a lot: “There’s no order. A brief is not a box-ticking exercise. Being linear about how you fill out a template (i.e. going from top to bottom) is often not the best way to capture and structure the information.”
  • This one is a gem, too: “Keep the brief brief. A good brief requires reductive thinking. It should be succinct. It should contain everything you need and nothing you don’t.”
  • If you want to take it a step further, just holler. We’d be happy to help you tighten things up before substandard briefs siphon away too much of your hard-won budget.
Issue #147
Jul 17, 2022

Further Reading