This Creative Brief Template Helps Ensure Powerful Copy and Design

Many creative marketing projects get underway without a clear sense of expectations between a nonprofit’s marketing and organizational leadership, and the creative folks (whether in-house or freelance) delivering it.

The result? An extended and expensive creative development process with many revisions—not to mention chewed-up nails, bruised egos and depleted momentum.

Taking the time and energy up front to craft a thorough creative brief will save you organization time and money, and ensure you get the fundraising campaign, program mini-site, campaign website or annual report you envisioned. And going through this process may highlight that another medium or approach will work better than the one you had in mind.

Your brief should be, well, brief, running no more than two pages. Make it easy to scan with the use of clear sub-headings, white space and bulleted lists.

Here’s what your brief should include:

  • Overview
    • General project information
    • Goals
    • Measurable Objectives (benchmarks to measure progress towards goals, e.g. increase donor retention by 20% this year)
    • Deliverables Needed
      Note: Deliverables can change during the creative process, i.e. the graphic designer might suggest that a blog, rather than an e-newsletter, will do more to address your goals.
  • Primary audiences
    Provide enough detail to enhance everyone’s understanding of who the audience is. Include some user demographic information if possible.

    • Who are your primary target audiences? Choose a typical audience member or two and profile including job, age range, gender, passions, what her day looks like, etc.
    • How will your audiences use this Facebook page, white paper or website?
    • What should be avoided in talking to these audiences?
  • Tone and Image
    • Funny and casual, or formal and buttoned-up, or…
    • What do the audiences believe or think, before you start communicating with them?
    • What tone and imagery should we use to engage them?
    • Specific visual goals?
  • Messages: Features, Benefits and Values
    • List top features and/or facts about the program, service or organization, and its value to target audiences
    • How do these stack up against the competition?
    • If you could get one sentence across, what would that be? How would you prove it?
    • Other major points?
  • Budget and Schedule
    • Has a budget been approved? If so, what is the range?
      Note: Having a budget range enables creative to shape a doable approach, rather than a sky-in-the-pie approach that doesn’t fit your budget.
    • When must the message get to the audience for greatest impact (e.g. service introduction date, conference, special event)?
    • What are start and due dates for the finished work?
  • Process
    • Who is the point person (on the nonprofit side)?
    • What is the internal review and approval process?
    • Who needs to sign off on final execution?
  • Anything else?
    • How many rounds of revisions on your side (be they yours, your bosses, or your CEO’s) should the writer or designer include in her bid for the job?
    • Your additions?

Download this creative brief template today and review it with my tips fresh in your mind. When you do, you’ll be poised to outline a clear and productive creative brief when your next marketing project pops up.

Get your creative brief template here.

What techniques do you use to ensure that your communications product match your vision and goals, and your audience profile? Please share here.

More at Five Steps to Great Graphic Design for Nonprofits