For many brands, the New Year brings new budgets, and with them, new marketing campaigns. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of planning a new campaign, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The sheer volume of channels and tactics available to every single marketer today is daunting by itself, let alone trying to corral them into a coherent, impactful campaign.
And it’s a New Year! Are you worried if you haven’t kicked off an exciting new campaign by the first week of January? Be careful and don’t rush – starting a campaign with rushed objectives can backfire badly.
This confusion and concern about disciplines, channels and tactics doesn’t have an impact on just you. Unless you’re absolutely crystal clear on what you’re looking to achieve, then your marketing or communications team – and any suppliers you work with – could fire off in completely the wrong direction as well. If your remit is broader than our UK shores and you have pan European marketing, communications or PR campaigns kicking off in many countries, how do you give enough guidance in a brief without being overly prescriptive?
We’ve had written briefs that are 180 pages, and briefs that are one page. We’ve had verbal briefs lasting between four hours and sometimes just five minutes. If you’re looking for some agency inspiration, the clue is in the name – be brief – allow them to ask questions, give room for some elasticity and imagination. If a brief is so lengthy and descriptive, it becomes more of an instruction manual rather than an invitation to suggest ideas and solutions to problems.
Metaphorically speaking, it’s times like this that trying to give an appropriate length brief might have you wondering if you need thermal long johns or lightweight tighty-whities, but don’t worry – we’ve got some helpful suggestions to cover all bases.
The three B’s for perfect-sized briefs are: Business, Brevity and Budget.
Regardless of whether you’re the founder of a start-up and handling the marketing yourself, or a senior marketer with a large team and a diktat from the C-level, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think about your business goals. That is what you should be working towards. That’s the top line of what your brief should specify, and sometimes that’s almost everything an agency needs to know.
Once you’ve got a bit more clarity and a good download from wider stakeholders, you can embark on writing the RFP. Regardless of whether you’re putting pen to paper, or talking an agency through the specifics face-to-face or via Webex, there are a few things that you should remember if you want to get the most back from an ‘elastic’ brief:
Agencies understand that no-one has unlimited funds, and not everyone can go over the budget. Any client should have realistic guidelines as to how much they want to spend. Then you should be able to compare agencies and work out what you can and can’t expect to be achieved.
If in doubt – and if you work with other countries that manage similar marketing, communications or PR agencies – look at what they’re spending and take that as a starter.
Investing the time to create a thoughtful, business-oriented brief that provides transparency about what your business is really looking for in a communications partner is key. This process ensures that you receive quality proposals and pitches that are directly aligned with the business strategy of the organisation, allowing you to handpick the most suitable PR partner going forward, whose strategies will complement and drive your communications programme forward to achieve your desired business outcomes. Read here for more guidance.
Your PR brief is essentially your key to finding the right partner for your business and you should be thinking about it that way. Every employee in your business needs to play a part in achieving the company’s business goals, be it sales figures, profit, or website hits. This applies to the PR agency you’re going to hire as well.
It shouldn’t be a case of ‘I have some budget, let’s do a bit of PR stuff’. A thoughtful, strategic approach is needed to generate a brief that focuses on business needs, and includes ‘proposal expectations’ which must link to those needs. This will get PR agencies thinking about what your business really needs, and will cut out any superficial fluff and nonsense! A PR brief base tailored to business needs allows you to check if the agencies in the pitch process are demonstrating an ability to understand and support your desired business goals.
This brief and pitch stage of the PR process is the first step towards getting business critical PR right. Similar to how we suss out suitable friends or partners from a first meeting, the pitch process is a first stage to seeing how agencies might approach PR. Getting business expectations into the brief gets the PR agencies’ line of thinking ingrained with the business strategy of the company, and not an activity that’s simply running alongside the business, or worse at a tangent. This is also a chance for you to see which agency is ‘a keeper’, with the potential to become a long term business partner.
Here are four tips for you as communications professionals to keep in mind while creating a PR brief:
Much like on a first date, you need to be clear on what you want in a partner. Part of that involves knowing how you want them to fit into your life, the goals you want to achieve, and also communicating this clearly to your potential partner so they know what you want.
As communications professionals, you need to be clear on the business objectives of your company and convey this to the PR agency you’re intending to work with. Whether this is a specific sales target, sign-ups to a service or attendance at a particular event, be sure to pick out at least three clear business objectives for your company that will determine the communication objectives, and ultimately PR activities for your agency.
Once you’ve clearly laid out your business objectives, you need to overlay your communications objectives – what your agency will need to work towards and be measured by.
A suggestion here is to always include in the brief at least three key messages that a PR campaign should aim to cover (linking these to business objectives). This helps the PR agencies streamline their pitches around the key messages. Read more here for tips and a checklist on writing some great PR objectives.
Much like we have a mental checklist on who’s likely to become a suitable and rewarding partner, we need to know what we would look for to determine if a particular PR campaign or project is a success. As communications professionals, you need to know what you want your money to achieve.
Outlining clear and measurable key point indicators (KPIs) in the brief lets the agencies pitching know what they need to be achieving with this particular brief, and lets them decide if this is something they can work towards or not. Every agency has different areas of expertise and skill sets. Should your measure of success be something an agency might not feel comfortable working towards, like video production, or SEO traction, this helps them to make a conscious decision to not take part in the brief, saving you time as well!
It’s easy for communications professionals to fall into the trap of setting an ‘open budget’ and looking to see what agencies are capable of in the pitch process. While this strategy has its merits and doesn’t limit the scope of what agencies might present, setting a budget range, with perhaps an additional ‘project scope’ to test the boundaries of an agency’s creativity is more advisable, and builds a better foundation for the relationship. Going into a brief with full understanding of the resources available allows agencies to create a campaign plan and match resources according to the budget given. This gives you a much clearer idea of what each agency can deliver with the resources that you have to spare, and reduces the risk of falling into the trap of hiring an agency that wows you with their ideas in the brief process, only to realise that none of what they propose can be achieved with the actual budget that you have to spare.
Setting and being clear with the budget you have for PR also gets both you and the PR agencies pitching for your brief to be thinking realistically about the best way forward to achieve your goals.
The bottom line
Investing the time to create a thoughtful, business-oriented brief that provides transparency about what your business is really looking for in a communications partner is key. This process ensures that you receive quality proposals and pitches that are directly aligned with the business strategy of the organisation, allowing you to handpick the most suitable PR partner going forward, whose strategies will complement and drive your communications programme forward to achieve your desired business outcomes.
Firefly London has very recently been awarded the Pan-European PR briefs to promote two companies: Leaseweb and Evoswitch.
Server hosting company Leaseweb is one of the largest and fastest growing companies in its field in Europe, serving the global market. LeaseWeb handles internet traffic for clients like The Wikimedia Foundation, operators ofWikipedia, Heineken, and Hyves, the largest social media site in the Netherlands. Evoswitch is the cutting edge, next generation datacentre, based near Amsterdam that is 100% climate neutral – providing customers with advanced, state of the art, eco-friendly and secure IT housing alternatives.
Firefly’s immediate brief is to build brand awareness in the UK and manage the Netherlands execution through Dutch PR agency partner MarcommIT, before embarking on a Pan-EMEA campaign to build the brands’ profiles across Europe. Firefly’s remit covers traditional and online PR, corporate profiling, forum engagement and industry analyst relations.
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