An agile marketing brief is different from the creative briefs seen in traditional marketing processes. It always starts from the point of view of the customer. It includes a user story — a concept developed in traditional IT or software agile, adapted for marketing. And it also includes measurable goals. But ultimately, it is still about developing a shared understanding of the desired outcome and why that outcome is important.
The lost art of the brief
The skill of brief-writing has become something of a lost art in marketing. Former McDonald’s global vice-president of marketing Joe Talcott talks about the many ways traditional briefs marketing teams provide to their creative partners can go awry in detail here.
I believe over the years we marketers have done this to ourselves: As briefs grew in length and complexity it became a burden to write them and limited to a select few in the organization that had the skillset to do it quickly.
In addition, new team members are increasingly coming to marketing without training in traditional marketing concepts. Data analysts, developers and content marketers, for example, may have a background in statistics, engineering or journalism rather than marketing.
Regardless, the shift to more agile ways of working in marketing requires us to rethink the marketing brief and ensure we train our teams on effective briefing.
The ‘why’ of the agile marketing brief
Agile marketing teams should be self-sufficient and autonomous so they can complete the jobs and campaigns with which they are charged. That means making decisions about their work as they go, without constant referrals up the chain of command.
In order to do this, it is essential they understand the ‘why’ of a piece of work — information that will be communicated in the brief. When teams understand the importance of what they’re working on, they can more easily:
- Make fast, informed decisions
- Build motivation through a shared sense of purpose
- Ensure a good job is done: people generally make more of an effort and do a better job when they understand why and how their contribution matters.
How is an agile marketing brief different?
A successful agile marketing brief differs from traditional marketing briefs in some key ways. It must:
- Have clearly defined business goals and target success metrics
- Include a clearly defined scope in terms of brands and segments covered
- Include well-understood and relevant customer pain points
- Define a simple user story written from the point of view of the target customer that explains why we are doing this work, and for whom
- Clearly specify a checklist of acceptance criteria
- Provide reasonable guidance on budget and timeframes.
In addition, the purpose of the brief in co-located agile teams is to elicit a conversation to create a shared understanding of the desired outcome — not a bad thing when it comes to traditional briefs either.
It is important to note, an agile marketing brief does not replace the traditional ‘job type’ briefs, which provide the specific work instruction to complete the eDM, event, social media campaign, and so on. Rather, it provides the overarching direction which guides each one of the jobs or tasks required to deliver on the described outcomes, and in turn makes the job briefs much shorter and quicker to fill in.
What is a user story?
A user story, developed for the world of Agile software development but just as relevant for agile marketing, is a sentence of plain English that describes what the customer may need from your product. It typically takes the form: “As a (customer) I want to do (x) so I can achieve (y).”
For example, the user story for this post would be: “As a marketing manager, I want to understand the basics of writing an agile brief so I can help my team be more effective at agile marketing.”
That aligns with Simple’s objective of helping marketing teams perfect their marketing process and be more effective, whether they’re working in agile or a more traditional marketing process.
Writing an agile marketing brief and developing the disciplines around it is not easy. For example, the user story is often not obvious to the writer. So don’t expect your team to pick up the skills required immediately. Give them the necessary agile marketing training and coaching they’ll need.
Estimating agile marketing capacity
Once your marketing team has perfected the art of the agile marketing brief, they can turn their mind to estimating small, medium and large jobs — a crucial skill for managing capacity in agile marketing and more accurately planning your agile work. But agile teams typically tackle this after they have been through some agile work cycles and have a feel for how long certain jobs will take.
In the meantime, to help you along the path to more effective agile briefing, Simple has created some small, medium and large agile marketing brief templates you can start using now. Click here to download your free agile marketing brief template.