The Best Way to Write a Creative Brief (With Helpful Templates)

The Best Way to Write a Creative Brief (With Templates) 74

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The best way to write a creative brief with templates (header)

Marketing projects can sometimes be a challenge to get off the ground.

Everyone has a different vision for what the campaign should be, what the creative will look like and what the objectives are.

Not doing your prep work on the front-end can mean you might go too far down the wrong path, which means wasted time, lost money, and disgruntled clients.

What’s a marketer to do?

Create a clear creative brief before the work begins, of course.

If this leaves you scratching your head, have no fear.

You’ll find everything you need in this post, including a step-by-step process for completing a brief, several examples to follow, and templates to make getting started easy.

Three Creative Brief Templates + Your Projects = Success

Start off by downloading our creative brief templates.

This kit includes three different templates you can use to write effective creative briefs the easy way (in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint format).

Grab ’em below. Then, keep reading to learn how to use them effectively.

Why You Need a Creative Brief

A creative brief helps clarify expectations between your team and the project’s stakeholders. Not having one increases the likelihood of missed deadlines and means a heck of a lot more time wasted on making sure everyone is on the right track.

The creative brief serves as the documentation for the project’s objectives and how you’re going to achieve success — the “what” and “how”, essentially.

Marketing teams need to focus carefully on ROI to prove our worth.

Creativity is often overlooked in this equation. As evidenced by the thrown together creative briefs copied and pasted from old campaigns.

The purpose and impact of creativity

Doesn’t it seem odd that you’re willing to spending a bunch of money on a project, but not spend more than 5 minutes making sure your project is set up for success?

Rejecting a creative brief

Reason 1: Define the Scope and Help Avoid Scope-creep

The creative brief says a lot about what the project is, but it also provides insight into what the project isn’t.

For example, let’s say your creative brief outlines a project to redesign your website’s blog.  The scope of this project is clear; you’re not setting out to re-design any other area of the site.

This avoids what we call scope-creep. Scope-creep can be compared to the “might as-wells”.

“If we’re redesigning the blog, we ‘might as-well’ redesign the about us pages, too.”

This can be especially difficult if your project is on behalf of a client.

You, as the project manager, need to make hard decisions about whether you need to adjust the cost and risk the client getting upset, or eat the cost and hurt your profitability.

Your creative brief can help you avoid this conundrum.

Collaborating with your client or team at the beginning helps prevent misunderstandings about deliverables and gives you a document to reference if scope-creep arises.

Reason 2: Clarify the Project’s Timeline

Most projects have a definitive delivery date, so it’s a good idea to include a timeline in your creative brief.

Marketing teams juggle multiple projects at once, which means it can be a challenge for individuals to manage everything on their plate. It’s important for Marketing Managers to value their team member’s opinions regarding realistic timelines and workloads.

Gain input while formulating the creative brief or use something, like CoSchedule’s Team Management Dashboard, to make sure timelines are realistic.

Reason 3: Mitigate Confusion and Answer Questions

Have you ever been pulled into a project and felt confused about the who, what, where, when, and why?

Or maybe those questions have lingered in your mind throughout the duration of the project?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been a part of a marketing project that has felt a little half-baked.

The process of writing the creative brief itself helps you work through strategic questions that may otherwise go unanswered.

Likewise, everyone involved in the project will have a clear idea of what’s going on and can understand the project’s reason for existence.

Which makes your job as the de facto project manager a lot easier.

  • Questions about timeline? Check out the creative brief.
  • Questions about target audience? Creative brief.
  • Questions about process? You guessed it... creative brief.

BOOM. You’ve just saved some time by not having to re-answer the same questions over and over again.

Elements of a Great Creative Brief

Creative briefs can vary slightly in what they actually contain. Some opt for more information; others are more condensed. Here’s a running list of items you may consider including in your brief.

Project Summary

Describe the project in one or two sentences. Boil it down to the basics. This gives everyone who might come into the project (at any point in time) a high-level understanding of what the project is. It also makes it easier to iterate on the project down the road.

“E-commerce research project intended to attract small business owners wanting to launch their own e-shop.”

Target Audience

Outline who you’re trying to reach with the campaign. This can be simply a certain user persona or it can be a demographic outline. This is important as it gives the project member an idea of who they’re talking to/ designing for.

“Small business owners and ‘makers’ that are currently selling on Etsy, farmer’s markets, etc.”


What problem is the project trying to solve? Why do you need to do *this* project? This narrows down why the project exists and why the company needs to do this particular project.

“{Insert company name} is finding it difficult to convince designers, makers, small business owners etc. of the benefits of creating their own webshops rather than selling via Etsy. This report will provide {the company} with original data to use throughout the year and will highlight the benefits of setting up an e-commerce site.”


Why are we doing this project? Make sure your goals are measurable and avoid setting too many. Stick to your one metric that matters.

“The primary goal is to increase interest in using {company platform} as the go-to e-commerce platform. This will help position {company name}  as the best solution for setting up an e-commerce website. We will create a comprehensive research report that aims to convert 5,000 new paid users by the end of 2019.”


How will success be measured? This sets the stage for how you will know if your project was successful or not. It also helps you understand if the project should be repeated.

“This report will be measured based on the number of new accounts generated from gated downloads.”


What are the general steps we must follow to finish the project? This is a good outline that can become a task template once the project kicks off. It also is a good way for each team member to visualize where they fit into the project.

  • Write survey questions
  • Distribute survey
  • Analyze data
  • Write content for the report
  • Design PDF
  • Prepare promotion strategy
  • Measure

Individuals/Teams Involved

Who do you need to get this project done? This serves as a reminder to everyone that they need to be involved in order for the project to get off the ground.

“PR, Graphic Design, Social Media, Analytics, Content Marketing, Email Marketing”


What is the due date for this project? Every project needs to have a start and end date… they can’t drag on in perpetuity. This makes it easier for people to plan their workloads and get things finished on time.

“End of Q2 2019”


How much can you spend on this project? This can either be a client’s budget or internal resources that are dedicated. You can also think of this in terms of hours devoted to this project.


How to Write a Great Creative Brief

Aside from including the right information, there are a couple things you should also think about when compiling a creative brief.

Be Specific

You want your creative brief to clear enough that anyone can understand the project.

A vague creative brief will often produce results that fall far short of expectations. When a creative brief misses the necessary specifics, significant revisions often arise which makes for a frustrating process for all involved.

Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T goals help put your project on the fast track to success.

SMART goals in relation to creative briefs

An example of a S.M.A.R.T goal might be:

We will create a comprehensive research report that aims to convert 5,000 new paid users by the end of 2019.

The goal is specific by identifying that you want to help drive new paid users.

It’s measurable because your team will be able to tell if you hit your 5,000 increase paid users or not.

It’s attainable based on previous benchmarking for similar campaigns.

The task is relevant because it’s contributing to the company’s bottom line.

Finally, the task has a time limit to see if the project was successful or not.

The Operative Word is Brief

The creative brief is exactly what it says… brief. It doesn’t need everything and the kitchen sink.

Offer an abridged summary that can be easily digested.

It shouldn’t be TL;DR.

You don’t need to link to a dozen planning spreadsheets, email chains, and related documents. Chances are, those supporting documents won’t even be looked at, so don’t waste your time.

Leah Dekrey quote about creative briefs

Show Me an “IRL” Creative Brief Example

Now that some of the best practice issues have been discussed, let’s jump into a real-life creative brief example.

Most creative briefs aren’t distributed externally, so we’re sharing one of our own examples with the world.

Client and project info for creative brief
Project overview and objective template
Aesthetic and tone template
Requirements, deadlines, and budget

Example 2: Act-On

Act-on video creative brief

Further questions from Act-on for creative brief

Last set of questions from Act-on about creative briefs

Example 3: PayPal

Example 4: Excel Template (Included in Download)

Excel template for creative brief

Example 5: PPT Template (Included in Download)

PowerPoint template for creative briefs

All That's Left to Do...

Is get started on your new and improved creative brief process.

There isn't any benefit to barreling into a project without a proper plan. Use the provided templates and ideas to ensure you get the most out of your projects, and keep every contributor in the know.

This post was originally created on January 2, 2019. It was updated and republished August 20, 2020.

About the Author

Leah is the Customer Marketing Lead at CoSchedule. Outside of work, she loves hunting for cool stuff at thrift stores. If not for marketing, Leah would be a psychiatrist, given her fascination with Dateline NBC, true-crime podcasts, and Netflix documentaries about cults.

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