Developing a brief

Learn how to develop a successful brief for a new live project.
  • Which brief should an organisation give?
  • Factors to take into consideration when writing the Brief
  • Guidelines for writing the Brief
  • Amending the brief after a project has started.
  • What should an Organisation Contact leave to the face-to-face Initial Briefing?

Which Brief should an organisation give?

The Live Project lends itself to almost any type of task, problem or opportunity for almost any type of organisation.

For the Marketing Live Project, this should be in Marketing, Sales or Customer Service. For organisations in the Tourism industry, this can be in any aspect of their operation.

Projects vary from a market study of a particular market segment or new geographical market, to a plan or campaign for a product, service or company for marketing or marketing communications, social media, etc. In fact any task, problem or opportunity can be the subject of a Live Project.

Some organisations brief something which is very important for the organisation currently. Others brief something which may take extra research for which they are finding difficulty find the resource. Others have used the Live Project to do a second-tier Project which will be useful but never comes to the top of their priority list. Occasionally the organisation will use the Live Project as a development opportunity for a more junior member of marketing staff, who acts as the main organisation contact but has a more senior colleague to turn to for advice.

Factors to consider when developing the Brief

We provide a proforma for the Live Project Brief and it is fairly simple. Quite often, the Organisation Contact has a project in mind and writes it quickly. Sometimes, several colleagues collaborate in deciding which topic to choose and what should be included.

Please read this before deciding on a Brief.

We also have a number of example Live Project Briefs, which you can use to get an idea of what should be included.

The student team acts as consultants – but inexperienced ones. The students are in the third year of a four year Marketing degree and should provide actionable and sometimes very insightful recommendations but they are not a team of experienced and already-qualified consultants, so organisations should frame their expectations accordingly.

  • The Team are not temporary employees. They are not there to ring up invitees for a product launch nor to man a customer care hotline. They can be asked to recommend how to do such things, but not to do them.
  • Very technical projects. It would be best to avoid very technical projects related to, for example, sales force organisation, but otherwise students should be able to help in anything in these disciplines.
  • The Team can do new things. If it is not something they have covered in their course before, they are instructed to find information about this area early on in the Project – they will seek the advice of their Project Tutor, but the Organisation Contact could guide them too.
  • The Project’s scope. Our experience with the Live Project shows that the narrower the scope of a project, the easier it will be for the students to produce a very good report. For example, they may find it difficult to fit in all the work for a broad, wide-ranging marketing plan, but asking for a plan to address a particular issue or market often works better.
  • The task should just be for the organisation. Students seem to struggle if the Brief asks for something for someone else eg for a presentation to an organisation’s clients or for materials for its brokers to use. They can focus better on things the organisation needs to do itself
  • One geographical market. We ask the organisation to stick to one geographical market only. With a requirement to undertake primary research, students cannot cope with more than one market eg Hong Kong or China, not both.
  • Costings. It is perfectly acceptable, if the Organisation Contact has asked for a plan or campaign, to ask for costings too. This is good practice for the students. However, they have to be costings for marketing activity, not an operational plan.
  • Research in B2B. Organisations in Business to Business (B2B) markets should bear in mind that the students are not as familiar initially with B2B marketing as they are with Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing. So helping them to understand the organisation’s business is crucial. A particular difficulty is getting enough respondents for primary research, due to the reluctance of business people to take part in surveys. We have found that an approach which is often more successful is not for the team to do survey (quantitative) research, but instead to do qualitative research, such as depth interviews, which require few respondents and are good for exploratory research and understanding. Even here, the organisation may need to give them some help in finding suitable respondents.
  • The main exception to this is if an organisation has large list of clients who are happy to co-operate, and whom it is willing for the students to contact, or who it will mail on their behalf.

Guidelines for writing the Brief

The Brief is written by a representative of the organisation, who usually becomes the Organisation Contact.

They can seek advice or help from the consultant from Edinburgh Napier who is helping them. This tutor, or consultant, or the Module Leader can help them draft the Brief or amend it. They can help the organisation take account of the factors noted above. They can try and make sure that the brief is both valuable for the organisation, but achievable for the students. If there are too many objectives or they are unclear, they can help redraft them. Sometimes they can write part of the Brief for the Organisation, particularly if the Organisation Contact is unsure of their use of English.

The structure of the Brief is quite simple:

Rationale for the Project/ Background

The Rationale is the reason why the Organisation wants to undertake the Project –the justification for the Project.

The Background provides some of the Background to the Project, but most of this will be provided at the Initial Briefing (where the Organisation Contact briefs the student team), verbally and with reference to other materials.

Project Aim/Task

This states what the Organisation specifically wants to get out of the Project. It is usually phrased as a specific task for the student team to undertake. It often becomes the title of the Project.


These tell the student team what they have to do – the objectives put the aim in more detail. At least one of each will ask the student team to:

  • Review and evaluate one or more of the current product and service offering/ the market/the competitive situation/the situation relevant to the Project. Reviewing the problem or problem area is usually an important part of the Project.
  • Research and discover, describe, explore or evaluate an area relevant to the Project.
  • Make recommendations which enable the student team to meet the aim.
  • There may be others – the organisation may well have an objective which none of the above cover. It can be put here, or before the Recommendations objective.


  • The notes will specify any further requirements.
  • If there is a requirement to review initial findings and then decide to evaluate one in more detail, or develop it for implementation, this will be noted here, with timescale.
  • This will normally be done at the mid-Project meeting, which could be moved slightly to accommodate it if necessary.
  • This Two-stage Project is unusual. Most organisations simply ask the student team to stick to the task set at the beginning.

Amending a brief after the Project has started

If, despite everyone’s best efforts, the Organisation Contact or the Tutor feels part way through that the Brief does need to be changed, then this can be done with the agreement of all concerned and either the Live Project Co-ordinator or Module Leader.

The amendment of the Brief is normally handled by the Project Tutor and the reissuing of the new Brief by the admin staff. The students are asked to give the original Brief in the Report, so all the markers mark to the correct Aim and Objectives (one of the assessment criteria is about achievement of Objectives).

What should the organisation contact leave to the face-to-face Initial Briefing?

  • The Initial Briefing includes a tour of the premises, if appropriate. This depends on how much information you wish to give and how many questions the students have – it could be one and a half to two hours. (In recent years, the average was 1.5 hours).
  • Occasionally, the Organisation Contact identifies something else, such as attending anexhibition, which would also help the students understand the organisation’s business.
  • At the Initial Briefing the Organisation Contact gives more detail on the background to the Project.
  • He or she also gives any other information, which could include product, market, industry or internal information, which the organisation already has and which could be useful to the students.
  • Much of this will be given verbally, although it is useful if backed up in writing.
  • Some of it might  be accomplished by directing the students to an information source, such as a website.
  • Some of it might be accomplished by giving hard or soft copy of written material. Written items provided at the initial briefing could be external or internal material, as noted above, which illustrate the problem which the Organisation would like recommendations to solve.
  • Such materials may be adapted by the Organisation Contact or a colleague for reasons of length, clarity or confidentiality.
  • Normally, to save time we would not expect the Organisation Contact/s to write new briefing materials for the students –they may re-use existing materials instead. However, for various reasons including confidentiality they may prefer to do so.
  • Bear in mind that the students will be signing a Confidentiality Agreement. The organisation contact could explain to the team at the Briefing what needs to be confidential, if preferred, and they could have them sign their own organisation’s confidentiality agreement, eg an NDA, instead.

More on the initial briefing

  • At this first project meeting the organisation contact should:
    • Introduce anyone else at their organisation who may also help the student team. We have informed the team in their Study Guide that there may be more than one Organisation Contact. This is to help to spread the workload and allow for absence due to business trips.
    • Give a tour of the premises. This may be very brief or not significant, if the organisation has small premises, but may be significant – it will help the students understand the organisation and its business. For undergraduate students, this is often the most difficult thing.
  • The students will come to this initial briefing having studied the Live Project Brief and will be prepared to ask questions. They will think of more questions during the meeting. The tutor may even need to prompt them, if they are shy. However, they will no doubt think of yet more questions over the days immediately following the meeting, so the organisation contact is quite likely to find that they need to ask these by email within a week of the first meeting.