Fix the Broken Telephone: Getting Clear Through Effective Project Briefs

September 03, 2020 | in Strategy

by Arthur Muzofa
Estimated Reading Time: 4min 15sec

Noone likes a marketing project train smash. Besides being messy, they waste time and energy, translating into unnecessary expenses for everyone involved. Things tend to go off the rails when key-players in a project are not on the same page on essential aspects like :

  1.  The objective
  2.  The budget
  3.  Details about a nominated product/service/brand.
  4.  The target audience

When the above factors are not clearly and mutually understood, your business usually gets results that look and sound nothing like your brand. This is not only disappointing for you but causes unnecessary friction between you and your agency.

Fortunately, there is a simple-ish fix to this, the good old project brief!

A brief is a vital tool when it comes to communication in any project. It’s essential to helping you and your agency get clear on the important stuff. When this is achieved, your marketing project puts your best foot forward. A brief enhances your chances of successfully marketing yourself, whether you are using a website, Social Media or building your corporate brand from scratch.

No matter the project type, a well-written brief helps clarify the crucial details, making everyone’s lives, from the decision-makers to the creatives, a whole lot easier.

Broken Telephone what?

You are probably familiar with the broken telephone effect from the popular children’s’ game. This fun pastime reveals to us how messages get distorted when they are passed down by word of mouth from one person to the other. It’s hilarious to witness an innocent term or phrase transform into something less child friendly after being whispered down four or more people. A fascinating fact, however, is that this phenomenon happens all the time beyond the game – including your business relationships (cue projects).

Fun stuff, but what does it have to do with marketing my business?

Good question and the answer is everything. A misunderstood project objective can be the nail in the coffin for your project before it has even begun.

Exceptionally executed projects rely on crystal-clear details. Each participant should have a good idea what the goals and mandatories of the project are, with a grasp of the contextual information behind the tasks and planning.

Depending on everyone involved in your project possessing attentive listening skills -without an easily accessible and concrete point of reference – is taking a risky exercise of faith. A well-crafted brief reduces wiggle room for ambiguity, enabling everyone to have the same general idea of both the ‘big picture’ and the ‘fine details’ of your project. It increases the chances of getting a more accurate interpretation of your needs and reduces time wasted on avoidable mistakes (fewer do-overs = less scope creep).

A brief is worth sweating over

Okay, I have to create a brief. How do I do it with the least sweat possible?

Depends on the nature of your project. Some projects honestly demand more information than others. As a rule-of-thumb, committing yourself to go beyond the bare minimum is a better bet to get the success you want. Unless, of course, you get a kick from making a couple of designers, copywriters and developers angry.

Hmm, where do we begin?

The Project Objective

This is probably the most crucial facet to a project because it’s the reason for all the fuss to start with. You implement projects to achieve results tied to the broader needs or overall goals of your enterprise. A project is a means to an end, so if you are going to start somewhere, a clear objective is a great place.

Good point there, tell me more.

When the project objective is vaguely communicated, you can be assured there is going to be a lot of unnecessary disappointment and confusion throughout your project. A project brief helps you capture this vital bit of information in a concrete way that ensures everyone is speaking the same language and seeing the same target.

Your marketing project objective has to have a connection with your business goals. This is how you make sure your project’s wins are ultimately victories for your organisation as a whole. When you get this part right, everything about the project is in sync, from the ‘big idea’/ promise of your marketing campaign to the designs and copy. Your project becomes something that expresses the multidimensional nature of your brand yet stays on-brand, something that many businesses mess up along the way.

So Mr wiseguy, what maketh a good project objective?

Great project objectives, the cornerstones of effective briefs, have the following characteristics in common :

  1. They are specific
  2. They are realistic
  3. They have a timeframe
  4. They are measurable
  5. They are agreed upon

In the next article, we are going to expand on these features of a great project brief and more.


Projects that perform well need a clear and well-detailed project brief. The brief helps get everyone involved in your project clear on all the essential details like your objectives, target market and commercial context. This enables you and your agency to get the right messages out to the world no matter how many people they go through.

Until next time – Cheerio


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