By Lindsay Coates-Ledden, Golley Slater PR Cambridge

Writing a brief for a PR agency is basically like writing a job description. It provides a clear picture of your brand values, tells an agency where your brand currently stands within your market, your unique selling points, and where you eventually want it to be.

Much like a job description sets out what an employer is looking for in a potential employee, an agency brief states what a company is trying to find in an agency. A job description describes the business briefly, discusses the area within which the candidate should have some experience and gives a summary of the general duties and objectives required in a job. An agency brief is similar, also giving a background of the company and a description of the aims and objectives of a potential campaign.

The pitches that come back from various agencies are like job interviews. Creating a brief will mean a company is able to ‘interview’ the shortlisted agencies , allowing them to consider a wide range of results; hopefully finding a potential campaign that can uphold their brand values to retain loyal consumers, and present them effectively to attract new customers.

In order to make sure a campaign will convey the message that a brand is trying to represent, it is important for the agency to have a clear picture of the brand and its message, so there is no confusion about their role or what you want them to do for you. This is why writing a brief is so important.

A brief should be clear, concise and well written. It does not necessarily have to be long, but should contain relevant background information about the brand; for example, what the brand currently represents, its competitors and the state of the market in which your product exists.

It is important to include information about your target market too, so an agency can tailor a campaign to the correct social group and the types of media outlets they use. It would be ineffective to send a press release about dentures to a teen magazine as it would not achieve the desired results; it is unlikely that this particular product suits this market!

Your brief should discuss what you wish to achieve from a campaign. Do you want the image of the brand to change? Are you trying to make sure your brand’s image and values stay constant to retain loyal customers? Or are you looking to draw more attention to your product in the hope of an increase in sales? Once these objectives are clearly defined, it will be easier for an agency to create a solution that is effective in helping you achieve your objectives.

Details should also be given on how long you want a potential campaign to last and whether it should run alongside or avoid any similar campaigns. It is important to provide a budget to ensure that the agency can allocate the appropriate resources and develop a campaign that is affordable while delivering the desired results. Companies may not provide agencies with a budget because they want to see what the agency “comes up with”. While this freedom on budget may seem like a good idea, it leaves a great deal of room for disappointment. The agencies will have to draw their conclusions on what you might have to spend and base their creative development on parameters that may be totally wrong. The company could receive highly creative and broad programmes which are above their budget, or conversely could receive proposals that are based on too small a budget and therefore the campaign is not as far-reaching as it might be.

A well written brief will benefit everyone, so it is important to put time and effort into writing one. This will avoid mixed-message which cause confusion and lots of questions coming back to your form the agency. A clear brief will yield significantly better pitches and ultimately to a successful campaign.

Sections within an agency brief:

• Background
About the brand: what it represents, its competitors, target market, state of market

• Aims and objectives of campaign
Increase in sales? Changing public opinion?

• Length of campaign
Timings — to coincide with other campaigns

• Budget