Briefing checklist
Sortlist Insights

Everything You Need to Know Before Briefing an Agency


Briefing an agency can be daunting. What should you even start with? If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’re considering hiring an agency for a marketing campaign or outsourcing a project. In this article, we’ll walk you through the different steps and we’ll cover everything you should know before briefing an agency. This is meant to avoid any missteps and will hopefully help you hire the right agency faster.

If you don’t have time to go through the article, we’ve compiled all its content into a checklist that you can use. The checklist will help you to ask yourself the right questions before you start a briefing. You can download it by completing this form.

What is a briefing

A briefing is a document that gathers all the information necessary to explain to an agency what you wish to do. The more complete your briefing is, the better the agency will understand your project.

The success of your project starts with your briefing. It’s the basis on which your project will start, hence why it matters that you follow the next steps to create a proper briefing on Sortlist.

Prepare your recipe

We’ve all been there. You go to the supermarket without really knowing what you need. You go through the aisles, throw items in your shopping cart without a clear idea, wander around, and you feel frustrated about not knowing exactly what to buy for dinner. In the end, you get home and the result can be disappointing for the amount you paid.

The same logic applies to hire an agency. Preparation is key in the briefing process and if you don’t know what you want to achieve before starting your briefing (i.e. entering the supermarket), you’ll be :

  • Wasting time
  • Possibly hiring the wrong partner
  • Paying more than what could have been

Just like needing a list before doing your groceries, what are the ingredients you should have in mind before creating a briefing on Sortlist?

The 5 ingredients you need for a briefing process

Setting up your goal

To write up a good agency brief, one of the first things you will need to define is your objectives. This is one of the most important things you’ll need to carry out before starting to focus on the brief itself. What do you need to hire an agency for and what is the problem you are trying to solve? What is the goal your agency will help you complete? This might seem like an obvious requirement, but defining a goal involves a lot of critical thinking, including:

  • How does this goal make sense regarding your company’s mission, vision, and values?
  • How do you see your role in the completion of that goal?
  • What are the challenges you face that are making you hire an agency?
  • What will happen if that goal isn’t completed? Will there be consequences?
  • How will you know the goal is completed or not?

The more precisely you define your goal, the better your briefing will be. The whole point is for you to have a crystal clear vision of why you wish to hire an agency and what you need them to do for your marketing strategy. Not only will a clear brief help you to have a better idea of what kind of agency you need, but it will also help the agency to know what it will have to work on.

Define the role of the agency

The second thing you need to have in mind is a vision of how the partnership with the agency team will take shape.

Before starting your written brief, try to assess your current situation. What is your team good at, and what is it lacking? If you think about your goal, that you’ve previously defined, what tasks will be carried out by your team or by the agency? By asking yourself these questions, you are setting yourself up for a better briefing.

If you hire an agency, you should keep in mind that it can help you by:

  • Bringing complementary knowledge, skills, and creative ideas to reach your goals
  • Giving you the additional capacity to have the right amount of manpower for your ambitions

You should know exactly what you’re hiring an agency for and make sure to communicate your needs clearly and in a detailed manner. The point is for you to make a list of what your team can and can’t do. This will help you have a better idea of what kind of agency to choose (i.e. one that can cover your weaknesses) but also to know exactly where to create synergies between you and the agency for everyone to be on the same page.

Knowing your timeframe and budget

We will ask you for these two pieces of information when you’ll be completing your briefing. It is therefore recommended to already start thinking about it.

Regarding the timeframe, when should your goal be completed ideally? And regarding the budget, how much would you be willing to spend on it?

For the timeframe, you can shorten it if you’re well prepared and know what it is you want to achieve. That’s the exercise you’re currently doing.

For the budget, always consider that an agency has costs to cover. Like any business, an agency has to pay its employees, its providers, its offices, etc. So when defining your budget, think about:

  • The resources the agency will need to complete your goal
  • The number of people that will be working on it
  • The time they will spend on it
  • The expertise the agency accumulated over the years
  • The number of clients the agency might have at its doors
  • Etc.

It is natural that an agency asks for a certain amount to cover all of these costs. Therefore, we recommend calculating your budget based on the following criteria: the number of people working on your project x the number of working hours per person needed to complete the project.

It’s a common pitfall to underestimate a budget so we recommend always make sure you have a margin of safety. To give you an idea, here is a graph showing the difference between the expected cost vs. the actual cost of a company’s website, between 2017 and 2020:

website budget gaps

Evaluate your status quo

The idea is for you to prepare the ground on which your new agency will be working on.

For example, for a digital marketing agency, you should be able to show it your current marketing status:

  • How is your website performing? Is it ranking properly on Google?
  • How are you doing on social media? Do you have good engagement rates?
  • What kind of marketing technology/tools are you using and why?
  • Where are your leads coming from?
  • Which channels provide you with the most customers?

Another example that would be for hiring a branding agency:

  • Is your visual identity out of date?
  • Do you have clear values, vision, and mission?
  • Do you know how your stakeholders are perceiving your brand?

The idea is for you to know your company’s current situation and to communicate it clearly to your agency. The latter will need that information no matter what, so it’s recommended to gain some time and prepare the ground before starting a briefing.

Furthermore, auditing your company’s situation will also help you in defining your goal. For instance, if you start auditing your marketing, you might just have new ideas of where you want to take it with the help of an agency.

Get internal approval

If you are not calling the shots, we advise you to have a clear direction and validation of what your agency will be working on given by your company’s management team. Whether it is making your briefing, studying your possibilities, and making your choice, hiring your agency will take you some time. This is why you need a clear validation from management before starting a briefing in order to avoid a situation where you choose an agency that made an offer that does not fit with management’s vision.

Because if that were to happen, you would have to either go through the whole process again or discuss adjustments with the agency, which is highly time-consuming.


There’s a lot of value in asking yourself all those questions before starting a briefing to find your agency.

First of all, whichever agency you decide to hire, will need this information to make you a personalized offer and a tailor-made strategy. All those ingredients are necessary for the agency to properly understand your business and deliver qualitative work to help you reach your goals, meaning, that if you already have all that information ready to be shared, you will gain time in your collaboration with the agency and your partnership will be smoother.

Furthermore, asking yourself those questions is a way to spot the best agencies. The latter always asks for these pieces of information. This allows you to know which agencies you’re talking to are actually taking the time to understand your situation in order to come up with the best offer.

Finally, taking the time to fully grasp your current situation will allow you to really assess the performance of the agency and know what your return on investment is.

It’s no easy task creating a good brief so if you need help in order to complete it, we would be happy to do so! Don’t hesitate to send us an email or chat with us. Your future agency is waiting for you!


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