A best practice guide to briefing communications agencies
Joint industry guidelines for young marketing professionals in working effectively with agencies
“FORGET, JUST FOR A MINUTE,
THAT YOU ARE BRIEFING AN AGENCY.
INSTEAD, PRETEND YOU ARE
STANDING ON THE BANK OF A RIVER
ABOUT TO BUILD A BRIDGE.”
Around you are architects, builders, all sorts of
different experts that you have hired to help you.
They might all come from different specialist
companies, they might all come from a single
one-stop-bridge-shop. It really doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that you build the best and
most effective bridge you can.
So what brief should you give them in order
to get that perfect bridge?
How about where it should start from?
Where are you standing right now?
Where is ‘point A’? They need to know that.
That’s not up for debate.
And what about where it should finish?
Where’s ‘point B’? The destination. If I were
the architect, that’s the bit of information
I’d want made pretty clear.
Finally, what about how to build the bridge itself?
Maybe you’d give them some ideas on what the
bridge might look like, what vehicles will need to
cross it, what size boats will need to go underneath
it, how high the hand-rails should be, etc, etc.
But you’re not going to tell them how to build the
bridge. That’s their job. You’re going to sit back
and wait to see the drawings.
It’s the same with briefing agencies. They need to
know where you are now. And they need to know
where you want to get to. What will success look like?
And how will it be measured?
IPA Value of Advertising Committee
If every agency involved in your campaign shares
that same information, aren’t they likely to work
better together to achieve the desired result?
So when you’re writing an agency brief, think
“Where am I now?” and “Where do I need
to get to?”. Make it crystal clear. And you’ll
find that most agencies will be pretty good
at getting you there.
I think that’s the single biggest thing we’ve learned
from all of our research in preparing this guide.
So I hope it sings out loud and clear as our single
Now, back to bridges.
The Millennium footbridge. Wouldn’t you just love
to see the original client brief?
“THE BETTER THE BRIEF, THE BETTER AND
MORE ACCURATE THE RESULTS.”
The aim of this new joint industry initiative is to
provide you with best practice guidelines on how
to brief communications agencies and make the
most of their expertise.
There are universal pressures on all clients to work
faster, cheaper, better, and increasingly your personal
success will be connected to your marketing activity
being more effective. Adopting these guidelines will
positively impact upon this success.
In addition there’s a growing requirement for clients
to demonstrate that robust processes exist within
their own operations. Formally adopting best practice
in agency briefing will go a long way to satisfy
The brief is the most important bit of information
issued by a client to an agency. It’s from the brief that
everything else flows. Indeed written briefs are a
point of reference that can be agreed at the outset
and therefore, to some extent, form a contract
between client and agency.
The better the brief, the better and more accurate
the results. The more time, effort and information
you input at the start, the greater the time savings
throughout the process.
We have conducted research with over 100 clients
and more than 100 agencies to quantify these views
(you will see verbatim comments and figures from
the research illustrated throughout the text). We have
also considered many briefing templates developed
by clients and agencies alike to distil the ‘common
ground’ and we have discussed briefing techniques
with many independent expert consultants to ensure