Why Considering the 3 Cs Upfront in Your Project is Important
READ TIME: 3:55 (Or less, you speedy reader, you.)
In the very first blog post, I defined the 3 Cs of Communications and talked about how communications is similar to marketing in its core purpose of influencing audiences in some way. But why so much focus on content, creative and coaching/training?
One thing I’ve learned over years of leading and providing support for communications efforts is that it’s a lot easier to move forward than it is to go backward to get a team aligned towards an objective. You can collaborate on goals, validate impacts, and even define audiences and delivery vehicles jointly. But when it comes to the question of authority and influence behind the project or initiative, there are tasks you won’t be able to initiate until who’s driving is firmly established.
So, that’s just a roles and responsibilities discussion, right? Well, it could be, but have you ever been in one of those “collaborative discussions” where someone does or doesn’t want to take ownership? Talk about awkward. And, let’s be honest, “stepping on toes” is really just an idiom for damaging relationships. Someone has already established a loose path and players for there to be a defined project.
Although you should be open for ownership to change, if you’re leading the communications efforts for the driver/facilitator, this is where a branded template and working title would come in handy—even if it’s just outlining a kick-off meeting agenda. Hopefully, the necessary executive conversations have happened, and the project or initiative already has a strong, established driver.
I’ve been involved with projects where the PM or lead didn’t want to participate or
provide support to developing initial templates before even a kick-off meeting had happened. I can tell you those type projects are yarnballs because, if the lead thinks communications is just the messages and nice polished PowerPoints, you will have a hard time getting included in working discussions where you could influence not only content, but communications approach.
The working calls are where information gets surfaced about how resistant certain audiences are to a change, timing obstacles, dependencies, inter-relational subtleties and a whole myriad of other considerations that should influence your approach. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that second-hand knowledge from someone else is not the same thing. Someone—you—as the content, creative and/or training developer needs to be included in the formative planning meetings to apply that lens and impart execution considerations, ask questions, and raise points for discussion before the team is too far down a given path.
Have you ever seen one of those PowerPoints from a “collaborative” project with no clear driver, or one where the communications person is viewed as a copyeditor and asked to “just check for grammar and cosmetic mistakes”? This is the second-most awkward scenario for the communications lead. The project or program lead may have done a terrific job getting the needed information and distilling it down to practical tasks; defining collaborators; and composing timelines to ensure success. But s/he is not a content or creative professional and doesn’t notice any of the following issues with the presentation s/he is preparing to share with leadership and/or other teams to gain buy-in and support (leave me a comment if you’ve seen any of these before):
Presentation doesn’t follow brand guidelines - the slides are from various versions of different PowerPoints because members have cut/paste them from out-of-date decks. The color schemes and font point sizes don’t match, and 1/3 of them have the wrong copyright year in the embedded footer.
Text heavy – there is tons of text no one is going to read or should be in the speaker notes. Slide creative should complement and enhance the story, not be the literal written story.
Lack of content consistency - they don’t observe the same voice, tone, person or nomenclature. Some of the graphics are cheesy clipart; some of the photos were discontinued by brand in 1990.
Abundance of repetitive content – often, this isn’t because the PM didn’t have a good reason to include another angle; it’s that they didn’t know how to message or display it differently to enhance/complement related content.
Disordered presentation flow – when the content comes from multiple sources with no oversight, it doesn’t matter who takes ownership of compiling it; it can’t help but be a hodgepodge. Content creators look at the whole as much as the individual elements; this structuring capability is essential for logical progression and cohesion.
This is just one content type example, and there are more good reasons to include your communications, content & creative in the formative planning stages. For example, sometimes, content can offer solutions to address an obstacle in a creative or diffusing way. You could also learn about new, easier or more audience-appropriate delivery methods, but more on that another time.
If you happen to be a communication, content, creative or training professional and would like to participate in an upcoming article about what communications/content/creative/training pros wish clients knew, drop me a line (especially if you have a blog or website! 😊)