In one of the most iconic television commercials ever, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker "Mean" Joe Greene is seen hobbling into a stadium tunnel, presumably headed to the locker room. As his nickname implied, Greene had a reputation for being a ferocious competitor, delivering punishing hits to his opponents.
As Greene limps down the tunnel, a young boy asks Greene if he needs any help. Greene brushes him off, which is what you might expect someone like him to do. The boy then tells Greene that he is the greatest football player ever. Greene doesn't give much of a response.
Finally, the boy offers Greene his Coca-Cola. Suddenly, everything changes. Green guzzles the Coke and the boy turns to walk away, somewhat dejected. A smile comes across Greene's face and he says, "Hey kid! Catch." He tosses his towel to the boy, who is overcome with happiness.
Interestingly, what makes the commercial so compelling is not what happens in the ad, but what doesn't happen. The dialog is sparse and the scene cuts are incredibly simple. And it's the sparse simplicity of it all that makes the ending so rewarding. You feel the boy's initial sadness when he gets rebuffed by Greene, and you also feel his joy when Greene tosses the towel to him.
What does any of this have to do with influencer marketing? Simply this: when it comes to creating influencer briefs, less is more.
Influencer briefs can be great assets for brands working with creators and influencers. A clear, well-defined brief, limits miscommunication, conflict, and other factors that could have a negative impact on your campaign. When you're working with a new creator, influencer briefs help sum up your expectations and ensure that both of you are on the same page. They also help the influencer deliver outstanding results on time and within the budget.
However, as anyone who has said, "What the heck, I'm not driving," and then gotten one final plateful at Golden Corral buffet knows, too much of a good thing is...well, bad.
The same is true of influencer briefs.
THE POWER OF A GOOD INFLUENCER BRIEF
First, let's talk about the positives of influencer briefs. They play a key role in protecting your brand while also allowing you to work with influencers. You're understandably protective of your brand and have spent significant time and effort refining the particulars of it.
An effective influencer brief helps ensure that the final result is not like the Dunder-Mifflin commercial that was directed by Michael Scott and featured the oxymoronic statement, "Limitless paper, in a paperless world".
You want influencer content to sum up the identity of your brand and what makes it special.
However, because brands want the final result to turn out well, they tend to put an enormous amount of information in their briefs about the brand. The idea is to provide as much as possible for the creators to “learn from”.
This is where the problems start.
THE PROBLEM OF TOO MUCH
Giving influencers briefs that are packed with too much information is like asking someone to do a single-page book report on the entire Harry Potter series. There's too much noise and not enough signal. "There's a good wizard boy, a really evil wizard man, and they eventually fight to the death. Other important things also happen."
Overly full briefs force influencers to wade through the information and try to determine what is critical and what is just background. When busy influencers are given a bulky brief, they're more likely to skim it, which can lead to essential information being missed.
Problems also arise when influencers are given overly scripted talking points. The end result feels like a late-night infomercial trying to sell you a knife that can cut through concrete and still stay sharp enough to slice a tomato ("Perfect for masons who also want to make salads on the job!").
When the influencer's audience hears them speaking in a semi-robotic, overly scripted manner, they immediately know that it's sponsored content and start to tune out. Of course, this leads to less engagement and significantly worse results.
Bottom line: The more extensive influencer briefs are, the poorer the results. Too many instructions waste the creativity the influencer can bring to your campaign. We’ve repeatedly seen brands come to us with extensive influencer briefs. We understand the impulse, but in our experience, these can cause unintended consequences.
SO WHAT'S A BRAND TO DO?
In our experience, creators need a lot less than you think to make an effective video. As an influencer marketer, your goal should be to condense as best you can. Your briefs should give the creator some clear guide rails to ensure they meet your requirements, but should also allow them to have creative freedom within those guidelines. When you take this approach to influencer briefs, creators almost always deliver content that resonates more deeply with their audience and leads to better results across the funnel.
There's a unique challenge with influencer marketing and briefs that most brands don't consider: influencers have a lot going on. They're fulfilling multiple brand deals per month, producing new videos, trying to come up with creative ideas for their own content, and much more. They rarely have the bandwidth to review a very detailed brief.
And it doesn't help that if you do a quick Google search on the best way to create an influencer brief, the advice is anything but brief. Brands are encouraged to put together elaborate slide decks with notes on every little element of the content.
Busy creators plus unhelpful best practices lead to influencer briefs the size of CIA dossiers.
This, in turn, leads to influencer campaigns that feel like robotic infomercials, with creators parroting the detailed talking points they were provided. If you're a brand, this is not what you want. Creators are archetypes of your customers, and the content they provide should feel more like a customer review, with the creators explaining things as much as possible in their own words.
The creator knows their audience better than anyone, and you want them to create something that will resonate with their audience. We've seen this reality play out over 1,000s of campaigns. At the end of the day, influencers are storytellers and the more tools you can give them to help tell the story upfront, the better.
TOWARD A BETTER BRIEF
At this point you may be thinking, Okay, I get it. Size actually does matter and in this case, smaller is better. So what are the key elements that need to be included in an influencer brief?
In our experience working with over 300 brands, these are the core elements that creators need to execute:
KEEP YOUR BRIEFS… WELL, BRIEF
Creators should be able to quickly scan your brief and understand the main talking points. They shouldn't have to wade through pages of extraneous details about your brand, like how you pivoted from producing car parts to artisanal pickles during the decline of the American auto industry. Keep things simple and to the point.
HIT THE ESSENTIALS
Your brief should include your specific requirements without going overboard. Excessive requirements will lead to higher costs and poorer results.
We've found that the ideal length for an influencer brief is between 1-2 pages. This gives you just enough space to include the essential information without being too long for the creator.
Here's what we include in our briefs:
A short background on the brand story, the transformation they promise, and the results they drive
A list of required elements like:
Timing & deliverables (required length of the integration, if it’s a multi-show deal, and partnership deliverables)
Legal items (proper sponsorship disclosure, any product-specific legal requirements, etc.)
Key messaging items (that they CANNOT put in their own words)
Any required branding assets (logo, photos, and/or video)
Explanation of the product
Results that it gets
Call to Action (typically paired with a custom URL)
Video description or caption requirements (if applicable)
Things to avoid
Sample copy that can help prime the creator to be creative with their integration (messaging they CAN put into their own words).
Proper vocabulary (ex: members → not users)
We typically recommend organizing these elements into 1-2 pages that can be easily referenced as the creator is producing content. We also recommend including your website so that the creators know where to go for any further information (and if they want to demonstrate shopping on your site).
We gather any materials (creator briefs, outreach work, etc.) that a brand has already started using for their in-house influencer work (if any), distill them into a more concise doc with our own suggestions, and then share our suggestions (and reasons for them) with the brand for approval.
After making additional edits and tweaks based on conversations with the brand, we have a brief that is ready to be given to a creator. Things can be adjusted as needed as the campaign develops and we learn what does and doesn't work for that specific brand.
Finally, one approach that a number of in-house influencer managers have used to good effect is a short video overview of your brief. In fact, Shae Varholak, Partnerships and Community Manager at Outer shares "I have a Zoom meeting to start which is a great way to share our origin story, mission, and talk more about what makes our products stand out." Conny Larrain, Product Marketing Coordinator at Lifetech Resources echoes this same approach saying: "It creates a better connection and brand loyalty."
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Smartperson)
As you prepare your next influencer brief, keep these things in mind:
Keep it simple
Limit requirements to the essentials
Give as much creative freedom to the influencer as possible
A simple brief doesn't guarantee a successful influencer campaign. It does, however, greatly increase the likelihood of success.
If you’d like to talk with someone on our team about how you can improve your influencer briefs,contact us.