The importance of being a Brief 

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Brief. Brief. Brief. Everybody talks about it, but nobody knows how to write it down. If everybody is supposed to know what a brief is, why does no one know how to deliver it? No matter what your job is, when you have to accomplish a task for your customer, you will probably have to deal with a brief.   

And if you are wondering the reason why I felt the need to write an article about briefs, the answer is simple: I have not found any satisfying and useful description of it so far.  

My experience has taught me three lessons.  

The first one is that less is not always more, when it comes to brief. The second one is that the best creative work is the one that had a good enough brief to make you gain and not waste time. 

Simply put, dealing with a good brief means having half of the work done.  

Last but not least: the worst case scenario is when you have to rework what you have already done several times.   

So next time when your team member tells you “Hey, our customer requested  a funny and viral video. We must produce it as soon as possible”, you will know that it is not a brief. It is a complete non-sense. 


What is a brief? 

A brief is the most powerful project management tool, the result of a thoughtful project investigation. It is not just a matter of collecting information by filling a form, but instead the art of making relevant a conversation with your customer. As a consequence, a brief is not really brief. 

It implies two key moments: 

  1. Q&A  
  1. Analysis & Synthesis  

So let’s imagine you receive this request: “our customer would like us to produce a corporate video-interview, aiming at engaging international talents, and reaching them online”. This is a good premise to create an effective brief.  

The first thing to do is Q&A: pick up the phone, dial your customer, say “hello” and then ask for more information, in order to understand better their idea. These questions might be useful: 

  • what should the message be, in one sentence 
  • what is the target audience 
  • who can influence the target audience
  • what feelings should be triggered 
  • where should we find the target-audiences  
  • what values should be included and what topics should be avoided 

Now you can move on to analysis: once you registered all these information, they have to be organized in order to be easily read and understood. No space has to be left for misunderstandings. In case there are some left, repeat the Q&A phase and try to find the answers quickly.  


Who needs a brief? 

Everyone who has the ownership of a project (an account manager or a project manager e.g.) and is responsible for its realization. Everyone who is in charge of a project needs to read a brief.


Why you need a brief? 

You do not only need a brief, but you need an accurate one. The more accurate a brief is, the less money and time you will waste.  

As a matter of fact, a brief already gives you inputs and the directions in terms of objectives and expectations that the output should reflect. 


When do you need a brief? 

Now. You need a brief now. A brief is the very first step you have to take in to consideration in order to understand how your project will be shaped.  

When you have to respect the deadline terms and manage a budget. 


The Brief, briefly.  

The client 

Who are they? What are their beliefs? How their customers perceive them? What is their core business, described in one sentence. 

In order to answer these questions, avoid copying and pasting what you find on their website. I suggest that you talk directly with your client and with all the relevant stakeholders. 

Their main issue  

What is the problem? Is it a business related? Do they need to attract new customers? Or retain them? Or reposition them? This implies the reason why of you project, the aim. 

As you can see, the questions are simple. I did not mention “awareness” on purpose, since it might be too confusing. There is always a business problem as per Ogilvy & Mather. Take note of each adjective used by your customer in order to describe what makes them feel uncomfortable.  

The target 

Do not talk about target. Talk about segment audiences, define niches, micro influencers, stakeholders and shareholders. 

Go in depth. You need to know where their target audiences currently live or how old are they, what they feel, how and where they speak and to whom. Once you understand them, you will know what kind of content to develop. 

The Channels 

Where are the customers? Where are the influencers/micro influencers? 

“Only digital” or “only traditional” channels do not exist anymore. There is an omnichannel approach, that does not what to say that you have to communicate everywhere, in each moment. On the contrary, it means that the message should be coherent, impressive and must fluctuate over the channels reached by your audiences.  


In conclusion, if you are in charge of creating a brief, you are responsible for the success of the project. If you have the ownership of a project, you should expect to be given the most accurate brief.  

If you are either an account manager or a project manager, if your brief has strategic questions to be answered, do not start doing anything before solving those doubts!  


Emanuela Goldoni

Digital Project Manager




“Nel cuore della nicchia, sulla bocca della folla”

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