By Danielle Foley
Senior Communication Consultant
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that good project management is essential to the success of any communication project.
We’ve provided project management support for hundreds of projects—from small benefits rollouts to large-scale communication campaigns for IT and HR systems implementations—and want to share what we’ve learned (often the hard way)!
Make a schedule.
No matter the size of the project, it makes sense to put a schedule together. Appoint a single person to be the keeper of the plan. Schedule in some wiggle room, as delays are inevitable. Be sure to note vacations, company holidays, executives’ travel schedules or other impacts on the timeline.
Establish a review team upfront.
Gain consensus early on how many reviews are necessary, who should sit on the review team, and the appropriate length for review time. Consider including those closest to the project (e.g., subject matter experts) in the initial drafts; add in Legal, Corporate Communication, or other key stakeholders in later reviews.
Hold regular touch-base meetings.
Weekly meetings are essential for both keeping projects on track and resolving open issues. Send out an agenda in advance, assign a note taker, and send a recap with follow-up items. Include representatives from the major stakeholder teams—even if communication is not their area of expertise. We’ve found that “satellite” teams can raise important issues the core team are not aware of. Hold meetings consistently, even if all stakeholders cannot attend. You’d be amazed at how skipping just one meeting can cause delays.
Ask for consolidated edits.
Nothing can be more frustrating and delay-inducing than edits from multiple reviewers that conflict or come in piecemeal. Make sure there is a final arbiter—someone who has the last word. Ask for edits via track changes in Word documents and via Adobe Comments for PDFs. Before communications go into design, schedule at least one “roundtable review.” Ideally held in person, this is the one chance to go through the document page by page, allowing the team to talk through any open issues or variations in interpretation. It can be time-consuming, but worth every minute in the end!
Agree on the number of rounds of review ahead of time.
This is an area where projects can tend to go out of scope and this translates in to higher costs and delays. Be diligent in sticking to the original number of drafts. If you must adjust, be sure to document a “change request” so the team is aware that the project is going out of scope and can make a plan for how to handle it. The fewer surprises, the better!
Engage the printer/programmer in the early stages.
If you are planning to print or program an online communication, touch base with the printer or programmer early on to ensure they can meet your schedule and alert you of any red flags. If printing, decide whether a press check is needed. Confirm who will review blue lines and provide ultimate signoff. For online communications, be sure time is built to check links and navigation.
Breaking up a complex process into manageable steps will help you stay on course and on budget.
Need help managing your communication project? Contact us.