You’ve worked nights and pulled a couple of hours on the weekend to get your latest project done by deadline. You click send on the email, and you breathe easy. Take a break, your work is done.
Not so fast. The client wants to know why things are the way they are, why a necessary element is missing, what is going on with the photography... and oh, by the way, how do I get this to my customers?
This nightmare scenario is common in marketing agencies, freelance contracts, and any creative field where you’re dealing in imagination, and trying to realize the vision of multiple stakeholders at the same time.
Enter the Project Brief
The project brief is something to fill out with clients when a large project idea starts to turn into a real plan. By filling out a project brief, the planning, delegation, and costs of a project are laid out, and all parties involved make decisions that will guide the rest of the project’s execution in the future.
Generally, a project brief is a guided meeting. You know your business best, so it’s easiest if you are asking from a brief that you’ve developed internally. There are countless examples of project briefs available to work from, and once you start using them, you’ll wonder how you ever got work done before.
Why Use the Brief?
When a project is started without clarity about deadlines, resources, launch time frames, and cost expectations, you risk complicating your business relationship with your client. Even if everyone enters the project with good intentions, a surprise in cost, or an unknown expectation not being met will have consequences for everyone involved.
A project brief meeting takes between 30 minutes to an hour (or longer, if you are briefing an entire campaign), and allows everyone to plan out their portion of the work, and ask questions before they become urgent problems.
The Agency Perspective
At ATAK, we approach our briefs as an agency. While we don’t allow “we are an agency” to limit what we do or the way we do it, as a small but growing business, we have to keep an eye on what resources we’re using, and how it’s going to impact our upcoming workflows. Project briefs allow us a look at how much we’re going to be leaning on a Project Manager’s hours, and when we need to contact and organize our internal partners for photography, video, illustration, or other creative services.
The Client Perspective
When we’re organizing a project with clients, it’s important that they’re aware of our capacity, whether that’s timeline, skill level, deliverable quantity, or something else. From a relationship standpoint, we also put a lot of pride in being an agency that’s easy to work with – so for many clients, the brief process feels more like an informal call, while we’re building out the brief on the other end of the line for internal management. Not every client wants a traditional agency experience, and with the right business mindset, we’ve developed a way to get our agency on without the customer feeling pressured or “managed”.
The Project Management Perspective
ATAK has a crew of ready and able project managers. We’re a nimble, tenacious bunch, but we’re also a busy bunch. A project brief ensures that if a project requires hand-off or outside involvement, that involvement is going to run smoothly, without a lot of questions, meetings, or mistakes. This also allows a Project Manager to handle multiple accounts, and return to them with a quick reference to the brief.
How to Communicate a Brief?
Getting brief approval from the client is your “go” button – so you have to make sure they’re on board with any way you communicate that brief.
I like to outline all of the project knowledge, expectations, budget, and potential concerns in an email to the client, which is then discussed as a call. It isn’t explicitly delivered as a brief, most of the time – but I know that’s what it is. If the description needs revision, fix your criteria and activities up and ask for approval.
The Danger of No Scope
The power of the brief lies in declaring your project scope. A brief serves as a roadmap at your account, campaign, and project levels. Without defining the boundaries of the project, you run the risk of cost overruns, uncomfortable conversations, and trying to turn back the clock on work already performed.
With a project brief, you can keep your projects in scope, on budget, and ensure that you’ve answered all the critical questions about what’s going to get done next. And once it’s over with, you can plug in the headphones, bump the new Beyoncé, and get some great work done.