The Art of Taking a Step Back

Photo credit: @WiredForLego

Photo credit: @WiredForLego

This week one of our account teams held an “Intense Period Debrief” – an opportunity to assess what went well, what could have gone better and what we can do moving forward to learn from experiences once a project is complete. The irony of this particular meeting was that, in taking the time to take a step back, much of what we learned from this particular account was the importance of taking calculated steps back more often.

The marketing world moves fast – new platforms, new products, content trends (this week it’s sarcastic polls on Twitter, FYI), changes in user behavior… the list of things that change actually changes itself quite frequently.

Add aggressive deadlines and high expectations to the list, and we’re frequently working in a world that pushes forward so fast that it’s easy to forget to step back and think strategically once a plan is in place. Ultimately, the best-laid plans don’t mean much if expectations aren’t set, processes aren’t communicated, and those plans don’t evolve based on trends and ongoing data.

Setting Expectations

You know your audiences, you’ve outlined organizational goals and you’ve got the perfect creative campaign to reach said audiences and exceed the organizational goals. The problem is, that won’t mean much if your organization’s leadership has unrealistic expectations. Be specific about what a campaign or plan can and will accomplish, and what it won’t or can’t accomplish. If you don’t stop and properly communicate those things early on, it’s hard telling what expectations you might be missing three/six/twelve months from now.

Lay Out the Process (and consequences of not following the process)

You’ve probably got a process in your head of how things need to go down to knock your latest project/campaign out of the park. Stop and write it down. Be more detailed than you think you need to be about timeline implications, windows of opportunity or similar components that will be missed if the process isn’t followed. There are few things more frustrating than a project falling flat because deadlines out of your control were not met, unanticipated rounds of edits hit your desk, or the powers that be weren’t brought into the process early enough to understand the implications of meeting deadlines.

Raise the Yellow Flag Early

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. If you think there might be a problem, take a step back and bring it up as early as possible to start formulating solutions before the issue isn’t repairable (i.e., a Red Flag situation).

Modify and Adapt

It doesn’t just apply to “yellow flag” situations. Any project or campaign can use regular (maybe even scheduled) check-in points to ensure the strategy is on the right path, goals are being met, and the process is being followed. And even if all is going as anticipated, there are always areas of opportunity and creative/audience targeting/reporting that can be tweaked to make your project or campaign perform even better.

In our world of “go-go-go” and “what are we doing tomorrow,” don’t forget to stop, take a step back and make sure today is going as it should.

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