How to brief your communication agency

Posted on August 2, 2010


I always like to say that there is no good or bad communication agency. There is first a good brief or a bad brief.

What you tell your agency, the way you say it, the level of information you disclose and the relationship you establish with your agency will largely determine the quality of the out come and the quality of the message that will reach the consumers.

I have had the chance to sit on both side of the fence (client and agency). All I can say is if I would go back to the client’s side I would manage my agency in a total different way.


1. Be Clear about Who You Are and What do You Stand for Before Briefing Anyone.
Ideally this is an exercise you should be doing at least once a year with your management team. Because your guests’ needs evolve. Your service evolves. Your brand evolves.
– Who am I?
– What am I doing?
– Why does it matter?
The hotel industry is very conservative. As a result, the communication messages that are out there are usually very similar from one another. Sometimes borderline identical. Defining clearly what do you stand for will help you (and force you) to have a unique message that will cut through the clutter.

2. Why do You Think you Need to Communicate?
– Be concise. Keep it to the core. You may find 15 reasons to communicate but 1 may matter much more than the 14 others.

3. Never Treat an Advertising Campaign or any Communication Initiative in Isolation.
– You always have to make sure it fits within an overall branding strategy. Each piece of communication, whether it is online, offline, free publicity or paid for initiative is playing a role in the large jigsaw you are putting together over the months or years.
– It takes years to build a brand but few weeks to ruin it.
– Always stay loyal to your brand. Don’t pay attention to the hotel next door’s great initiative and think that you may want to copy it.

4. Give Information. Don’t Wait to Be Asked!.
– Don’t be afraid to be as transparent as possible. A communication agency is your family doctor and should be treated as family and as a partner.
– No point hiding anything. Remember that the Doc has heard much worse before.

5. Inspire your Agency
– Saying “I want to increase my bookings during the low season” is not going to turn on anyone. Strategists and creatives are not working for money. They work for you. Only you can inspire them.
– Share your passion. Make them feel part of your story.

6. Don’t Strictly Define the Deliverable at the Stage of the Brief.
– Let your agency recommend specific triggers and activities to answer your objectives and solves your issues.
– What you think the elements of the campaign should be might not necessarily be the best option. Don’t kill creativity at the beginning.

7. Write the Brief Yourself.
– Don’t rely on your agency to summarise what you have said. Avoid the Chinese whispers.

8. Give Enough Time to your Agency to Work.
– Ask for a time line. Successful projects are always managed in time.

Summary: Treat your agency as a partner and not as a supplier. Empower them. The brief is the road map of a successful relationship. No map, no journey, no honey.


1. Tell what is you favourite colour.
Your personal tastes are irrelevant when it comes to the brand you manage.

2. Ask an in-house graphic designer to have a go at it at the same time.
That will create unnecessary competition and tension.

3. Give your own solution.
Or what you think is right. You will kill creativity and your agency will be tempted to just give you what you want.

4. Saying “I want my hotel to be different”.
Waste of time. Go back to Who am I, What am I doing, Why does it matter.
Your communication is a visual representation of who you are… Being different from others is your job. Not the job of your communication agency.

Bad brief = bad outcome… And meaningless critics…

Fabrice Burtin – August 2010

Posted in: Branding