Sector Sync: Creating the Perfect Brief


In the first of a series of event bringing together the creative and professional sectors, Sector Sync took a look at what the ideal creative brief looks like and how businesses in the creative and professional sector can work more effectively together.

Guests joined a panel discussion with Kathy Szeputi, Marketing Manager at Hillyer McKeown, Film and Immersive Content Specialist, Owen Cotterell and James Kirk, Strategy from Kaleidoscope. A lively and open discussion revealed a consistent problem in communication throughout working relationships between creative and professional service businesses.

During the course of the event one of our panelists, who had been creating the brief to design a corporate magazine, admitted she’d be scrapping the work she’d already done as she hadn’t been asking the right questions.

Different languages, different cultures

Quite simply our sectors speak different languages and our ways of operating and interacting can be wildly different.

Our Sector Sync discussion revealed the person on the side of the commissioning business usually isn’t a creative or from a technology background. So, when putting out tenders for creative work - from branding projects to websites and other technology services - they often don’t know what is feasible or they’re not able to articulate creativity in a way the receiver of the brief will understand. Many don’t even know what they want in the first place, which puts everyone at a non-starter.

It is clear that vague or uninformed briefs lead to miscommunication or misunderstanding of requirements, leaving those responsible for commissioning work unsatisfied with results and creatives frustrated by the lack of understanding of the services they deliver, and the skills and expertise they provide.

So how can we overcome this?

10 ways to create the perfect brief

1. Have conversations before the brief is written

Building relationships before a brief is put out will allow you to see if the chemistry is right with particular agencies, or if the organisational fit is right. Early conversations with companies with different specialties can also help shape the style and scope of your brief.

2. Invest time in the brief

A really great brief can’t be bashed out in an afternoon and it requires the input of stakeholders from across the business. Time is required to consider what business objectives you want to achieve from the work being commissioned and to understand what it is that the organisation really wants, before it starts speaking to creative businesses

3. Get third party input

As suggested by Matthew Giles from MgMaStudio, sometimes a third party is required to bridge briefing problems. If you don’t have the confidences, technical understanding or time to invest in creating your brief, maybe consider hiring another digital or agency to write the brief? They can provide guidance on the right agencies for the job, what is feasible and also interpret your creative ideas, helping you to form a more specific and detailed document. The upfront investment will be much smaller than detailing with expensive and time-consuming issues and errors caused by misunderstood or misdirected briefs.


4. Research the options

Most of the professional businesses at our event admitted to selecting creative partners through traditional networking or just putting the brief on their website and hoping that the best fit would be magically drawn to it. Sometimes, though, the right fit isn’t in your immediate network. Research agencies that have delivered similar work to what you are looking for and compare their ways of working and specialisms.

5. Be specific about how you want to receive the response

If you’ve already researched the companies you’ve shared the brief with – tell them. That way you won’t end up reading 20 pages of company and team background. It’s ok to define page or word count, format you want the document and even the questions you want answered. Creatives need boundaries!

6. Get the level of detail right

As mentioned, vague briefs cause confusion and can raise expectations that won’t be met. The more investment into the brief at the start, the better the response and the end result will be. By being specific in your requirements, creative agencies can respond more accurately and realistically to briefs. It also allows agencies to decline briefs that they may not have capacity for, rather than discovering requirements that can’t be delivered halfway through a working relationship.

7. Adapt your language

On the other hand, creatives – particularly those working with technology - should be mindful not going into too much technical details. Instead they should find ways to clearly communicate ideas, processes and issues in a more accessible manner and spend time answering any questions.


8. Share your budget

This isn’t a tactic to get hold of every penny available, it allows creative businesses to tell you what they can deliver for that budget. If there are elements suggested in the response that you don’t require, you can pare them back et voila the cost may come down. The possibilities of tech and creativity are boundless, so no budget (combined with a vague brief) will cause lots of agencies, to offer you a Walt Disney experience that you can’t afford. You’ll likely end up disappointed when the cost is revealed, and it will have been a waste of valuable time for everyone involved.

9. Keep communicating

The communication issue seems to continue even after creative agencies are appointed – and often it’s a failing in the side of creative businesses as they get ‘stuck in’ to the work, which is often not particularly visible to the client until nearer the end of the process. Being clear on project limitations, whether due to budget, resource or technology, from the start is a must. Regular updates – over the phone and in person – rather than hiding behind emails can massively improve working relationships. It’s good to talk, guys!

10. Stop scope- and feature-creeping

We doubt any lawyer or accountant has ever been asked to “just squeeze in” one more case or Tax Return outside of what was agreed with a client. In fact, the idea seems completely ludicrous.

The same is true of ‘scope creeping’ and ‘feature creeping’ with creative businesses. What appears as a button or pop up on your website is, to us, the equivalent to your legal letter or tax return form. Constant pushing for more outside the scope of an agreed creative brief will just devalue your relationship with the provider and may even cause them to walk away. It’s important to make sure we have equal respect for the level of skill and professionalism on both sides of the relationship, or everything will break down.

Have we missed anything?

Do you think we’ve missed anything? We’d love to hear about your experiences with brilliant or terrible briefs. How can our two sectors work better together?

Sector Sync will be back on June 7th at the Santander Business Incubator, St Paul Square, Liverpool 8am - 10am in partnership with Professional Liverpool and Creative Kitchen.

Click here to book your ticket!