22nd October 2020

How to write an agency brief


Our Commercial Director, Magali Bourcy, explains how to get the very best from your third party agency.

Sometimes, it’s better to hire a professional to do a job properly than try your best to do it yourself. When it comes to something as specific as creating a website for your business or rebranding it is worth considering a third party. At Deeson we have decades of experience designing and building websites for clients such as Imperial War Museums or ITV, with the creative and technical expertise, research and ideas that lie outside your own organisation’s core skillset.

Yet no outside agency can ever know your business as well as you do. That’s why a well-written brief is a vital part of the process. A proper commission will allow an agency to hit the ground running by detailing all the information up front, from deadlines and budget through to goals and available assets. Here are some ways to guide you towards writing the sort of brief that’s so good, agencies like us can hit the ground running:

Create the framework for a partnership

At Deeson we operate as a department within the client’s organisation – albeit a temporary one – ensuring we can fully understand your organisational culture as well as the specific needs of the task at hand.
For us to understand where you’re aiming and what your business challenges are, you have to let us in on the bigger picture. Don’t be protective about disclosure – secrecy doesn’t play to anyone’s favour. Instead, use the brief as the first step to making your chosen agency an extension of your team. Be transparent about how many insights you have already on the topic by sharing research as well as the technical details of the task.

Concentrate on the 'why' before you get to the 'how'

You may be working with an agency because your organisation wants a new asset delivered, so it’s understandable that you might want them to get straight to work making something.
But hold on a minute. Can you pinpoint exactly why you need that new project? Can you define the problem you currently experience that you believe it will solve? Can you explain why it plays into your business strategy?
If you can, then you’ve cracked a central goal of your agency brief. By answering the ‘why’ in your brief, you are moving beyond prescribing the solution you want – or that you think you want – by defining your ultimate goal.
By letting the agency in on your long-term strategy, you give them the opportunity to consider the wider perspective, rather than just creating specific functionality. Which leads us on to…

Create strategy before creating products

It’s easy to point at something that already exists – a rival’s website, perhaps, or some novel application seen in a different business sector – and tell us, “Build us one of these.” Yet without the context of ‘why’, this approach risks us executing your request to the very letter while, at the same time, missing the bigger picture.
What is the purpose of the project? What do you want the project to achieve? What’s the business challenge? Are you looking to target specific people? Do you even know your target audience?
Building time into the start of a project to discuss and create strategy is, paradoxically, a great way to save time. Don’t rush towards construction. Create a roadmap to success first to ensure that no one loses sight of the final objective.

Value a fresh perspective

The value of an agency’s fresh perspective to your business challenges cannot be overstated. Since agencies are used to working with multiple clients, it’s likely that a similar problem to the one you are facing has already cropped up in a different business sector. Even if your problem is new to us, as an interested outsider looking into your organisation, we are able to think outside of our business box. Using your brief to define the end state, without prescribing the exact method of achieving this, will give any agency the space they need to offer solutions that you might not have even thought of. Which again, leads us onto…

Don't be over-prescriptive

You might believe it will take two developers two months to complete the task but that’s based on the assumption that your proposed solution is the correct one. But what happens to that timetable – and the associated budget – if your agency starts to look at strategic planning, additional research and so on?
Of course deadlines and budgets are important and, as such, both must clearly be communicated up-front in the brief. As a business, you know what your time restraints are and what you can afford. But allocating specific costs are part of any agency’s role and they can find applicable solutions within those restraints. Deeson, for example, is so experienced completing projects for clients that we will have a clear understanding of how to schedule and staff your project.

Separate the 'must-haves' from the 'nice to haves'

This is a crucial split and thinking about it in advance can save a lot of agonising later on. What must the project absolutely deliver and what would it be nice to have, if time and budget allow for them? If the brief states these up front, you can be sure that the time and budget will be allocated in the right way.

Define what success will look like

Think about the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in advance and describe them, however broadly, in your brief. How do you want to define success and what are you going to do to measure it? It might require a strategy session to define the KPIs but it’s well worth doing so because a year down the line, you need to know whether you have been successful and whether the project has successfully created change.

Summing up

Think of your agency brief as a roadmap with your destination clearly marked but the exact route only pencilled in. While you might have some good ideas of what paths to take based on your existing knowledge, an agency such as Deeson, with its vast experience of faster roads, or perhaps just more satisfying sections of the journey, can guide you to your destination.