Briefing Your PR Agency
Briefing your agency is a critical part of any campaign: the better the brief, the better the work the agency delivers. So why then do clients fail to write great briefs? Poor briefs are one of the most common reasons for campaigns failing to deliver the desired results: four out of five clients and agencies agree that “it’s difficult to produce good creative work without a good brief”. Additionally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that good briefs lead to better, more effective and measurable work, as well as saving time and money, and finally resulting in fairer remuneration because defining clear business objectives and campaign success criteria makes it easier to judge whether the campaign achieved its goals.
There are a number of principles that ensure the brief is clear and effective, and these tips explain how exactly you can brief your agency to get the best possible campaigns.
The Brief Should be Written
This not only ensures that everyone involved in the project has the same information, but also forces considered thinking. You should also discuss the brief verbally with your agency, but if you really don’t have the time to write the brief, ask your agency to write up the verbal briefing as part of the project. It will ensure they understood what you want, and pay dividends in better results!
Briefs Should be Clear, Objective and Concise
Briefs are called ‘briefs’ because they are meant to be brief! Good briefs leave you with a clear understanding of what you are trying to do. Bad briefs drown you in contradictory information and objectives.
Briefs Should Clearly Define Your Objectives
The aim of a brief is to get your agency to do things. Who needs to do them? What needs to be done? Define the business problem and use concrete business objectives rather than vague wishes, to explain the improvement that the campaign should deliver. Where are you starting from? Where will you be at the end of the campaign? The aim should be to state clearly the business reason for investing the fee for the achievement of a particular objective.
The Elements of a Good Brief
Although there are different ways to structure a brief, the following sections would form the structure of a good brief:
Project Management — It’s important to clarify the basis of the project management. Document who will be working on the project, the budget, timescales, approval process and the other practical information.
Current Situation — Include the background and a description of the current situation.
The Objective — State what you want the campaign to achieve .The objective must be measurable, and should take the budget into account. The best briefs have a single, clear objective: B2B campaigns typically aim to improve metrics such as usage, awareness, leads, image, reputation, profitability, customer profile, shareholder value, sales or response levels.
Campaign Strategy — Provide a high-level view of how the campaign will achieve the objective. This section should provide direction for your agency to creatively develop the campaign.
The Audience — Explain who needs to be reached for the campaign to be successful. Some campaigns may involve further research to define the target audience more precisely, but the brief should always provide direction.
Success Criteria — State how the campaign will be measured, and how you will know if it has achieved the objectives.
Provide a budget — From projects to ongoing campaigns, PR proposals are devised within the framework of a budget. It helps to determine what is an achievable program of activity. If you’re not sure how much to allocate, provide the agency with an indicative range that you feel comfortable with.
The Process and Timetable — It is always useful to include a timetable of what happens when. For example, when the pitch interview and presentation will take place, and the end date for receiving initial responses. Let the agency know how many agencies you will be inviting to pitch and limit this to a maximum of three. Any more than this — a lot of agencies won’t be willing to take part.
Expectations — Be very clear on your expectations for pitch the process and the next steps. For example, confirm that you require the presentation to be carried out by the people/person who would be working on the account. Some agencies, unfortunately, bring out their best people to wow you at the presentation stage, only to leave the business lumbered with an inexperienced junior. Ask for testimonials and contact details for their clients you can speak to.
Product Launch Briefs
In B2B technology, many campaigns are driven by product — and less frequently service — launches. Writing a brief for a campaign to launch your new product is incredibly hard: almost every company over-estimates the importance of their new product to the industry and potential customers. You need to look beyond the months, or years, of work the company has put into development and the internal excitement to provide an impartial view. Is the product really new? Is there something similar available from competitors? Is it really revolutionary, or is it a logical development that could have been predicted? Will it really excite the whole market, or just a specific segment?
Honest answers to these questions produce good briefs and better campaigns. Claiming a product is going to change an industry when it is really an evolutionary development will just result in the rolling of eyes and cynicism from your potential customers: you’d be much better highlighting specific features and explaining their unique benefits than trying to build hype around delusions of grandeur.
Investing the time to create a thoughtful, business-oriented brief that provides transparency about what your business is really looking for in a communications partner is key. This process ensures that you receive quality proposals and pitches that are directly aligned with the business strategy of the organisation, allowing you to handpick the most suitable PR partner whose strategies will complement and drive your communications programme forward to achieve your desired business outcomes.
The brief doesn’t need to be pages long. Make sure your brief is honest, it should reflect the reality of your business — not how you’d like it to be. You may not like everything proposed from an agency, but above all this process is an opportunity to see how the team thinks. Is the agency creative and strategic? Does it demonstrate expertise and insight in your field? Concepts can be developed but the talent behind the concept is key. Ask yourself, did the proposal make me think about my business or brand in a new way…