When briefing a PR freelancer it’s best to remember the words of the original Mad Man – David Ogilvy who said that “clients get the work they deserve.”
If you want the best results from a PR freelancer, then it’s critical to invest a little bit of time in defining what you want and asking questions of your own assumptions.
It’s not as easy as it seems but an hour spent throwing rocks at your own brief before you send it to your PR freelancer (or even better have a trusted colleague throw rocks at it) will pay you back several times over not only in results that meet your expectations, but in making the relationship between you and your PR freelancer an enjoyable one.
There are three fundamental business reasons for investing time in the brief.
- You get what you want (and what you want may not be quite the same as what others in your company want – don’t make the PR freelancer piggy in the middle for internal differences!
- You don’t waste time and/or money. If the work the PR freelancer does is on brief, it makes you money and it’s understandable that the freelancer expects to be paid. But if your brief omits something important or changes direction midstream it mean that the freelancer has to rework something, it’ll cost you, not them. Don’t be a weathervane client!
- Trust means money. You should treat a PR freelancer like a full-time employee, developing a relationship of trust rather than being a transaction. It results in better work because people like to go the extra mile for people they like
That means it’s cheaper
It’s enjoyable for you both
How do you write a great brief for a PR freelancer?
- Setting out the background
- Setting SMART objectives
- Setting limits
- Describing the outcome
- Talking the brief through
First, take care with the background. It might be stuff you know inside out but even the best PR freelancer needs to be guided.
It’s extremely valuable to understand the motivation behind, or the reasons for the project. It provides context around the challenge you’re facing, it also gives the freelancer a chance to provide suggestions or alternatives that you might not have considered.
Headline of the brief: “We need a social media plan for our customers”
Response: “You need to go big on Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat”
Now the same brief with some background: “We have just launched a new product aimed at tech entrepreneurs. We are getting mixed message on who our core market is and we think social will generate some leads”
Response: “You need to use A/B testing on LinkedIn alongside Twitter influencers”
Just a couple of sentences of context changes the strategy.
SMART objectives versus vagueness
Here are some examples of some objectives that aren’t specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or timebound:
“We want to increase awareness of our brand”
“We want to want to reach key industry stakeholders”
“Increase website traffic”
Kill all jargon!
If you use jargon in a brief. Take it out. Every word of it. If you can’t write it without jargon, you probably don’t fully understand the subject yourself.
When you write or communicate the brief, assume the PR freelancer knows nothing about your company because that is the mindset of the audience he or she is trying to reach on your behalf.
Set some project boundaries
The scope of a project prescribes what is included and what’s not. It’s important to do this when briefing your project to control it. The more you try to shoehorn into a brief the more you are taking resource away from the stuff that really matters to your business.
Finally, be honest with yourself
Ask yourself if you are asking too much of the brief and the PR freelancer. You’ll know in your heart
It’s really tempting to add one more deliverable to the brief, but each time you get closer to the point where the whole thing is non-viable and discovering you’ve made this mistake in the middle of the project will always cost you more to fix than finding a little bit more budget to extend a project that is going well.
Pay your PR freelancer quickly. It might be their mortgage that month and the goodwill you create is worth 100 times the benefit to your cashflow and certainly will pay rewards on the next brief you give them.