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The briefing process, our top 5 tips

Great creative comes from having a great brief. But the briefing process is so much more than just the creative brief.

It helps you uncover the root causes of the design problem the client wants to solve so you can create the best design solution possible. Spending this time to really understand what the client is asking for is truly worthwhile.

Of course, that’s common sense, right? But how many small agencies eager to impress their client, dive head first in to the creative.

At Narrative we’ve put a lot of time and effort into getting this right. So here are our top five tips on making the briefing process successful for you.

Get under the skin of the brief and pull it apart. Question everything!

Our top tip would be to slow the whole briefing process down and build in time to question the brief. Don’t take it at face value, pull it apart and question everything.

For example, when a brief says stretch the brand. Make sure your understanding of  ‘stretching the brand’ aligns with your client’s definition. Otherwise it can lead to all sorts of misconceptions. We know this from personal experience!

Generic terms in our industry have slightly different meanings for different clients, so make sure you’re on the same page. A face-to-face meeting before you start working on the creative is a great way to pre-empt niggles further down the line.

Capitalise on the feel good factor between you and the client at the beginning of the project. It helps cement your relationship. After all, successful work is a collaboration between client and agency. It’s also an opportunity for the client to revisit the brief they’ve spent time and effort getting right and see it from the agency’s point of view.

Ask the right questions and use active listening

The client knows their organisation and audience better than any agency ever will, so listen up. Listen carefully to what they say and what they don’t say.

As well as clarifying the brief, the meeting should be about uncovering as many insights as possible. The best nuggets of information aren’t even in the brief. You know when you get that tingly feeling? That realisation that you’ve uncovered a brilliant insight that’s going to help you solve the creative problem.

Understand the nuances and the final creative will delight the client.

Asking the right questions comes with practise so don’t shy away from those difficult questions. Absorb as much information as you can both from what’s being said and from your client’s body language.

Understand the bigger picture in the briefing process

Regardless of how small or big the project may appear, always try and get an understanding of where it fits within the department or organisation.

Understanding what part your project plays in the bigger picture will help you understand the organisations’ priorities. It provides context to the project and a deeper understanding of the organisation’s issues and problems.

Understanding the big picture gives you an insight into the relationship dynamics of your client. Is this an important project for the organisation? Does it signal a key strategic change of direction?

Our work on the Volunteer Induction for Parkinson’s UK focused on a key strategic objective. Parkinson’s UK wanted to equip their hugely committed volunteers with the skills and knowledge to help them carry out their roles in a professional manner, increase the profile of volunteers and encourage a younger demographic.

Your project may be a small part of a larger one, but understanding the bigger picture will ensure the creative is in line with all the different parts that make up the whole. It ensures your creative solution is anchored to the needs of the audience and in tune with the organisation.

Think bigger than the brief

This brings me nicely to my next point. If you’re in tune with the organisation’s strategic direction, chances are, you’ll be able to think beyond the parameters of the actual brief. It gives you the opportunity to offer an alternative solution that proves your ability to give your client something unexpected.

It certainly allows you to add value to the project and to your relationship with your client.

As part of a client retention strategy it can wok wonders in securing more creative projects with bigger budgets. By taking the time during the briefing process to ask those probing questions you’ve got all the vital information to nail the creative and more.

Look back on how effective your project has been

As a small agency how many of us are guilty of moving straight on to the next project driven by practical necessity. But it’s worth looking back and finding out how effective your project has been in achieving its objectives and targets.

It’s the perfect time for touching base with your clients. It allows you to gather stats and figures about the project, demonstrating you have a genuine interest in their business that goes beyond the creative.

And if you happen to take along a delicious chocolate cake, who knows you might get presented with another cracking brief.


Narrative Design