What is a briefing: definition and important briefing contents

how to make a briefing - tips

When working in or with an agency, there is no way to avoid a briefing. Thats why most people know the definition of a briefing. However, what exactly is important for a briefing? Which actors are involved? What is the role of the company placing the order and what is the role of the agency processing the order? Get the answers to these questions and more as well as a list of briefing content for website and content creation.

For all newcomers, we have a small definition:

Definition Briefing

Briefing” means as much as “instruction” or “situation briefing”. At the same time, “brief” is also known as “short”. This is exactly what it means: it is a short briefing before a project starts.

However, agencies and their clients should not be mislead by the word “short”: A complete, high-quality briefing is a must-have between clients and agencies – because only those who have been properly briefed have all the information they need to complete the job in the way it was requested. By the way: Even if you are tackling a project on your own, you shouldn’t go without a briefing. Ask yourself the questions we raise in this article and start your project with a concept.

briefing and project management

A detailed briefing is particularly important for a successful project. It is a communication tool, although it is a non-technical basis. And it should  definitely be part of project management. What else you should know about project management communication and which tools help you with that you can read in this article.

Starting point for the “short” work instruction: The offer

The first contact with potential customers is often via e-mail, in which agencies are briefly and succinctly requested to submit for a product such as “our new website”. Especially here you shouldn’t give too much importance to the “short” part of the briefing: agencies need to have a precise idea of what you want. It makes no sense to simply offer clients a website or content with a handful of pages. If you go to a department store and ask for “what to wear” you won’t get any reasonable information. You will first be asked by the sales staff what exactly you’re looking for.

You should stay in contact with your potential client. Of course, the same applies to all other requests. No matter if it’s a request for the creation of content, press work, etc., you should stay in touch with the potential client. The potential client must be asked exactly what product or service he or she wants. The best way for this is a personal meeting because the clients get to know you, the company and the project better.

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The perfect client

The perfect client follows a strategy and has clear ideas about the product, the goals and the target group, which are communicated to you in a briefing. The client is open to your suggestions – advantages and disadvantages are considered objectively and together you finally find the best solution as a team.

The real client

However, agencies rarely deal with ideal clients. Most of the time the client already has an idea of what the website or the content etc. should look like. But it means thinking in terms of solutions instead of goals. At this point, however, the agency and the client are still analyzing the problems and defining the goals, the target group, etc. (interesting insights and tips). The solution is still a long way off. It is important to advice clients to be open to new ideas. If the client doesn’t yet know what he or she wants, the agency should work out goals for the project as a team with the client. In this way the former can avoid a lot of trouble with a concept that in the end doesn’t meet the client’s wishes after all. Many clients don’t know what they specifically want but only what they don’t want – when they see it in front of them.

briefing content questions bubbles
A detailed briefing for content and/or a website consists of many individual questions.

Briefing content: The most important questions for content and website briefings

In any case agencies should use the briefing to clarify the following points with the potential client:

  • What are the goals of the project?
  • Who is the target group?
  • What content needs to be included (information that needs to be included)?
  • Are multiple language versions planned? If so, which ones?
  • What functions or benefits should the product (website, content, etc.) have?
  • Is there a corporate design, corporate identity or design and language guidelines?
  • Have there been previous multimedia productions? If so, ask to see them and ask if the client was satisfied with them.
  • Are there role models (both positive and negative)?
  • Is there a permanent advertising agency?
  • How should the product (website, content, etc.) be promoted?
  • What is the company’s unique selling point (USP) (What is different from the clients competitors)? Depending on the content type (and in any case with a website), it is necessary to have this information.
  • What content already exists (and can be used)?
  • What graphics, photos, movies, etc. are available? Is the quality sufficient and does the client have the rights to the materials?
  • Should there be advertising banners?
  • Should there be downloadable content?

For a website that is to be designed, the following briefing questions are added:

  • Is there already a domain?
  • What are the technical conditions? Is there a server? Should it be integrated into a database or should it access databases?
  • When should the site go online?
  • How should the site be advertised?
  • How should the site be maintained and updated?

In addition, the following information should still be gathered through your own research:

  • What do the web presences of the most important competitors look like? By web presences we mean not only the websites but all channels that are used by competitors’ content. Social media monitoring tools are a good tool for such observation.
  • Where does the company stand in the market? Is it a niche player, a small challenger or a market leader?
  • How does the company present itself to the outside world?
  • What is the importance of the Web for the company?

A detailed briefing is important for every project. However, the questions given here relate primarily to the website and content aspects. Companies, whether client or agency can use these briefing questions to prepare.

The most common problems – and their solution

The expert problem

An agency is specialized in its field. It has experts in its field. Therefore, agencies can actually tell the client where to go. But that’s exactly what agencies should avoid in the briefing. They should hold back as much as possible. At this stage, the most important thing is to get as much information as possible from the client in order to find out what he or she actually wants.

The client problem

Almost every client has an idea of what his or her web presence and content should look like. However, very few can communicate this idea. There is a problem when an agency delivers something that is different from the client’s idea. The agency should lead the briefing discussion, but also listen to the clients ideas. The client needs to be in the foreground. He or she should talk about his or her own ideas in a pleasant atmosphere.

With the right questions, the agency will get all answers. And be careful: showing off your own knowledge is the wrong strategy – it’s more likely to frighten than impress. The active part of the agency is more important in the following process; the first step is listen. If the client has not yet defined his or her own goals, the agency can help. Many companies think it’s enough to simply be present on the Web. In doing so, they probably miss great opportunities. It is the agency’s task to point this out. They should also make it clear to their customers that website and content marketing must also be integrated into the strategy and design.

The price problem

During the first meeting most clients will ask about the pricing. However, the agency should keep this point open as long as possible. They can hardly calculate the price before they know exactly what the project will look like and how much time it will take. In addition, it is important to present oneself as a competent partner who doesn’t convince with a bargain price, but with qualities. The agency should make clear that they can only win with this approach (first the detailed project description, then the cost calculation). If the price (in the offer) is too high for the customer, he or she has received an initial rough description of his or her project free of charge in any case. It is advantageous when contractors obtain information about the maximum price the clients are willed to pay. Because then for example the agency has an idea of the framework in which they can plan the effort depending on the price.

Putting the briefing in writing

Once the customer has formulated his wishes in detail, the briefing goes into the second round. This takes place on the part of the agency. In the course of this briefing it must be ensured that all contents have been correctly understood. At best this should be done in writing, for example in the form of an e-mail to the customer. If all this has been observed, the briefing is complete and you can start. In this sense: Happy Briefing!

By the way, there are many different types of briefing: the content briefing, the graphic designer briefing and more.

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