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How to write a creative brief with examples (free templates)

2019-08-20

By: Monique Seitz-Davis

Creative briefs are a lot like lighthouses: they provide essential guidance and direction for creatives working on large and small projects alike. Without a beacon, it's easy for your project to get moored or lost at sea — think Castaway but at your job. And no Tom Hanks or Wilson by your side for company or relief.

Related: Essential client onboarding checklist for agencies in 2019

You want your creative briefs to be both concise and thorough. A good creative brief goes a long way. It helps maintain efficiency across teams and ensures individual contributors feel supported, happy and appreciated. But it also takes time. To help you maintain steam and produce creative briefs that (ahem) get the job done, we compiled a shortlist of questions to consider as you write:

  • What is the end goal of my project?

  • Are there templates I can use to fill out the creative brief and reduce the time spent on this task?

  • Which departments should be involved in this project?

Answering these questions provides you with the clarity and structure needed to fully flesh out your creative need. So whether you need a one-page press release or a 15-page ebook, you can trust your brief to communicate your project's scope effectively.

Now, let's cover some basics.

What is a creative brief?

A creative brief is a detailed summary of a creative project.

Typically a brief is filled out by whoever is making the request. At a baseline, it needs to include The Basics:

  • A project summary is a brief synopsis of the project.

  • Some background context (such as data, products, or research articles) helps the creative team better understand your project goals.

  • Your objectives, otherwise known as project goals, shed light on the project's long-term (and short-term) strategy.

  • Timeline(s) and a list of expected deliverables provide the creative team with a clearer picture of how and when they can take on your project.

  • Include a list of the key stakeholders or people the creative team should contact when questions pop up.

  • The target audience tells the creative team who they should be speaking towards throughout the campaign (so to speak).

  • Brand guidelines or rules, like voice, tone, and style preferences, are crucial details for creatives to know. Including these notes in your creative brief helps eliminate time spent on revisions.

  • Including a project budget is optional. However, if there's any chance of sending it to freelance, be sure to include one.

That said, different types of briefs have different kinds of requirements — but don't worry about that right now, we'll touch more on that shortly.

What are the benefits of a creative brief?

Two parties benefit the most from creative briefs: the requesting party and the creative team.

  • For the creative team, creative briefs help people like designers or copywriters do their jobs better and more efficiently. Not only that, it helps them craft great content that your audience will love.

  • For the requesting party, a creative brief helps you understand the strategy and goals behind your project. It also helps to ensure that the work you get back is aligned with your vision for the campaign.

For example, say a sales agent needs a unique one-pager for an event they're planning to attend in a month. That sales agent would fill out a creative brief and then send it to the creative team. From there, the creative team can slot the project into their production queue, quickly fill the request using a pre-templatized format, or temporarily backlog it depending on their workflow.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into how to write a creative brief for copy, design, and PR departments.

What are the main types of creative briefs?

Creative briefs are built to cover a broad spectrum of project needs. We've identified three different types of briefs:

  • Copy — Anything word-related.

  • Design — Anything visual-related.

  • PR — Anything newsworthy that's public-facing.

What do I need to include in a creative brief?

A copy brief is going to be a little bit different than a design or PR brief. No matter what, you'll want to cover your bases thoroughly. We recommend using a pre-formatted brief template to make your life easier. (You can mark the fields N/A if they don't apply to your project.) And keep in mind all creative briefs need to include The Basics — plus a few extra tidbits.

But, how do you know what information goes into what brief? We've outlined what you'll need to include in 3 different types of briefs (copy, design, and PR) to help you get the ball rolling.

Copy brief

  • The Basics

    • Project summary

    • Background context

    • Objective

    • Timeline(s) and deliverables

    • Key stakeholders

    • Target audience

    • Guidelines

    • Budget (optional)

  • Word count — This helps the writer gain a clearer understanding of how much time it will take to complete the project. Additionally, some social media platforms have word count restrictions so you'll want to make sure the writer is aware of these ahead of time.

  • SEO keyword list — SEO keywords help boost your content's ranking in search engine optimization results. Most demand generation copy projects include one.

  • Examples — Content examples can help guide the writer if you're looking to produce a specific type of content.

Design brief

  • The Basics

    • Project summary

    • Background context

    • Objective

    • Timeline(s) and deliverables

    • Key stakeholders

    • Target audience

    • Guidelines

    • Budget (optional)

  • Distribution — Where you're planning on placing this visual asset matters. Are you posting the visual asset to social media, on the company blog, or distributing it to your customers?

  • Deliverables and size requirements — Designers need to know these details ahead of time. Including this information prevents designers from sizing something incorrectly or creating a digital asset instead of a hands-on one.

PR brief

  • The Basics

    • Project summary

    • Background context

    • Objective

    • Timeline(s) and deliverables

    • Key stakeholders

    • Target audience

    • Guidelines

    • Budget (optional)

  • Publication — Location, location, location! Where you publish PR content matters, so be sure to include where you're planning on having the content live.

  • Word count — Most PR efforts are copy-heavy. And some publications have word count requirements, so you want to make sure the writer is aware of project expectations. You can include the word count in the “deliverables” section of the content if you'd prefer.

Examples of creative briefs

In case you wanted a frame of reference before you get started (visual learning style, anyone?), we've included some modified creative brief examples from our template gallery.

Copy brief

Modified from our Simple project proposal template

Design brief

Modified from our General project proposal template

PR brief

Created in Lucidpress

In brief

At the end of the day, creative briefs bridge the gap between good ideas and polished projects. They empower creative teams to stay on-task, on-time, and on-brand. And with the help of a pre-formatted creative brief template, you can quickly and easily insert information, send and process requests, and do more as a team. After all, who doesn't want to save time and energy — while getting more done as a company?

Okay, so, now that you've been briefed on how to write a creative brief, it's time to let your colors fly. Show us your briefs!

Download a free creative brief template to get started

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Creative brief templates + bonus client onboarding checklist

Creative briefs align your copywriters, designers, strategists and clients to ensure the project achieves its goals and help your creative team to work more efficiently.

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Monique Seitz-Davis

Monique Seitz-Davis is the Sr. Content Marketing Specialist for Lucidpress. Her areas of expertise include copywriting, content marketing, and brand strategy. When Monique's not writing, you can likely find her trail running or rabble-rousing with her dogs.

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