Kicking off to a strong start

It’s no fun being far out to sea with a hole in your boat.

And there are few worse moments in the life of a communicator than realizing that the big communications strategy you’ve been struggling with for weeks is foundering because some basic things weren’t clarified at the start. Part of the team thought the strategy was all about goals A, B, and C, but didn’t know that D was in there too. A crucial senior manager had vacation scheduled during the consultations phase. A vice-president never liked the whole idea to begin with.

I’ve found that the best way not to end up in this situation is to invest in carefully designing the project’s kick-off phase. A strong kick-off takes very little time or effort, and yet can generate very powerful benefits to the planning process and the quality of your communications strategy.

Convening a kick-off meeting with all relevant internal stakeholders ensures that everyone is clear on the project’s focus, goals, timelines and intended outcomes. It’s also a great chance to seek out colleagues’ perspectives and insights, to generate ideas to explore in the research and consultation phase, and to gain buy-in that will be vital to the strategy development process and the implementation phase. Circulating a summary among participants ensures that any errors or misinterpretations can be caught at the outset.

Make sure your boat’s in good shape before you kick off your voyage, then breathe a bit easier as you head out to sea.