Writing a great brief leads to a richer partnership. Here’s what you could be missing.

Clear communication is essential to any successful partnership – even more so when you’re working with external parties. Four of our expert partners shared their thoughts on how you could write a good brief to explain the challenge or project you want to tackle, putting you on the best footing for a partnership with an agency or consultancy.

Taking the time to write a brief decreases the chances for miscommunication and creates a common reference point for all parties.

Please write a brief.

Most clients don’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to articulate their needs.  Briefings are too often verbal or informal emails with no supporting documentation or research.  It’s up to the consultant to ask the right questions and take good notes.  This doesn’t allow for both parties to have a common document to act as reference throughout the process as a reality/scope check.

Taking the time to compose a briefing will make the process more efficient and more impactful.  It will force you to summarize the situational analysis - why you need help, what your objectives are and how you will measure them.   It’s also an opportunity to share your insight and shape the project.

Keep the briefing short and to the point. One or two pages maximum.  If you need more, you can include an appendix with additional links or provide a list of other relevant documents. Ask your consultant if they have a preferred format or if they can provide a template for you to follow.  You could even co-create the briefing together through a collaborative kick-off discussion.

- Cathy Kirkpatrick, Partner, Alphabet Creative

You don’t need to have ‘solved’ the problem – working collaboratively with a partner to identify the best approach to your challenge can open doors you’ve not considered.

When it comes to writing a brief, there are many ‘technical’ inclusions that would make the responses easier, such as a clear vision for the project and transparency of budgets. The real challenge, and often missing answer, is to understand the actual problem the client is trying to solve from the offset. Many come forward requesting costs for specific phases of work – that they think they need. Clients should be going to specialist providers that can help them solve a problem and understand what they are trying to achieve, from this the brief / scope writes itself. Eventually they will require the majority of the phases to be delivered, however it should be strategically driven as to “is this right for this place? Is now the right time?”

- Guillaume Cocken, Head of Business Development, Brash

Arrive with an open mindset to how you can achieve your goals beyond ‘messaging.’

There are important choices and actions that are inherent in bringing a place brand to life. It’s not just a “messaging” exercise. It’s about commitment to concrete actions that demonstrate a clear value proposition. If a goal is to attract young entrepreneurs, for example, a destination has to demonstrate that it too has an entrepreneurial character through a host of creative policies, inventive programs, investments and incentives. Actions always speak louder than words. The most effective collaborations with agencies and consultants come from explicit intention to create a viable, long-term action plan, not just a marketing campaign.

- Jeannette Hanna, Chief strategist, Trajectory

Understand what longer-term impact you want to have beyond the immediate challenge.

Place branding goes beyond communication. It is not just the visual part - creating logo and publicly launching the brand. It is actually an ongoing process of strategic management of branding project and specific tasks devoted to different stakeholders. Communication is only a small part of telling people about the ongoing process of place branding.

- Jose Torres, CEO, Bloom Consulting

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.