The outline of a lockforward’s head is the same as a pint of Guinness?
Some words are so common that blend into the background. They don’t register with the reader. They paint no distinct picture of you. They’re generic. They make you generic. They are wallpaper.
I’ve decided to try and capture these words. The wallpaper below will go up over time – I’m fastidious about lining up the pattern.
(Click on the image to view a larger version)
Clients obsess about defining them (no, really, we do) and agencies wait on tenterhooks for them, briefs are the documents that keep the work flowing and money moving. And yet, many are awful. Here are four clues that you’ve written a bad brief.
You’ve not specified a budget
Now come on, you’ve got a number. Unless you’re just out wasting everyone’s time, you’ve got a budget so state it.
Client-agency relationships are often treated as a one way street. The client sets the terms, the agency does the work, plus they throw in a few friendly drinks now and again.
Wrong. This is all wrong. If you want the best from your agencies, you need to invest time to understand them, share information about your company and your own preferences, you need to agree ways of working, and you need to give honest and detailed feedback.
You can only do all of that if there is trust between you and the agency. And there won’t be any trust because right at the start, you won’t even share a number with a pound sign in front of it.
You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but they’ll just come back with a proposal that costs that amount instead of the right thing.” And that’s not an unreasonable retort. But it’s your job to look at the proposal, question it, firm up the numbers, really query that every element is necessary. That’s your job. And if you put out a brief with no budget and someone came in with something really cheap, you’d still have to have question it.
If you don’t critically assess proposals, you’re being negligent. So put the number in the brief.
You’ve answered the question
Have you explained what you’d like to achieve or have just written out what you’d like done? For example, if it’s a digital brief to boost brand awareness, have you said you want a video? Because then you’ve answered the question and you’re going to get a video plus some distribution and a few frilly bits. So really, you’ve written a brief for a video that you’d like to use to raise brand awareness. If you want to boost awareness, just say that you want that and you want it done through digital channels.
Leave it to those who are pitching to answer the question. It puts the onus on agencies to be more creative, as a client you’ll get a more varied range of options and you’re setting the types of challenges that agencies love; things that let them show they can go beyond service delivery and really add value.
Too many objectives
Want to raise brand awareness? Great. And drive up sales? Obvs. And improve perceptions of your environmental impact? Umm, OK, I guess. And build your chief exec’s profile? Hang on. And repair your tarnished employer brand? No.
I’m not sure I need to spell this out any clearer.
Do you want your brand to be really well known? Do you also want to avoid any form of public criticism by not taking a defined position on any issue? Do you see the problem here?
You want your cake and you want to eat it.
If you’ve written a brief strewn with caveats, check it again. Are they all necessary? Are you being over cautious? Are you asking for things that are contradictory? If you refuse to reconcile them, have you at least had the decency to flag up the contradictions?
There is nothing worse than an undeliverable brief.
Measurement is big and will only get bigger. The user data generated by digital channels allows us to cut website visits or social media interactions in a variety of ways.
At first the abundance of data was amazing. Then it became confusing. Now, if we’re honest, it’s become hugely convenient. It’s possible to put a positive spin on performance when reporting results to people who aren’t literate in the data of digital communications and marketing. It’s even easier when you’re presenting it to people who don’t understand data at all.
There are too many metrics and it’s too tempting to highlight only the positive ones. At some point, however, someone’s going to question why the reports are great but there’s little overall progress. It won’t add up. Even the totally innumerate will see it clearly.
Remove your hiding places. A clear objective should be measured by a single metric. Other metrics can play a support role, but give one primacy. If you do that, you’ve nowhere to hide. It’s liberating. It gives you focus. Your performance will step out of the shadows.
A business has objectives and a strategy. It then needs plans for delivery, plus good quality tactical execution and sensible measures to monitor progress. What it doesn’t need is a strategy at every level.
It doesn’t need an SEO strategy, content strategy, engagement strategy and social strategy sitting on top of one another. It doesn’t need endless reassessments of its position and where ought to place itself.
Often strategy is seen as synonymous with seniority or high fees. Or worse, it’s an excuse for endless insight, fudging choices and avoiding actually delivering something.
Too many strategies is worse than no strategy at all.