We all have that moment.
That moment when we come to see something differently. That moment when it just clicks, and we find ourselves saying, “a-ha.” For me it’s happened so many times, I could fill a library. The more I learn the more I change how I operate. The more perspectives I hear, the more I am able to build a stronger sense of self – personally and professionally. Isn’t this an essential practice in a world that consistently challenges why and how we do what we do?
I have a new view to share with you today. Take it or leave it, but at least spend a moment evaluating if it will help you do what you do better. This new view is a lens to help you build stronger, more effective campaign plans. It’s working its hardest when you have a bigger story you are trying to tell with a lot of dots to connect.
It’s for companies who are seeking to reduce random acts of content. All too often speed outweighs quality when marketing organizations are feeling the pressures from above to produce results. I wish I had the magic key to tell you how to combat this way of thinking. My best defense to date has been to highlight that band-aid solutions will not help us gain trust with our audience. And building trust is important because audiences who trust you stay longer, buy more, and are bigger advocates. Every move you make as an organization should work towards building trust.
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” – Andrew Davis, Filmmaker
As marketers we build extensive campaign plans. We align them to six-figure budgets. We build umpteen level of tactics and content to execute the plan every which way to Sunday. We plot out which teams will own which pieces. And then we spend incredible hours in the song and dance of approval. These plans are enormous efforts and often they don’t go far enough. They don’t connect all the dots on how to execute in a way that will build trust with our intended audiences.
These plans house a big story opportunity your organization should be telling in the marketplace. And most of these plans are allowing up to three or more departments within the organization to tell a different story. Maybe it’s because I just finished re-watching Karate Kid, but this spoke to me:
“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things” – Miyamoto Musashi, legendary Japanese swordsman
I love this view because it does not allow you to move blindly through your plan. If we take this to heart, we need to open our eyes and see the things that will affect our strategy and therefore our results. The close-up things like internal challenges that you will need to prepare for to protect the integrity of your plan and what long-term things like the confusion a disparate message in the marketplace will create, the delusion of your brand, and the extra micromanaging you’ll have to do to wrangle in the rogue marketers who say they didn’t understand the strategy.
Here’s a way to build more sight into your next plan. Consider this lens:
Agreement + Understanding – Alignment = Duplicated Effort
Agreement + Alignment – Understanding = Ineffective Effort
Alignment + Understanding – Agreement = Wasted Time
Agreement on your story & the ability to repeat
Seek agreement above all else. This is the foundation of your strategy. My suggestion is to take your campaign and ground it in a story. The campaign objective usually comes from above. So getting approval on the campaign often times isn’t the issue. But that’s not the external story you are telling. Do the hard work of grounding your campaign in a story. This will build the bones for your external communication and provide a gut check for content ideas.
I suggest you use the Pixar Pitch to build out your story. Here’s a quick, succinct write up on how to use the Pitch. This won’t be an external facing messaging but rather a story framework that will help inform any team contributing to the execution of the plan to understand the journey your target audience is taking. This story will also help you map to the buyer’s journey and help you determine both the content and the content gaps you have at each stage of the journey.
The value of doing this work now is that one, you help executives and all those involved in the plan approval process to buy into the story you want to tell at the beginning – a HUGE time saver. And two, you have created and communicated a deeper understanding of what your campaign effort means to the people with whom you want to execute it. This will cut back on the confusion of multiple teams executing this campaign differently because they will be working from the same story.
Side note: There are numerous resources to help you build your story. We offer our own storytelling workshop. Second side note: One of my go-to resources for inspiration on examples of stories in context is Bernadette Jiwa blog’s, The Story of Telling.
Understanding team roles and how each role contributes to plan execution
Once you have your story, apply the team roles in a very clear, succinct way. There will be overlap, but there will also be clarity on where people can go for specific tasks like information gathering, brainstorming, validating ideas, execution, measuring, etc.. But more importantly this should encourage a spirit of collaboration and communication.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
Set up a channel for easy sharing and communication so the team can learn in real time and celebrate successes – try creating a Slack channel (or use your company internal messaging tool) specifically for the campaign.
Here are two templates you can adopt to implement frameworks around aligning roles. These are by roles, but if you can assign names, even better. There are two frameworks we use to build alignment.
- The first is around our content creation methodology.
- The second is around the content strategy framework: hero, hub, help.
Alignment of activities and efforts
Lastly, once you have your story and your roles worked out, you can move onto assessing content and channel gaps and brainstorming on how to fill them. Here’s a holistic view on how storytelling, the funnel, and channels line up.
The great thing about this is, once you tailor this template to your efforts by aligning it to your story and roles, you’ll have a quick snapshot of your plan. Here’s a breakdown of rows:
- The three-act structure and the story phase are aligned with the stages of the Pixar Pitch.
- The funnel and campaign stage can be applied to the framework we proposed for assigning roles. I would choose either funnel or campaign stage to complete the exercise. You don’t have to take it this far, but again, the more clearly you can communicate who owns what piece of the story, the better.
- The specific channels you highlight should be reflected in a channel plan. You would map your roles defined in the alignment stage to your channels. The value is it becomes crystal clear who is managing the channel. If channel roles are clearly defined within your organization, then you would skip this exercise. You could, however, divide this plan into evergreen channels and test channels. And then assign roles to the test channels.
Applying the agree, align, understand lens to your plan will not only add a deeper buy-in of what you’re trying to achieve but also provide insight into how your audience will understand it. It will also add a level of insurance to your plan and provide the always-wanted faster road to execution. Your plan will be working its hardest to tell a connected, intentional story in the marketplace. Your audience will thank you – hopefully in more ways than one.
If you find yourself needing another set of eyes to understand your campaign plan through this lens, leave a comment and let me know. I’d be delighted to keep this conversation going.