When I first started working with brands, I had no clue what made for a successful working relationship. Through a lot of trial and error, varied experiences, working with brands and PR or marketing agencies of all shapes and sizes I’ve learned a great brief makes all the difference! If you’re a brand or agency thinking of working with bloggers, influencers and creators, you need to know how to brief them. So, here are my tips on how to successfully brief a blogger and why it’s so important!
If you haven’t already read them, you might like to catch up on the previous four guides in the series:
- This is why brands really need to work with bloggers,
- This is how to find + approach bloggers about working together
- 13 of the BEST ways brands can work with bloggers, and
- 7 Reasons why bloggers should be paid.
If you’re a brand or a blogger looking for more guidance, I offer one-on-one coaching sessions for brands and bloggers. Find out more information on brand coaching sessions here and blog coaching sessions here.
Why is it important to brief bloggers?
Based on my experience, the campaigns where I’ve worked under a brief have been far more successful. From a blogger’s perspective, a great brief provides clarity which allows us to do our job better. From a brand’s perspective, it imparts exactly what you want and takes any assumptions out of it.
A lot of the time, people tend to hold a lot of information in their minds. When you’re planning a campaign, you’ll be listing things in your mind and visualising outcomes. You may also be thinking through things you don’t want to happen! A great brief takes all the information in your mind and externalises it. This level of detailed information makes everything clear, imparting exactly what is expected of the creator.
I’ve had a few experiences where the client and I have discussed the campaign on the phone or on email and, despite many conversations, we’ve both made assumptions and when the final product is delivered, some things have been misunderstood or lost in translation. A great brief eliminates that. It sets out exactly what’s desired, what’s expected and defines the tone, goals and more. For me, a great brief also instils confidence that I’m working with professionals, which elevates my work too. In fact, it’s so important I even brief myself! When we’re filming a vlog episode on YouTube, I take the time to plan my own, mini briefing document to make sure I understand what I need to achieve and why.
How to successfully brief a blogger
If you’ve never created one before, here are my tips on how to create a kick-ass brief that’ll lead to a successful outcome with a blogger, influencer or creator.
1. Background information
Start with important background information. Give the creator a clear idea of your brand including what you do, your core values, why it brings value to the market and relatable facts that connect your brand and the creators.
2. Campaign insight
Let the creator know exactly why you’re launching this campaign and what the campaign is about. For example, what led you to choose this specific campaign approach and what was the thought behind it? What is the campaign aimed at highlighting to consumers? What makes the campaign exciting or interesting?
3. Purpose of the campaign
This is one of the most important parts of briefing a blogger. You need to let them know the purpose of the campaign and the key message you are trying to convey. For example, a hotel may be trying to build brand awareness and let travellers to Melbourne know they offer budget-friendly, mid-range accommodation perfect for a romantic weekend getaway. Be very clear on what message you want the creator to share with their audience as this will form part of what they write in Instagram captions, the type of photographs they take and the tone of the blog content they write.
Detail all the deliverables you and the creator have agreed upon and do it in a way that’s easy to read and understand. For example, you might set it out in dot point form like this:
- 1 x written review of the hotel posted on Little Grey Box
- 2 x photos posted to @littlegreybox_phoebe Instagram each day (total 6 posts)
- 1 x update, check-in or photo posted to Little Grey Box Facebook each day (total 3 posts)
- 1 x Vlog episode posted to Little Grey Box YouTube channel
- 12 x High-resolution images for use on The Client’s social media and marketing campaigns
Your deliverables should also include specific details on when they must be posted by and social media tags and hashtags that must be used, like this:
- All deliverables must be completed by 1st July 2018
- Instagram posts must include @theclient and #theclient
- Facebook posts must include @theclient, #theclient and geo-tag
Think through everything you want them to do and include it in this section of your brief, spelling it out in great detail. Be clear, specific and pre-empt the answer to any questions they may have.
5. Key information
If there’s something specific the campaign is looking to highlight and you want the creator to include that information in their deliverables, you need to let them know that and give them the information to reference. For example, a new hotel might like to include some information in the brief about what it offers. You might like to dot point things like a 24-hour gym, world-class day spa and the treatments it offers, award-winning restaurant, affordable laundry service, airport transfers etc. This is especially important if your campaign aims to highlight specific things. Tell the creator exactly what those things are and give them detail around them. Help them understand them, why they’re so great and why they’re valuable to their audience.
6. Examples of what you like
I absolutely love when a brand tells me examples of my previous work they’ve loved and want to see in the content we produce for them. It lets me know they like my work and gives me the confidence to go into the job and get specific shots. If it’s a video campaign, watch their previous videos and note down shots you liked and ideas you have of how they could emulate and elevate those shots during your campaign. For social media or photographs, check out their platforms and screenshot posts/photographs you loved. If it’s a written guide, find blog posts of theirs you love and tell them! It’ll ensure you get the type of content you want, rather than just assuming that’s what they’ll make.
I also love getting notes like, “I loved the music in this video and the opening shot of this one,” that detail on the type of music is fantastic for me and helps me plan things out much easier. Be really clear on what you’re hoping to see from them and go into detail with it! You can even go so far as, “We’d love to see a flat-lay of the food at our restaurant,” and tell them other specific shots you’d like to see. Just remember, if that’s what you want, you need to make sure you give them what they need to make that happen.
7. Examples of what you don’t like
This is also a great tool! I wouldn’t recommend screenshotting their work, putting it in the brief and saying, “I hate this, it sucked.” But, I would include ‘things to avoid’ section in the brief where you dot point the type of thing you don’t want to see. This could include, alcohol, curse words, photographs showing too much skin etc. Let them know what isn’t ‘on-brand’ for you and pre-empt the kind of content you don’t want to see.
Give them great opportunities
Take a moment to see your campaign and your product from a creator’s perspective. What you want is for them to get great content, right? So, think of ways to make this easier for them. A hotel, for example, might set up a beautiful morning tea in a dreamy location with a great view, this will make your creator very happy as they’ll be able to take amazing photo or video for you! Think of ways to highlight the product and make it easy for the creator to capture it.
I love when brands have someone on site who can work with me to get specific shots and understands why I’m there. For example, when we were in Halong Bay I had an idea for a photo where I had a bottle of champagne and some lovely little cakes on the private balcony at sunset, highlighting the private balcony, great views and food and drink available onboard. The manager made this happen for me and the photograph turned out to be one of the most engaged shots I’ve posted on my Instagram account. The client was really happy and so was I!
If you want them to include things, you need to include them for the creator. For example, if your hotel offers specific activities and you want them highlighted you need to make those happen so the creator can experience and capture them for you. The more things you do for them, the more variety of content they’re going to be able to capture which leads to a better end result for you and more engaging content for the consumer.
But, how do I actually make a brief?
Don’t do it in the text of an email, let’s start there. Make sure you give the creator a document they can save to their laptop, phone and can print out and take with them. Personally, I like getting a PDF with live links in it (if necessary). Set your brief out with key headings, like above, and visual examples where appropriate. Things like screenshots, embedded videos etc are fantastic. You may even like to include a storyboard or mood board if it’s relevant and you’ve worked it through with the creator previously (don’t just spring ideas on them, especially if they’re not easily executed).
Pro Tip: Take some time to step back from the campaign and the brief and see them through the eyes of the creator you’re engaging. Pick it apart, challenge it, ask questions and work through it like the creator will. Have a fresh pair of eyes look at it and ask them to work through the document as the creator will. You’re looking for things that don’t make sense, haven’t been included, unanswered questions, things that aren’t quite clear or could have more detail or things that just aren’t possible (for example, you want them to shoot a whole vlog episode in one hour or you’re asking them to complete a task but haven’t given them access to what they need to do it). Give them everything they need to do what you want.
A few other things…
It’s important to note, you cannot buy an opinion, you’re paying for the creators time, skills and access to their audience. If the creator stays at your hotel, for example, and has a terrible time, they can’t lie to their audience and say everything was wonderful. So, while you can provide examples of previous work you’ve loved and things you’d like them to include or highlight you can’t tell them to say they had an amazing time and everything was perfect. It’s the brand’s responsibility to ensure the product is up to scratch and things go smoothly, it’s the creator’s responsibility to fulfil the deliverables and contract obligations.
In my experience, the most successful campaigns have been the ones where:
- the brand is clear on what they want
- they’re organised and everyone understands why I’m there and what I’m doing
- the campaign is well thought out and has been considered from the brand’s and the blogger’s perspective (i.e. there aren’t some weird ideas that are difficult for me to execute)
- a variety of experiences have been organised and the brand has created lots of moments for me to photograph, film and engage with, giving me opportunities to be creative and capture a variety of content
- I feel like the brand knows what I do and respects and values it, rather than feeling like I’m being used and they couldn’t care less (it happens!)
- the brand communicates openly, honestly and professionally.
I always find a brand gets out what they put in. If things are left to the last minute, not well thought out, poorly organised and not communicated very well, I get nervous and feel like maybe they don’t care about the campaign as much as I thought they did. If a brand is clear, organised, upfront, professional, on time and treats me with respect and kindness, I elevate and they get the best out of me. Campaigns cost a lot of money and you want to make sure you’re getting the best possible outcomes for your buck, so if things feel rushed and unorganised, slow it down! Put things on hold, get it together then move forward.