A journey of a thousand miles starts with one question

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question_mark_help_symbolYour boss, your client, your business requires that you communicate a message. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur with an awesome prospect and you really want to use a new presentation. Or your client wants you to create a series of email blasts for current customers. Or you boss has asked you to develop an internal sales newsletter.

Whoever the culprit, a huge project has been plopped on your plate, and you’re wondering where to start digging in. And how to avoid heartburn. And whether this project is organically grown and low in sodium. (OK, that’s about enough with the metaphor, right?)

Anyway, before you do start digging in, the best way to avoid heartburn is to ask some vital questions. The answers to these questions should provide you with a clear summary of the expectations and goals, what the end product should look like and how you should proceed.

There will be occasions when some of these questions don’t apply, and you might have to add questions that pertain to your particular project. But the list below is a pretty good template to start with:

  1. Project objectives?
  2. Who is the target audience? Titles?
  3. What type of the communication piece is needed (website, newsletter, brochure, etc.)?
  4. Format of the piece and creative considerations (number of pages, size, word count, tone, etc.)?
  5. Design elements (logos, color, images, etc)?
  6. What are the products/services?
  7. Key messages?
  8. Features/benefits to be included?
  9. Incentives to be included?
  10. Research/analytics pertaining to this project?(Is there any data that could help direct his project?)
  11. Who is the competition? How are they tackling the product, service or issue? Do we have any relevant competitor pieces?
  12. Contacts that might be helpful in gathering information? Other resources such as websites?
  13. Other information the piece must include (phone numbers, web sites, meeting info, etc.)
  14. Are there past pieces that might be helpful in establishing a desired writing style or design?
  15. Production (printing, collating, assembly, etc.)?
  16. Distribution (mail, email, posting to a website, etc.)?
  17. Due date?

Once you get all the answers you need, it’s usually a good idea to use the information to write up a communication plan, which serves as a blueprint for you to follow as you develop the project. It should also contain a timeline to help you keep on track and, if others are involved, with project management. A communication plan also has the added bonus of making sure you and the person who gave you the project are in agreement as to what the end product will look like, its goals and timing.

 

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