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How to write a PR brief

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Have you ever tried to bake a cake for the first time without a recipe? Probably wasn’t easy, and that’s exactly what a brief is for. Being able to put together a great brief helps your team – whether internally or an agency, to develop an effective plan, efficiently.

It may seem like an innocuous formality, but in reality, a PR brief can make or break the success of a campaign. A good brief lays the foundation. And it really isn’t that hard since it’s often built on information that already exists.

As someone who’s written and received many briefs, I think a good brief boils down to five essential ingredients.

1. Objectives

Imagine you’ve just walked into a travel tour agency – you might tell them exactly where you’d like to go, or you could say that you’d like a holiday somewhere on a family-friendly beach, and let your agents do the rest. Getting started on a campaign is actually a similar experience (though it won’t get you on a beach!).

Each successful project starts with clear objectives. Similarly, a good PR brief should always begin with clear goals. This will provide a basis for your team to structure their ideas around, and a way to prioritise resource planning.

Some clients prefer to be as specific as possible – with defined, measurable outcomes already in place. This allows an agency to develop and deliver a plan that best meets your needs. On the other hand, there are those who prefer to begin with an overall goal, instead of specific KPIs. This may mean taking more time to communicate with your agency to refine and develop objectives, but it will also allow the team to help shape your plan with their experience and insights.

2. Target audience

You have a great product/service. And now, you’d like to shout about it from the rooftop. That’s fine and good, but remember that it’s often less important how loudly you’re shouting, than who you shout it at.

Having a target audience in mind, with rich data, also helps agencies shape your messages. Every brand has a story to tell, but what you have to say is only as good as what your customers hear. Knowing who you want to speak to allows an agency to help you refine what to say and decide when and how to say it.

3. Information and insights

Remember the 2010 Kit Kat Mail campaign in Japan? Off the back of a single insight – the popularity of gifting as a ritual in the country – the campaign generated over $11 million of free publicity, not to mention a way to break apart from the extremely crowded snack shelves in Japan.

Today, most agencies have their own tools they use to generate and locate insights, identifying conversations that add value to your brand, helping you craft the most relevant activities and messages. However, fancy listening tools, word clouds and line graphs aren’t the only channels you can rely on. Very often, the most precious nuggets of information are embedded in the information you already have. CRM data, customer complaints, advertising insights, etc – these can all come together to create a better picture of the business ecosystem you operate in.

Including more relevant data in your PR brief – or at least what other avenues information can be sourced from – allows an agency to build campaigns that can create real impact.

4. Key messages and proof points

If you’re thinking about how to write a PR brief, you’re ready to shout about your product from the rooftop. And if you’re going to do that, you’ll have to make sure you’re ready to confidently yell about it in every direction – a half-hearted, confused mumble isn’t going to get you anywhere.

For that, you’ll need to be sure of the reasons why customers should believe in you. While your product or service may be revolutionary, it’s often more useful to focus on the benefits it brings to your consumers, than the actual product itself.

For example, “It’s sure to perk up your day anytime, anywhere,” makes a more inspiring rallying call for doughnuts than “IT’S A ROUND, WHEAT-BASED FRIED PASTRY COATED IN SWEET-TASTING SOLUBLE CARBOHYDRATES”, no matter how loud you yell.

No messages in mind? That’s actually okay. Let your agency know, so that they can build an audit and workshop into the programme.

5. Budget

“Send us your ideas and we’ll see,” is among the most dreaded phrase for any agency looking to start a new project on a brief. Realistically, any brief is bound by certain set constraints – budget is simply the first and most obvious one.

Instead of trying to shy away from any such limitations, you should try to identify as many as you can, and embrace them. After all, thinking out of the box requires you to know how big the box is.

This isn’t an exhaustive manual on how to write a brief, but it’ll help you get started writing that recipe for the most amazing PR cake. The next step involves picking a team to bring the brief to life, so be sure to read our feature on how to pick the best PR agency for your needs too.

Connect with us if you have a brief to share but are not sure how to organise it. We’ll be happy to share a list of questions to help you get started.

Zixin Chai 13.9.2019
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Kelly Chiew 11.10.2019
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Suman Saurav 20.9.2019
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