GLOBAL: Clients need to commit time, effort and forethought to defining the parameters of what they want their agencies to achieve, an industry figure has argued in a Warc Best Practice paper.

In Briefing your agency, Merry Baskin, notes that marketing directors tend to have a number of different specialist communications agencies in their stable and that instructing them all on delivering their separate, "but hopefully holistic", brand communications can be a highly complex process.

A further complicating factor is money, as agencies end up squabbling over a limited pot while, increasingly, performance results are linked to agency fees.

"It is only fair and proper that agency folk are issued with a clear, stimulating and viable written brief," says Baskin.

There are, broadly, two approaches to this task, the first being the classic planning cycle first advocated by JWT's Stephen King in 1968.

This begins by asking 'Where are we now?', before progressing through a series of subsequent questions – Why are we there? Where could we be? How could we get there? Are we getting there? – before returning to the start and asking 'So now where are we?'.

"The more thought that goes into the definition of the business problem and the current status of the brand, as well as the desired response to your brand comms from your customers, the more likely it is that your agency teams will be able to grasp the issues to produce distinctive and relevant strategic and creative solutions," Baskin writes.

That typically involves clients setting objectives, defining roles and managing expectations, establishing results metrics, knowing your audience and motivating the agency team.

These are equally applicable to the alternative approach that sees the client and agency work together – "facilitated collaboration has become the new vogue" – to write a strategy through dialogue and partnership.

"Briefing your agencies is not a chance to pass the buck, then sit back or get on with other things," Baskin warns marketing directors.

Data sourced from Warc