Late last Summer, we began a new project with a private university. They were preparing for a high profile court case, and they wanted to unify their messaging. We signed on to help them develop a communications plan and implement it across social media. Our involvement was a two month campaign with multiple pieces due in rapid succession and it required all hands on the YLD deck. With a little management from our department heads, we supported our client by helping them present a positive message under high pressure.
Trust Your Client
The university had dedicated staff who were fully invested in their school and in their students. Our job was not to override or direct them, but to help them distill the core message for this communications plan. The crux of managing any project is to listen to the client. They are on the front lines, they live and breathe their brand on a daily basis. We’ve especially noticed this in our cause-based clients. For many of them, their brand is so much more than a job; it is a belief they are passionate about sharing.
YLD Partner Matt Salisbury worked closely with a deeply skilled outside partner and a core team from the university’s administration and marketing departments. He spent hours attending their meetings, listening to their concerns, discussing their ideas, and learning the nuances of their message. It’s only through doing this that we can accomplish what our client needs. Yes, it is our job to guide the client, to offer the insights we’ve gleaned from our time in the social marketing space, and even to narrow down the multiple ideas in a room to help bring out the strongest one. But first, we have to listen to the client to truly learn what they need before we move into executing the project.
Trust Your Team
A good project manager is only as effective as their team. As a creative manager, I focused on the creative elements needed in this project, and Matt handled the broader strategy timeline and client expectations. We relied heavily on our promotion specialist, Briana, who tested the messaging and expertly drove social traffic to a landing page. Our project manager, Jill, ran a digital war room with account manager Mary to boost organic reach of the posts and respond to negative comments on Facebook and Twitter.
All these moving pieces had to work cohesively, which is where good management is key. The role of a manager is not to bottleneck the project by doing the work yourself, rather it is to ensure that each department has the communication and tools necessary to complete their element.
Trust Your Process
Every team member must work within a framework. While this communications plan was a highlight of the year, it was not without its challenges. In the creative department, I was in charge of producing four live action videos, a website, social ads, and social posts.
As soon as the communications plan was dialed in, we had to immediately roll into implementing it across these creative pieces on a tight deadline. For the most part, these things were not a problem because we have creative processes for content. We deployed a video team to capture student stories and interviews. We created quote graphics and promotional ads for social. We wrote email drafts and phone scripts for the war room.
But, when it came to creating the website, we lacked a clean process that allowed for the hyper-condensed timeline. The expectations and functions of a website are different for every campaign, and capturing the client needs and expectations in a short amount of time can be difficult. We waited for direction and feedback from the client, rather than directly asking for what we needed. This ate into our timeline, and created extra pressure that could have been avoided. In the end, we delivered a clean, modern, adaptive site that became a central landing page during the peak days of the campaign.
In hindsight, I would have managed things differently. I would have driven the client communication much sooner. If we had a solidified process – such as a website creative brief questionnaire – we could have driven down to the important data points sooner. This would have reduced the rapid turnarounds and allowed us flexibility to add functionality.
During the two days of the court case itself, the multiple pieces of the puzzle came together. Matt was on site to support the client, and the YLD office team ran social media monitoring and promotion. The videos views racked up, and over 100 same-day ally outreaches were executed. The client earned over 100,000 video views and reached nearly 400,000 targeted people during the week of its case, achieving its goal of putting its framing in front of all key publics first and most often.
Managing a complex project to meet a client’s expectation is a hands on process. But with the right team, it is more about support than management.