Amith Prabhu: The Client Brief – is that a myth?

22 Jun,2015

By Amith Prabhu


At a recent conference I was attending there was an interesting discussion between the corporate communications directors sitting on the panel and the consulting people in the audience. The discussion was on how can this relationship get better. How can folks on either side make the twain meet?


In my opinion, the easiest relationships are between clients and consultancies where the client wrote a brief and a clear one at that each time there was an activity. A brief that covered the challenges, objectives, the measurables and key guidelines to achieving the task at hand.  I can bet that not more than five percent clients do that.


Consultancies can never target more dollars or more rupees in the foreseeable future until they insist on a client brief. This will require training for clients to write briefs because many of them have come from non-consultancy and non-marketing backgrounds and are in the job either because of their age or because of their connections (most probabaly they are former journalists). Nothing wrong with that, just that it is doing no good to the profession in the long run if the client does not understand what constitutes public relations and isn’t able to articulate that well.


A written brief must have certain elements in it. Follow the SMART model and the response should always have the SMRT approach. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. And SMRT in the response stands for Simple, Meaningful and Real Time. These need no explanation.


Most important mention a budget within which you can operate. Even free publicity that good relationships comes at a price. There is a small cost attached to a coffee meeting and there is a huge cost attached to a fam trip. But engaging the journalist is mandatory and will cost money. Similarly, doing a flashmob in the office may have a tiny cost compared to the cost of using professionals to create a flash mob on the street with necessary permissions.


I would really wish we can have a survey done of how many clients share a written brief and insist that the team at consultancy responds with a plan based on that brief. My dipstick with 10 corporate communicators ended up with a negative response. I chose one each from FMCG, auto, retail, tech, telecom, hospitality, commodity, aviation, real estate and banking and not a single gave a written brief for every activity.


It may be the absence of the habit, sheer laziness, inability to write one or an attitude of not wanting to do so that leads to the absence of a brief. I want to conclude by quoting from an article written by fellow professional from Kenya – Paul Barasa, “There’s a skill to writing a PR brief. If you get it right your consultancy will deliver first time – no surprises. If you get it wrong (or worse still don’t provide one at all), it costs time, money and on many occasions strained emotions to put it right.


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