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Many creative marketing projects get underway without a clear sense of expectations between marketing and organizational leadership, and the creative folks (whether in-house or freelance) delivering it. The result? An extended and expensive creative development process with many revisions not to mention chewed-up nails, bruised egos and depleted momentum. Taking the time and energy up front to craft a thorough creative brief will save you time and money, and ensure you get the fundraising brochure, campaign website or annual report you envisioned. And, in going through this process you may realize that another medium or approach will work better than the one you had in mind. Your brief should be, well, brief, running no more than two pages. Make it scannable with the use of clear headings and bulleted lists, rather than a narrative form with dense paragraphs. Here's what your brief should include:

Overview - General project information

Goals Measurable Objectives -  (benchmarks to measure progress towards goals, e.g. increase membership by 20% each year or media coverage

Deliverables Needed - deliverables can change during the creative process, i.e. the graphic designer might suggest that a blog, rather than an e-newsletter, will do more to address your goals.

Primary audiences  - provide enough detail to enhance everyone's understanding of who the audience is. Include some user demographic information if possible.  
  • Who are your primary target audiences. Choose a typical audience member or two and profile including occupation, age, range, gender, what her day looks like, etc.
  • How will your audiences use this brochure, white paper or website?
What should be avoided in talking to these audiences?

Tone and Image Funny and casual, or formal and buttoned-up, or...
  • What do the audiences believe or think, before you start communicating with them?
  • What tone and imagery should we use to engage them?
  • Specific visual goals?

Messages: Features, Benefits and Values
  • List top features and/or facts about the program, service or organization, and its value to target audiences
  • How do these stack up against the competition?
  • If you could get one sentence across, what would that be? How would you prove it?
  • Other major points?

Budget and Schedule
  • Has a budget been approved?
  • When must the message get to the audience for greatest impact (e.g. service introduction date, conference, special event)?
  • What is the due date for the finished work?

  • Who is the point person?
  • What is the internal review and approval process?
  • Who needs to sign off on final execution?

 Anything else?
  • How many rounds of revisions on your side (be they your's personally, your bosses, or your nonprofit's CEO's) should the writer or designer include in her bid for the job?
  • A graphic designer needs to know, for example, whether your mailing house will enclose the brochure by machine or hand, and, if by machine, what kind of fold the machine can handle.
  • If the label to be designed going to be used in a refrigerated environment.