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Do Nonprofits Need a Creative Brief for Behavior Change?  

By Tara Pereira on 6/22/17 1:00 PM

Do Nonprofits Need a Creative Brief for Behavior Change? .png


Having clear communication and a solid creative process between agency team members and your nonprofit management team is imperative.  It is important to get it right so that everyone can move toward the same project goals, especially when resources are limited. We’ve written about developing a plan for your next video and preparing for your next print project. We’ve also discussed marketing consistency. All of these have one thing in common - the creative brief.

Clear and consistent communication

We all know that for clear communication there needs to be consistent communication. Part of consistency is the idea that everyone needs to be on the same page to move forward on goals and objectives. This is especially vital when developing resources for your next outreach and grassroots communication intiaitve is involved.

A creative brief can keep everyone on track and accountable. The brief helps you to develop resources and tools that will speak to your commuity, and also helps others to understand what they need to do. Every new project needs a separate creative brief. Every project has its nuances and your team needs to see that and work towards helping others see that. This is especially important when there are many stakeholders connected to your organzation. Having everyone understand and work towards a unified message is essential.

Start here: Problem + People + Solution

  • What is the project purpose? 
  • Who is it for?
  • What is the specific behavior change or action that you want the audience to take?

These are the basic questions you need to have clear answers for. A good brief is the foundation of every project you do. It provides the goals, objectives, audience and messaging. It includes any important information needed to work on a specific client project team. It is the document that aligns the members of client and agency team. 

There are many different styles of creative brief. It is important to develop one that works for your joint client-agency team for your changemaking project. If you are planning a website, that brief may be referred to as a website development brief and it may need to answer different questions than a brief for a video series. While both may use the same foundational document (a marketing plan or creative platform) as a starting point, your video brief would include distribution specs as opposed to content navigation.

A creative brief needs to include all the elements you consider necessary to successfully complete your next project.

What should you cover in your creative brief?

  • Description and Purpose
    1. Define the reason for this brief
  • Goals
    1. Why are you doing this?
    2. Is there a problem you need to solve, or an opportunity to take advantage of?
  • Objectives and Metrics
    1. What do you hope to achieve?
    2. What is a successful outcome?
    3. How will success be measured or tracked?
  • Audience
    1. Who is this for?
    2. Who is your primary and secondary community?
  • Messaging
    1. What will you communicate with your audience?
    2. What kind of language will you use?
  • Tone
    1. Is this funny, professional or serious? Choose a tone that reflects your brand.
    2. What kind of emotional tone will you use?
  • Design considerations and required elements
    1. What are the technical specifics for this effort?
    2. Are there certain looks or techniques you know your audience likes (or hates)?
    3. Any required elements to include, such as phone number, website address, or name/logo of the organization funding the project?
  • Available resources or constraints
    1. Are there existing logos, images or other design elements that can be used?
    2. Are there unusual constraints the team needs to be aware of? (For example, a budget cut reducing what is available for your annual report?
  • Timing
    1. When is the due date? (Is this a desirable due date, or a hard deadline?)
    2. Is this for ongoing communications or for a specific time period?

Taking your team through the process of answering these questions can lead to a new or more focused direction. This document unifies your creative team and your organization's stakeholders, which could include your management team, your board of trustees, and perhaps key donors.

As time goes on, take a look at whether your brief needs to be updated for new channels and technology. For example, if your next project will use digital marketing, you could also ask the team to consider the following questions.

  • How will the primary and secondary audiences interact with this creative project?
  • What would encourage them share it or act as a referral for your message, action or behavior change?

Creative briefs need not be long. They are called a brief for a reason. Think Hemingway not Tolkien. Projects begin with an idea. Good projects begin with an idea and the answers in your brief about the why and the how.


Check out our Guide to Inclusive Language to help you communicate
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The Change Conversations blog is where changemakers find inspiration and insights on the power of mission-driven communication to create the change you want to see.


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