The A to Z of How To Organize A Pitch -part II

Last week we started to present you a series of steps you musttake in order to make sure you organize a good pitch. Today we continue with Cristina Oncescu’s opinion, by presenting you the rest of your journey.

How should the brief look like?

What makes a good brief is not the form, a list of boxes to fill-in, but some basic principles which can be applied to almost any briefing situation. There are three basic principles from IPA:

  1. Be clear about what is needed
  2. Provide the critical information necessary to complete the task
  3. Inspire or motivate people to do their best

These principles apply equally to briefing marketing communications as briefing many other things in life. Often with marketing communications we make it over-complicated and forget the basic principles ending up with the agency being unclear on what is required. In other areas of life we do things more instinctively and use the most efficient means of briefing – for example, it’s sometimes faster and more accurate to brief a hairdresser by using a picture rather than a verbal description.

Clarity of objectives

It seems self-evident that the most important part of a brief is a clear description of what the aim of the brief is. Yet in our industry review of briefing techniques this is consistently the weakest area of written briefs. It is often confused with overall business, brand or marketing objectives, whereas the single most important content section is the communication objective itself. Some briefs simply describe the sales target without any thought as to the role of communications.

Agencies need this clarity and it is the responsibility of the person writing the communications brief to provide this. 

A brief should be just that

Aim for a brief that is succinct and memorable. If it isn’t, it’s likely to be less effective. At the very least aim for something which can be remembered when the piece of paper is not in front of the person or team that has been briefed – if the writer of the brief can’t even remember what it was about without a prompt, what chance is there of others internalizing what is required?

Of course there is room for attachments and additional material. Sometimes a large volume of background material can be helpful as one seemingly small bit of information could prompt a thought that leads to the solution. But best practice is to provide only the critical information that is relevant to the task. Why make agency people wade through masses of irrelevant information? Often it is a lack of thought that leads to this approach.

As Blaise Pascal wrote as long ago as 1657: “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Fundamentally brief writing is about making decisions about what is needed. Deciding what to leave out is part of that. Whilst there may be a need to provide greater depth of supporting material, the overall brief itself still needs to be simple and clear.

Inspired to greatness

When asking marketing people ’What makes a good brief?’, the answers are mostly about objectives, requirements, target audience etc. Only on prompting do people recognize that inspiring the agency or the team to produce great work is a critical element. Perhaps clients assume that an agency will be motivated enough by remuneration, the fear of losing the business, or simply by any opportunity to do good work.

However experience shows that those clients who not only put more thought into their brief, but also use their own creativity to make briefing the agency or agencies an inspiring experience, tend to get better results. There are three main reasons for this: firstly the brief will stand out from the other assignments that the agency is working on and get an unfair share of attention. Secondly a client who has put more thought into the presentation of their brief is likely to have greater empathy for agency psychology and the creative process making it more likely that they have provided the springboard for a great creative leap. Thirdly a client who delivers a great brief signals that they are in the market for a great creative response, and likely to be excited rather than frightened by one.

Most marcoms briefs also act as a business process document to initiate a job start – in effect it’s a purchase order and since large sums of money will be involved in both time and resources it needs to be taken very seriously.

Majority of those briefs have three broad areas of heading: the background, the brief itself, and an implementation and process section. 

The background headers might include

Background: Usually covers the business and marketing context and why the task is important

Marketing or Sales Objectives: This sometimes includes the business case for the activity
Remarkably this is often overlooked. It might include brand identity/brand capsule/brand vision/brand architecture/brand status/brand values/brand personality

Previous Learning: Again a section which is only used occasionally, but may have wider potential


The main communications brief section headers might include: 

Communications objectives: Sometimes they might be expressed as communications imperatives/ challenges/barriers
Target audience: Usually this section asks for more than simple demographics and specifically prompts for attitudes or other motivators

Consumer insights: Sometimes specifically linked to the objective
Key message/proposition: Often phrased as the single-minded proposition/the one thing we want to say

Strategic benefit:
May ask for emotional and functional benefits

Consumer takeout: What they will think or do
Tone of voice:
As distinct from brand personality

The implementation and process headers might include:

Timings/key dates: May include project timelines as well as timing for response
May specify if production is included or not
Response mechanisms:
On relevant types of brief

Evaluation/success criteria: A critical element for most disciplines

Mandatories/guidelines: May include what must be included and executional considerations

Approvals: Signatures of both those issuing/approving the brief and the agency

The choice of ‘proposition/message’ or ‘strategic benefit’ is one which reflects the thinking of the organization and the relationship with their agencies. The use of a ‘proposition’ on the marcomms brief can be quite closely related to how many agencies use a ‘proposition’ in their own creative briefs. This could be seen positively as aligning thinking. An alternative view is that the role of the communications brief is to be clear about what the benefit is, and leave it up to the agency to think through how to best express that as a compelling proposition. This is largely a matter of style.

Main criteria for choosing the winner

The agency that scores best on the announced evaluation criteria, given that the client has held before a proper selection process, including background fitting and chemistry meetings.


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