Avoid Crash and Burn: Check! (Nicolas A. Boillot)

FlightPlan Drew's Note:  As I try to do every Friday, I'm pleased to bring you a guest post.  Meet another  thought leader who shares his insights via the blogosphere. So without further ado…Nicolas A. Boillot.  Again. Enjoy!

Launching a marketing initiative that successfully reaches your intended audience and delivers a spot-on message in many ways resembles a perfect, incident-free flight. Before every phase of a flight, pilots perform a series of checks to ensure that all systems are in order.

This happens before starting the engine, before takeoff, before landing, and when shutting down the engine. The procedure ensures a successful flight, and when in trouble, checklists abound for each kind of trouble a pilot faces. But sometimes a small detail missed at any phase of flight – be it on the ground (full fuel?) or before landing (gear down?) can create a “domino-effect,” which could lead to disaster. After all, you can’t pull over to the side of the road when you’re flying.

Similarly, in marketing and communications initiatives, a “flight plan” enables you to map out key check-points where you can check whether you’re on track or likely to miss the mark. The ideal flight plan for a communications project requires a review of each phase of a project or campaign at specified intervals, measuring against original direction as well as new information recorded along the way.

Whether creating an ad campaign, pitching a story to a publication, or developing a brand, dividing your plan into phases, or “legs” where you must check in and review progress to date, can make all the difference in arriving safely at your destination. 

We have all left client meetings thinking, “We’ll knock this one out of the park” as we already envision the outcome and how to get there. And most of us have experienced that awful feeling a month later, when we discover that we’re not even close to meeting the client’s expectations. Or, the real client was the CEO, but nobody told us that – and she hates all the work that’s been developed so far. With the deadline approaching, we trudge back to square one, desperate for a  winning solution that will rescue us from endless revisions and a death spiral for the project. 

How did we get so far off course? 

With our eyes on the prize, we easily switched to auto-pilot and turned a blind eye to potential barriers. Instead, our checklist might have included meetings with key decision-makers at every phase of the project. In fact, our pre-takeoff checklist might have included figuring out who the key decision-makers were. 

As marketers, we generally take to the creative process more easily than the project management. That’s why a checklist makes so much sense. It relieves us of the burden of figuring it all out again with every new project.

Try it some day – take a type of project that you do on a regular basis, and make a checklist of key considerations to address along the way.  Use it on the next project, and edit for anything that’s missing. And don’t make it too complicated – even a simple check, such as ensuring you have enough fuel for your flight, might dramatically cut the number of times you have to land at alternate airports.

Here's an example of a project checklist for writing an article.

Nicolas A. Boillot is Managing Partner and co-founder of Hart-Boillot, LLC a full-service advertising and public relations agency specializing in higher education, medical, clean- and high-technology markets. Since Hart-Boillot’s founding in 1999, Boillot has managed significant communications campaigns for brands such as HP, Gore Bike Wear, EMC, Fairchild Semiconductor, Vicor and NanoHorizons.

Every Friday is "grab the mic" day.  Want to grab the mic and be a guest blogger on Drew's Marketing Minute?  Shoot me an e-mail.

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