The Importance of Creative Briefs in Influencer Marketing | Guide for Brands && Influencers

Avoid content surprises from influencers with a creative brief.

Okay, so normally I would start a post like this with stats on influencer marketing. I’d talk about the millions (some folks argue that it’s billions) of dollars spent on influencer marketing. I’d talk about how influencers reduce the number of brand touch points to convert a customer, the various platforms meant to facilitate influencer partnerships and I’d also (probably) include a snarky comment about how a lot of critique of “influencing” is based in misogyny.

But LET’S SAVE SOME TIME, SHALL WE?

But chances are if you’re here, you’ve googled a more niche topic in what I call “Influencer Land.” You know all that stuff, so there’s no point in me dedicating a few hundred words to it.

(Street Cred: I’m a blogger, influencer marketer and I coach influencers. This is my JAM.)

When the Content You Receive Isn’t Gonna Work (Read: It sucks.)

INSTEAD, let’s talk about solving a massive pain point in influencer marketing:

The content you’ve received (or sent) for an influencer partnership is NOTHING like what the brand wanted. It sucks, frankly.

I’ve opened these emails, and it is AWKWARD.

From the Brand Side: The clothes are wrong, the background is wrong, and the content just ISN’T WORKING. You’re freaking out, because you don’t want to be an ass and ask for a reshoot — bUUUUUut you also know you can’t accept the content. You may have wanted urban and the influencer gave you farmhouse chic, or you wanted a family picture to market to the midwest and the influencer sent a racier photo.

FML.

From the Influencer Side: You spent a LOT of time figuring out imagery or content, planning a shoot, directing a shoot and thought the brand would love it. You’ve researched hashtags and are READY.

And thennnnn then get an email from the rep asking for a reshoot because your content “isn’t what we were hoping for…”

That “…” is limbo for invoices. A content reshoot can totally derail a campaign, and keep you from working with the brand again.

FML.

Here’s The Thing Tho — Were the Creative Assets *DEFINED*??

On the influencer side, I see a lot of contracts come through that don’t include a creative brief. There’s a few paragraphs on aesthetic, maybe a link or two to content the influencer has already created – but there’s no imagery or guidance on how the products should be shown.

Brands just expect an influencer to magically know what they want.

If you’re a brand sending a contract for imagery or content, you absolutely must send a creative brief.

AAAAND if you’re an influencer taking brand money for imagery, you absolutely want to protect yourself with a creative brief.

It’s easy to misunderstand what a brand wants, especially if they don’t send example images. Words mean different things to different people!

When someone sends tries to sum up creative direction in a few sentences, it leaves room for a lot of chaos and confusion. What you think is “airy” may not fit another person’s definition.

A creative brief helps cut down on the confusion and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Okay wait — what the hell is a “Creative Brief”?

Good question! A creative brief will look different based on the industry you’re in, but basically a ~creative brief~ is a document that explains imagery and expectations of the creative assets that are to be used.

It’s more than just a mood board (although those are usually included in a brief). It’s a document that explains goals of the campaign, expectations of creative assets, timeline, things to avoid and deadlines.

Generally the document is 3 pages. Maximum. This is a creative BRIEF not a creative novella.

Do not send a creative brief that’s over 4 pages. It’s overwhelming and people will just skim it. Be concise.

Brands Should Always Send a Creative Brief. If the Brand Doesn’t, an Influencer Should Make One.

If you’re a brand rep, and you don’t send a creative brief — you’re signing yourself up for a big old headache. The product will likely be held or used incorrectly, or the influencer may feel inspired to break from the content they’ve been making up to that point – and pick a new background and aesthetic that’s totally not the vibe you’re going for.

Blurgh.

Not sure how to make a creative brief without overwhelming an influencer? Read on, friend!

ASIDE: As an influencer, getting a creative brief can be a little overwhelming. But it’s actually helping you, I promise. You now have a better idea of what the brand wants, and it makes it much easier to create.

No more debating over the images the brand has shared on social media, or trying to interpret what someone really wants from a few sentences about the content. With a creative brief, you KNOW.

If a brand doesn’t send you a creative brief, you should make one. Avoid having to reshoot and delays in invoicing. Know what a brand wants out of the gate, deliver smashing content and hopefully book more content deals in the future.

Not sure how to make a creative brief? Read on, friend!

What to Include in a Creative Brief for Influencer Partnerships

Below is a guide on what the heck to include in a creative brief for influencer marketing. If your industry needs to add (or subtract) a component, go forth! This is a guide, not a legal mandate. IANAL (I am not a lawyer!!)

Component #1: Campaign Goals

Working with influencers as a coach, I am *shocked* at the number of times a brand reaches out to a creator to partner — but doesn’t include the goals of the campaign.

  • Is the campaign meant to promote a product launch on a specific day?
  • Is the campaign meant to reach a new demographic?
  • Is the campaign meant to illustrate a new use case for the product?
  • Is the brand simply trying to get some great content to drive up the number of Instagram followers it has?

Share the campaign goal at the beginning with 2–3 sentences.

Example: Brand X is partnering with Influencer Z to promote the launch of its new mascara, designed specifically for people who wear contact lenses. The goal of this campaign is to reach a new customer audience and boost the number of purchases the day of launch.

It’s hard to exceed expectations if you don’t know them!!

Component #2: How Will the Brand Measure Success?

Quantifying success in influencer marketing can be tricky (it’s a bit like buying billboard space, but a majority the people seeing the billboard are in the target market).

Getting too bogged down in metrics is counterproductive. I have definitely bought a product MONTHS after an influencer posted it, and I don’t use their link (I do my best!).

Is the brand measuring success by:

  • The # of times a coupon code is used?
  • By impressions?
  • Comments?
  • New follows?
  • Press coverage?
  • Link clicks?
  • Views?

Example: Brand X will measure the success of this campaign by the activation of Influencer Z’s following. Specifically looking at shares, comments, impressions and finally, click through rates to Brand X website.

Note: If you’re a brand working with an influencer for the first time, you will likely need to sponsor 3–5 posts to convert their following if your product is over $5. Influencer marketing converts, but it’s not sales magic.

ALSO, I recommend measuring CTR — not sales. This is great for remarketing, but also, real talk — there may be issues in your sales funnel process that the influencer has no control over.

<<Are you looking for help in pitching and landing brand deals? Check out my class, The Art of Negotiation for Influencers>>

Component #3: Time for a Mood Board

Images communicate SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY than a bunch of paragraphs about aesthetics. And, thanks to Pinterest, you can find imagery of just about anything.

Hiring influencers for a new fusion restaurant opening? Search Pinterest for “Blogger review restaurant lifestyle images” and quite a few will pop up. Find the images that make you go, “YES, that’s what we want!!” As a blogger (and Creative Director), I have Pinterest boards dedicated to shoot ideas and for briefs.

You can also pull from the imagery of competitors and their influencer partnerships to illustrate what you’re looking for. (Influencers, you can do this too!)

You can include direction on wardrobe (ie “No bright colors”), makeup and scenery in this section. (Include images, duh.)

I recommend including a mood board for overall aesthetic, but don’t use a mood board to convey how to photograph or video a product. That’s Component #4.

Component #4: Photo Guide

Do you have specific ways a product should be photographed? Worried about pesky straps or don’t want your products photographed with a competitor’s?

Communicate that. It’s not fair to hold people to a standard you haven’t explicitly communicated.

AGAIN: It’s not fair to hold people to a standard you haven’t explicitly communicated.

Include 3–4 rules on photographing the product. Don’t go overboard here!

(If you’re an influencer, ask if the brand has guidelines on how to photograph their product.)

Examples:

  • Please use newspaper to make the purse look full when shooting
  • Please do not photograph X mascara with other drugstore beauty brands such as q, y and z
  • Please do not show bare shoulders in photo content, as we are marketing to X culture

Component #5: Submission Deadlines & Posting Dates

When I work with influencers on the brand side, I always always have at least 10 business days in between posting dates and content submission.

In fact, I would ask the influencer how many days they would need to reshoot and pad your calendar accordingly.

Why 10 business days, minimum? If an influencer needs to reshoot, they’re probably going to need to schedule it over a weekend. Most influencers have other jobs, and they’re not gonna be able to shoot at 11AM on a Wednesday.

I backtrack from the post date to come up with submission deadlines.

Example:

  • December 18: Creative posted to Instagram/platforms
  • December 5: Deadline for brand to approve content (Leaving 10+ days for a reshoot)
  • December 2: Creative sent for approval
  • November 18: Product received by influencer
  • November 14: Product sent
  • November 10: Contract signed

^^^Note, these dates are the minimum I would expect. If there are PR firm(s) involved, or if there are creative assets for multiple platforms I would add 4–6 weeks to this timeline.

Influencer: Be sure to get verbiage on how many days the brand has to approve or ask for a reshoot, as well as the number of edits/reshoots you’re willing to do. Make part of your invoice (deposit) non-refundable in case they change their mind a zillion times.

Bonus: Be sure to explain to the influencer WHY the date is important. Is it a launch day? Is it part of your content calendar? I always include verbiage that there will be a delay in invoicing (or contract nullification) if deadlines aren’t met.

INFLUENCERS: THE #1 WAY TO ENSURE A BRAND NEVER WORKS WITH YOU AGAIN IS TO SUBMIT CONTENT LATE. I love high engagement rates and beautiful photos — but if you can’t submit on time, I’m going to find someone who will!

Finally

A creative brief is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page. If you’re looking for an influencer marketer, for classes on working with brands *as* an influencer or you want a blogger to partner with who *gets it*, here are my links:

BONUS: How to Become an Influencer — 100 Page Book for $7.99!

I’ve coached a TON of people on how to become an influencer, and I found tht people had the same questions:

  • How do I make an invoice as an influencer?
  • What do I charge as an influencer?
  • How do instagram influencers make money
  • How do I plan a photoshoot?
  • How do I pitch brands as an influencer?

Seeing this, I decided to write an ebook, with ALL of the information I wish I had access to! Check out this ebook HERE!

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Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com

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Brianne Huntsman

Brianne Huntsman

Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com

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