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    From creative briefs to conversations: The key to better marketing alignment

    From creative briefs to conversations: The key to better marketing alignment

    David Ogilvy famously said, “Give me the freedom of a tight brief.” The sentiment is that the best creative outcomes come when briefs are focused and specific, providing little room for interpretation. Born out of the ad agencies of the 1960s, creative briefs were a way for the account planner — the person closest to the client — to set creative strategy in motion. 

    While well-executed creative briefs still serve as a solid foundational tool for today’s marketers, they unfortunately require one thing in short supply with marketers: time. There is a growing need to complement this approach with more dynamic and conversational approaches. The fast pace of organizations, combined with new ways of working, demands that we move to a more fluid approach. 

    Over-reliance on creative briefs

    Typically written by the person requesting work from creative teams, the creative brief was traditionally used in content marketing to ensure that the objective, target audience, key messages, tone and deliverables had been adequately thought through before an advertising campaign was launched.

    However, some content and creative marketers have taken the concept of a creative brief to the extreme. Instead of offering overarching guidance for a campaign, marketers use creative briefs to initiate even small pieces of work.

    In these organizations, a marketer promoting a webinar might have to create separate briefs for an email, a landing page and social media posts. Hardly “brief” at that point! This over-reliance on creative briefs turns them into administrative hurdles that encourage minimal stakeholder interaction and little coordination between teams. 

    Dig deeper: 5 secrets to cross-functional collaboration in marketing

    Limitations of creative briefs

    In addition, creative briefs open up the doors to misinterpretation. Information degrades as it is handed from one person to another. The original intent of the work can be lost, leading to rework and misguided efforts. Two people can look at the same sentence and have vastly different interpretations.

    Strict guidelines around creative briefs can also limit creativity and innovation. Imagine you work for a consumer electronics company tasked with promoting a new smartphone. The creative brief states that the key message must focus on the phone’s advanced battery life, with specific phrases and statistics that must be used. The creative team has an idea to showcase the battery life using real-world scenarios, like how the battery life performs when shooting video. However, their idea doesn’t use specific phrases and statistics. It gets rejected by the creative director.

    Shortly after the campaign launch, the competition releases a smartphone with slightly better battery life. It highlights video recording capabilities, better aligning with market interest and rendering the original campaign irrelevant. 

    Making room (and time!) for conversations

    In the above example, a conversation might have sussed out the nuance to save the campaign. Instead of rejecting the idea outright, the teams could dialog to better understand the constraints, the perspectives and the opportunities. Did the originator of the brief considerthe real-world application of the battery life? Was there a compelling reason to focus on the battery life not included in the brief? A few simple questions might add a layer of clarity. 

    The question remains: how do marketers make room for these important conversations when everyone is pressed for time? 

    Getting predictability and alignment

    Cadence and synchronization are two underutilized tools that can help marketers regain their time. Cadence simply means that things happen on a regular basis. For example, requests could be reviewed a couple of times a week to keep work flowing through content teams. This creates predictability, as both the teams submitting the work and the teams doing the work know when and where requests can be discussed. 

    Cadence reverses a trend that every piece of work needs its own meeting. Instead of calling a meeting to discuss individual pieces of work, bring work to pre-set meetings and let people know what will be discussed. 

    Synchronization is the act of getting aligned. Some requests might need limited synchronization, and others might need in-depth conversation. Earmark which is which in the meeting invite. Facilitation techniques such as timeboxing, brainstorming and the parking lot can help keep these discussions on track. 

    Scared that unstructured dialog will eat up all of the time? Use the Agile value of experimentation to cut through the battle of opinions. In the previous example around the battery, the person submitting the request could acknowledge the creative team’s input and structure an A/B test around battery life vs. real-life use cases. 

    The end goal is shared alignment that prevents misunderstandings and rework while optimizing outcomes.

    Dig deeper: Aligning martech with your business strategy: Your blueprint for success

    Advocating for lightweight briefs with conversations

    Instead of a full brief, try implementing a lightweight brief along with pre-set conversations. Lightweight briefs provide “just enough” information about the request. Think along the lines of a user story in agile, plus supporting information, dependencies, scoping and timing information: 

    • “As a [persona] I want to [get this outcome] so I can [accomplish this goal].”

    Moving back to our battery example, we might have written:

    “As an avid user of video on my smartphone, I want to know my battery will last a long time, so that I can shoot a full day’s worth of video without having to charge my phone.”

    Supporting information: Our research shows that 68% of our target audience are avid video users in the 22-32 age range. They are trendsetters and use SnapChat, YouTube and TikTok. Email and other channels could be tested. 

    Scope and timing: Three concepts for video ads 0:06 in length, one completed video, posted to social channels by August 30. 

    Dependencies: Overall Brand Kit for the campaign, scheduled for August 15.

    Really, that lightweight. 

    Using a lightweight process provides clarity and direction while keeping the administrative overhead low. This approach promotes innovation, flexibility and speed, leaving any unanswered questions to be clarified in the consolidated review meeting. 

    Final thoughts

    Creative briefs can be an unexamined area ripe for improvement in content marketing teams. Teams may over-utilize briefs, turning them into administrative hurdles, or use them in lieu of conversations, leading to misunderstandings and rework.

    Introducing conversations into the process, specifically tightly facilitated, regularly scheduled meetings, can support better flow, predictability and alignment. 

    These conversations, offered alongside lightweight creative briefs, reduce overhead and help marketers gain back the one thing they need the most: time. 

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    The post From creative briefs to conversations: The key to better marketing alignment appeared first on MarTech.

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