Great projects and disasters all start in the same place. And just one step can make the difference between the two results. Get this step right and we’re well on the way to success. Get it wrong and we could be on the way to wasted resources, an ineffectual product and a dissatisfied client. This critical step is to clearly define what the project needs to accomplish. Before starting any work we must learn and understand the goal of the work we’re considering.
This isn’t any secret – it’s something we’ve all learned from hard experience. Starting without clear objectives almost always leads to work that’s not going on the show reel. Think back to your own difficult projects. The chances are good they involved clients who didn’t know what they wanted.
Conversely, we worked with a client who was quite clear about the goal of his business meeting. He was also very transparent that the work had to be different and, that his career might be affected by the outcome. We responded with a complete package including a style guide, invitations, staging, videos, speaker support and room décor right down to unique seating and custom desk blotters. The result was a distinctive, highly successful meeting that was talked about (and emulated) for months. It was successful because every element was aimed at meeting that one, clear objective.
Our departments have and will continue to be asked to do more, and typically with fewer resources. We have to make sure that the work we do is as effective as possible. This is particularly true in demonstrating our value as strategic partners. Understanding the goal of the work being considered is a critical step. Defining the goal isn’t always easy and it can be work for the client but, it is imperative. Clear goals fuel the creative brief. They can act as a touchstone against which all creative ideas can be tested. Clear goals are essential when we’re measuring success and, well defined goals can help ensure efficient, economical production that doesn’t waste anything on endless revisions.
In defining goals, get the right people involved from the start. Be certain to gather input from anyone who will be approving the final plans. Then ask the clients to define the goals for the project. Ask this question in different ways and then look for nuances, missing information, inconsistencies and any contradictions. Keep asking questions until you are certain that you understand clearly what the project needs to do. In the process you’ll learn what the client wants or thinks is important. Use this to shape how the work will be done.
Starting well is the best way to ensure that a project will end well. Start by taking the time to thoroughly clarify your clients’ objectives.
This article was contributed by Jeff Boarini, CMMA Board of Directors
Kevin Prange said:
Amen. Having a clearly defined goal also makes the work more enjoyable and much better than just trying to get a project done.
Tom Densmore said:
Well said! Often our challenge is to get direct contact with the person who is really driving the project — too often we’re trying to meet the presumed goals of someone in the middle, and we later discover that the real decision maker has different priorities.