How to brief an agency

We love a new brief, it always feels full of promise. But not all briefs are created equal. Here are just a few thoughts about the elements that make up a good agency brief.

1. Provide a written brief
Don’t worry, we’re not looking for a weighty tome here: all the necessary information can usually fit into a couple of pages. Whilst we do have our fair share of briefs that run into 20 or 30 pages (which is often the case where procurement is involved), a lot of the time, a couple of pages will do. A couple of sentences on an email, however, won’t. Short emails leave too much room for assumptions and misunderstanding.

2. Share your business goals
If you don’t tell us about your business goals, you can be sure that we’ll ask. It’s important for us to understand what you’re trying to achieve in terms of revenue, sales, market share, etc. That way, we can gauge how the support we can offer will drive results for your business: whether that’s defining (or redefining) your brand narrative and positioning, raising the profile of your CEO, developing a comms plan around IPO, gaining a greater share of voice against your competitors, or elevating your corporate brand.

3. Know your target audience
Give us as much information as you can about who your buyer is. That doesn’t mean you have to have fully defined personas to hand. Just tell us what you know about your customer: the people who make the decision and others within the business who influence them. Without this, it’s nigh on impossible for us to suggest how to reach them.

4. Provide a budget. Please.
Around 80% of the briefs we receive don’t give a budget, and often when we ask, we get a response along the lines of “We’d like you to tell us what we should do and how much it will cost.”

The answer to that is: how long is a piece of string? We want our proposal to sit realistically within your expectations and your means. We suspect that at some point, you will have had to think about how much your business can invest in marketing. And if you haven’t, then now would be a good time to do so.

5. Be realistic about your deadlines
We know you want to work with an agency that is hungry, committed, hard-working and prepared to go above and beyond what has been asked of them. We also know that by the point at which you’ve got in touch, you’d quite often like the agency to start the next day if they could! Unfortunately, short time frames aren’t always realistic for any agency. A reasonable amount of time to create a proposal is two weeks, so always aim for that.

Just remember: the better the briefing, the better the proposal (from the right agency) – which in turn means a stronger result for you and your business.

Written by Celia Clark, director at PR agency LEWIS