How to deliver an effective client brief

Guest post by Rachael Clark

In the past I have been unlucky to be on the receiving end of ridiculous briefs. Bad briefs ultimately lead to poor work as well as objectives not being realised… sometimes objectives were even missing in their entirety!

So if you are unsure how to brief your agency or other suppliers, today is your lucky day! I have provided the framework to help you create a strong, informative brief. Without such a brief everyone loses; too much time is wasted and a bad brief distracts from any on-going value added activities. Your agency may become frustrated and this could have a derogatory impact on tasks like optimisation and behaviours such as proactive collaboration.

More importantly, if you provide a poor brief you are not being respectful of other people’s time. 

I hope these recommendations will help both agencies and clients so I’ll open with a critical point…  

Introduce the Opportunity

1.     Value Proposition and Unique Selling Points (USPs)

If your agency can’t understand your value proposition or USPs it is extremely unlikely that your target user ever will! Communicating these to your agency provides a strong understanding of the offering. If you don’t have all these elements initially, provide as much information as you can:

·       Headline the key wording that will grab an end user’s attention.

·       “Elevator Pitch”: 2-3 sentences succinctly summarising the offering.

·       Key benefits or features.

·       What differentiates you from your competitors?

·       Supporting images/creative.

·       What are your brand pillars?

·       Where relevant a SWOT analysis could be useful.

2.     Competitors

·       Define your key competitors, if necessary provide geo-locational and cultural nuances.

·       If relevant, acknowledge what they are doing and where you want to emulate/avoid that type of activity

3.     Audience

·       Give as much information about who you are trying to target:

o   Geo-location

o   Language

o   Age

o   Gender

o   Income profile

o   Life Stage

·       If you have a number of target audiences explain who they are and any requirements you have for communicating with them.

·       If you need help learning about your audience, include this in your brief.

What do you want to achieve and how are you measuring it?

4.     Business, Marketing & Communications Objectives

You should never commission any work without being absolutely clear on the objectives and how they will be measured.

·       What analytics package(s) do you use or will you be using?

·       Clearly identify individual objectives.

·       Be mindful not to request conflicting objectives.

5.     What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for this activity?

This is one of the biggest downfalls of briefs I have seen. Too often a brief will say ‘awareness’ and then questions come back along the lines of “why aren’t we seeing many clicks to site?” This is a big waste of time for all involved so being specific about what you want media to deliver is vital.

·       Specify the KPIs and their intended use e.g. impressions as a branding metric, the agency may feed back more suitable KPIs for your intended requirements.

·       Don’t request conflicting KPIs

·       Prioritise KPIs e.g. where we don’t drive sales we will track mailing list subscriptions as an indicator of success.

6.    Detailed Requirements

This allows agencies to highlight opportunities you may not have considered.

·       Do you have a specific media in mind? If so why?

·       How will objectives be measured according to media source?

o   What are the specific KPIs e.g. impressions for branding.

·       Are you running in-house activity e.g. email marketing to compliment this campaign?

·       What is the timeline? Specify required start and end dates, as well as dates of strategic importance e.g. Black Friday.


7.     Historical Campaigns

·       What have you done in the past and what have you learned from it?

8.     Other Channels

·       What medias will be running alongside the proposed activity and why?

·       What activity is being delivered internally, and what is being delivered by other providers?

·       It is really useful to provide content, marketing and promotional activity calendars if you have them.

9.    Acknowledge Potential Constraints

If you are going through a competitive pitch it is going to get pretty boring for you to have all the agencies come back and say you haven’t defined your brand properly or that you don’t have enough budget to target twelve countries in six languages...

·       If you anticipate such feedback try to explain the context so that the agency can respond accordingly.

The Agency’s Response

10.  Response to Brief

Receiving consistent responses is likely to help you speed up the shortlisting process. Be clear on:

·       Format: should this be a high level via email or a detailed presentation?

·       Who is it for? E.g. if the response is going to be reviewed by the board rather than a digital team it will need to be worded appropriately.

·       When is it needed? Allow a fair amount of time; a good response takes time!

·       Is this part of a process; are there additional requirements e.g. face to face presentation/media auditing?

11.  Budget

·    Be clear on what the budget is & importantly anything that could affect budget as this could impact media buys (e.g. minimum spend requirements).


A brief should be no more than two pages, any longer indicates a lack of clarity of your requirements.

Please spell check your brief, nothing is more demoralising than a demanding brief from someone who hasn’t done this!

Finally ask a few people internally to read your brief to check you have understood and communicated it clearly.


If you would like help with your Digital Marketing Strategy please get in touch!