Why is it worth spending time on the brief and debriefing?

In the last article, prior to the webinar “Advertising arm in arm, or 7 rules for client-agency cooperation”, I wrote about how to find and then get to know an agency which will be a pleasure to work with, and not a necessary evil.

Today, however, I’d like to tell you about the next two steps, i.e. how to create a brief that will make it clear to the agency what your expectations are, and whether we should really spend time on the debriefing.

Brief and debriefing: are they really so important?

The brief and debriefing are the first stages of the project, and as we know, beginnings are usually hard. Do you remember when you started at a new school, a new job or a new hobby?

This stage is usually accompanied by a lot of excitement, but also a hint of uncertainty. When, in this new place, you come across people who will be good mentors or guides for you, clearly setting out and explaining the rules in place, you feel safer and you adjust to the new environment faster. Similar patterns can be transferred to client-agency cooperation, where the client is a “product mentor” for the agency, and the agency is a “guide to the world of advertising” for the client.

A good start is half the battle, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Usually, we make assumptions about the agency, client, or project very early on. Depending on whether the first impressions are positive or negative, they can be a strong foundation for cooperation or a roadblock in its path.

To answer the question posed in the subheading: yes, the brief and debriefing are very important, because, on the one hand, they create the first impression which our partner (the agency, client) has of us, and on the other, they provide the agency with knowledge which enables it to prepare a tailor-made offer, which will set out the expected results in a way that both parties are satisfied with.

What will the agency appreciate in the brief, and what will the client appreciate during the debriefing and at the start of cooperation?

From the agency’s perspective, the following are very important:

  • a well-prepared brief (below you’ll find a list of questions which the brief should answer),
  • openness to the agency’s questions and preparing thorough responses,
  • understanding of the need to introduce the product (especially in niche/difficult industries),
  • responsive

The client will feel supported when the agency:

  • approaches their product with commitment and curiosity,
  • advises/suggests solutions according to the best of their knowledge and expertise,
  • meets the agreed deadlines,
  • is responsive in communication.

What points should be included in the brief?

A well-prepared brief should answer the following questions:

  1. What do I want to advertise? A description of the product/service which the communication will be about.
  2. What is the USP (unique selling proposition – a unique feature that distinguishes the product from the competition)?
  3. Why do I want to advertise this product? What is my objective?
  4. What results will be satisfactory?
  5. How do I want the product to be advertised? What elements would I like the agency to carry out?
  6. What is the target group I want to reach?
  7. What promotional activities have already been undertaken? What was the result?
  8. What do I like (on other websites/campaigns/videos) and what do I definitely not like?
  9. What budget can I spend on the campaign?
  10. What deadlines for achieving objectives/results are satisfactory to me? Are these due to something that can’t be moved (e.g. campaign launch, product launch, opening of a new store)?

Perhaps you’re now wondering:

“why exactly is this information needed in the brief?”

The answer is very simple: the more knowledge an agency has, the more it is able to prepare tailor-made solutions that will achieve better results.

Nobody knows the product as well as the client, and hard data and facts always work better than guesswork. This is why the client taking the time to prepare a complete brief is the first key to success.

Listing positive and negative benchmarks (for question 8) will enable the agency to gain a better understanding of the client’s expectations and aesthetics. (Tip for agencies: it’s always worth asking the client for more detail about these, for example, “modern design” can mean something completely different to each person).

Usually, providing budgets is quite a controversial issue, but even indicating the budget range will be an invaluable hint for the agency on what campaign activities it can afford (e.g. how much money it will be able to spend on media). The starting point here should be mutual trust, which I emphasised during the webinar [link].

Debriefing – how do you do it right?

Debriefing is a specific complement to the briefing process. During the debriefing, the agency should ask questions that will fill in gaps in their knowledge, so that the information obtained will enable them to work on the project unconstrained. However, it’s important not to take up too much of the client’s time and patience, and to ask only the questions which are actually useful at the given stage of the work.

Sometimes the brief is so extensive that we feel we don’t have any additional questions. In that case, it’s worth considering whether everything in the brief is totally clear to us.

During the debriefing, it’s great to paraphrase what was said in the brief and ask the client to confirm that this is what they meant. On the client’s side, the key is to engage fully in the debriefing, find time for it and prepare thorough responses.

Good cooperation from the very start will not only produce great results, but also build the foundations for a good relationship and further cooperation as partners.

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