Know who you’re communicating with… and why.
Before briefing your designer you need to be crystal clear in your mind what you want and why. That sounds blindingly obvious, but there’s still a lot of woolly briefing out there. (We were going to say ‘woolly briefs’ but that wasn’t going anywhere good).
It’s surprising how nowadays when doing business it’s a million times more competitive than even ten years ago. The art of briefing doesn’t seem to have evolved as much as necessary. In the dead of night, you can still hear echoes, presumably from werewolves, of ‘We want to increase sales’ and ‘Our target market is men and women over thirty’ or ‘We want a website’. Thanks, guys. That really nails it for us. We can start work on that project straight away — and of course we’ll finished by 3 o’clock this afternoon (wink).
Here are some ways to smarten up and sharpen your briefing. You’re likely to know most of this stuff in which case we salute you smartly and talk to those who find this info new, or who have known and forgotten. Or for the people who are so busy they haven’t had time. So here’s what we suggest, beginning with the Who/What/Why/When/Where/How formula.
It has been around forever. Some archaeologists feel that the more advanced neanderthals were acquainted with it. Their severe competition with various knuckle draggers was a strong incentive for them to improve their communication skills. Trainee reporters were told to memorise the formula when tackling a story. Back in the good old days when writing actually took place in newspapers, editors would not even look at a story that didn’t at least cover these basics. You’ll improve your briefing technique no end just by keeping the formula in mind every time you have something to say. It helps clarify your thinking by constantly reminding you of what you are writing, who you are talking to — and why. So…
Give your next marketing communications brief the WHO? WHAT? WHY? WHEN? WHERE? HOW? test:
WHO: Who exactly is your material aimed at — and are you writing in a way your audience will relate to? You would talk to doctors in a different way than you would speak to truck drivers.
WHAT: What is everything you say relevant or of direct interest to your reader? Remove anything that isn’t.
WHY: Why are you communicating? To get enquiries? Start a pre-sale dialogue? Get an immediate sale? Maintain an ongoing customer relationship?
WHEN: When do you expect the reader to react? Buy now? Buy later?
WHERE: Where are you? Are locations and directions clearly explained?
HOW: How do you want people to respond? Are they just tyre kicking; get permission to keep in touch, eg. with a blog or newsletter.
You may not always have (or need) answers to all six questions. Some clearly overlap. Others have been shoe-horned into their categories. But keeping them in mind will keep you honest and help you think clearly so you can communicate with your designer in the same way.
You can take this a step further by formalising it into a briefing sheet, that will ensure you to cover the important bases every time.