How a brief can improve your nonprofit’s next creative project

November 1, 2019

We break down the differences between a concept brief and a creative brief and how they can help your team get organized!

Perhaps you’ve heard these terms in passing or have worked with us or another agency on a product. Each of these documents can help communicators and other staff get clarity on goals, strategy and a game plan for any type of product. As part of our three-part series on how to amp up your creative communications game, today we are diving deep into the world of creative briefs. These tools can make sure that everyone working on or deciding on communications products is on board with your direction.

So hang onto your briefs and pay close attention!

A concept brief: getting people on board with a creative idea

You need to use your excellent communication skills to help amplify a campaign, message or an announcement of some kind. You’ve brainstormed by yourself or with your colleagues and have a few ideas you think will work. But how do you make sure that leaders or partners are on board?

Cue the concept brief.

The concept brief is where you layout one or more ideas— and explain the underlying strategy at work. For example, are you proposing using original photography to highlight a conservation project? Explain how the use of real images to connect people to places they know and love will be most effective. Are you proposing using animation or illustrations to explain a hard-to-understand public health issue? Underscore how animation and illustration allow you to play with scale and complexity in an easy-to-digest way for audiences.

A creative brief: your roadmap to success

Okay, great! You’ve nailed the concept and now it’s time to get clear on exactly what you want as a result of the creative product. This is called the creative brief.

Below are some guiding questions that your brief might address:

  • How does your concept help achieve your communications goal? Restate the concept and explain the how.
  • What are the assets you have? Do you have existing graphics, photos, video footage or other materials to employ in the product?
  • What’s the vibe or tone of the project? For example, call out whether the concept will be playful, serious, or suggest a threat to livelihoods or wellbeing. Or explain the color palette you’d like to use and how it supports that tone.
  • Who will review and/or approve the product? Who will write, design or create it?
  • What is your timeline?
  • What’s the distribution plan? Name who, where, and how the product will be shared with the world (or a specific target audience). Will it be online? Will it run as an ad? Will it be a printed product?

When you’re trying to understand the difference, remember that the concept brief is a higher-level summary of one or more creative ideas and why you think they will be effective. A concept brief can be a great tool to engage leaders and partners and get everyone on board with a creative product. In contrast, a creative brief is more like a roadmap. It will serve as a working document to guide the process, define who is responsible for what, and get you across the finish line!

Now, you’re ready to go out into the world, brief knowledge in hand. Now go get creative! Or give us a call, and we can help!

Curious about exploring more creative resources from our 3-part series? Check out our tipsheet on Sourcing photos: making sure you have the right creative license.

— Esmeralda Manjarrez, Creative Communications Intern