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Posted by Emily Taraborrelli on January 8, 2013

Many inexperienced marketers and designers often wonder why projects don’t turn out the way they (or the client) anticipated. It is crucial that project objectives, expectations and deliverables be clearly defined in the briefing stage prior to execution of any creative endeavor. As such, implementing and completing a detailed project brief is key to establishing a clear understanding of the project parameters.

Essentially, the purpose of the project brief is to capture and define the core project objectives, scope, deliverables, budget and schedule so that agencies and clients alike can work together to achieve a focused, desired outcome.

What makes for a successful project brief? Below are a series of questions that will help with organizing and successfully executing almost any creative endeavor:

What is the project objective?

Discussing and defining the overall objective for any creative project is fundamental to being properly equipped to execute thorough research, positioning and project recommendations. Essentially the discovery and briefing stage lends itself to understanding the parameters of the project. Be sure to ask questions to learn as much as possible about the client’s business objective, brand, competition and goals.

Who is the intended audience?

Having a clear understanding of the client’s customer base allows agencies to target messaging, design tone and manner, and choice of medium that best reaches the client’s target audience. From demographics to focus groups to online research, understanding the client’s audience is crucial to the ‘position’ of the creative project being undertaken.

What is the scope of the project?

What specifically is being created? Is it a print ad? A website? A mobile app? How many concepts and how many rounds of revisions will be presented? What are the project parameters? What happens if the client wishes to change or add to the project scope? Defining the project assets in detail will help keep the deliverables clear and focused.

What are the project milestones & associated deliverables?

One of the most common issues that affect forward momentum and focus during a creative project is lack of an undefined project process and subsequent deliverables.  After the project scope has been defined, ascribe subsequent dates and deliverables to a project calendar and identify both internal and client side responsibilities.

Who is responsible on the client side and agency side?

Most agencies have a dedicated project /account management team to ensure both internal and client side deliverables are met and stay on track. Assign and define the personnel on both sides of the project who will be responsible for project communications and management to ensure deliverables and schedules are met and stay in line with the project objective, scope, schedule and budget

What is the project budget?

The project budget ultimately will define how agency resources and time are allocated.

In relation to the project brief, some agencies believe in inquiring about budget details within the project brief, others would prefer to leave this separate from the brief and place a price/budget on the project after understanding the scope and how it pertains to their resources and billing rate. In addition, some clients are willing to disclose a budget during the briefing stage, while other clients prefer to see how services and objectives are priced before tendering a project.

One approach worth considering when it comes to ascribing a project estimate can be based on the status/history of the relationship with the client. For example, if there is a pre-existing relationship with the client there may be more room to inquire about budgeting parameters to reach a fixed project price. However if the client relationship is ‘cold’ or new, providing an ‘A-B-C’ pricing option/scenario may prove to be more effective than ascribing a fixed, set price and option. This allows the client flexibility to choose the best approach that suits both their budget and objective(s) while also allowing both the agency and the client to work over the hurdles of budget constraints.

Regardless, once a budget is established it is crucial to a) ascribe resources and hours that reflect the work being executed under the budget and b) ascribe a clear billing schedule and payment terms.

The above components and questions include high level issues that need to be addressed before considering and commencing any creative project. Other details such as branding guidelines, photography, copywriting, materials launch and media buying should be considered as they relate to the project deliverables and service offering.

By ensuring the project brief is detailed and covers all of the bases, you can be confident that any project you undertake will be informed, well managed and executed within scope, on time and within budget!