The communications countdown to a public campaign launch includes numerous critical steps that every organization must take to be successful.
There is a tried-and-true approach, and there really aren’t shortcuts or workarounds that don’t come with some compromise or risk. Like the aerospace designers, engineers, and astronauts who are making plans to go into space, the initial steps are essential in ultimately achieving a successful liftoff and splashdown. Let’s take a look at the initial critical steps that get you to the launch pad.
T-Minus 18-24 Months: Why are you going to the moon?
At this moment in time, the organization needs to solidify its aspirational destination and the vision it has for getting there. The organization has to be able to explain why reaching that destination is necessary and desirable, and why it is the one to do it. Here, the way the organization is going to articulate that vision and how it’s going to get the message out is born.
This phase is all about finalizing the case for support and developing the campaign communications plan, and it is essential to get this right. After all, it’s the foundation upon which everything is built—and a shaky foundation will be unsustainable in the long run.
- The case for support provides the compelling why, the inspiring vision about that new or aspirational future state. It provides the foundational messaging and editorial direction that will carry the campaign forward.
- The campaign communications plan is the road map for the work ahead—sometimes over several years. After you’ve identified the key audiences that need to be reached throughout the campaign, you must determine what they need to know and when and select the optimal channels and platforms to reach them. It’s important that the fundraising campaign plan and communications plan work in tandem and complement one another—not work at odds or in isolation from one another.
Modern campaigns, especially comprehensive ones, can demand a long lead time, a long runway, and a long flight path. Like so many things in life, you can’t start soon enough. Success will hinge on getting key people (i.e., decision makers, influencers, and those you need buy-in from) on board from the get-go. You also need to get all of the right details into the plan, and while it’s okay to dust off the previous plan, ensure it’s updated for the times. After all, this is your playbook for the next several months or years.
Despite your best and most earnest efforts, there are some pitfalls that could hinder your progress and success. First and foremost, lack of a clear and compelling campaign vision or an ever-changing case can derail the best of us. It’s hard to stay on course if you keep getting pulled out of orbit. Not having a fully developed plan will also impede your efforts. You might get onto the launch pad, but from there, your trajectory is unlikely to be optimal. And beware of shiny objects that distract you and take you off course in time-consuming directions.
T-Minus 12-18 Months: This really is harder than it looks, isn’t it?
Once you’ve got your case for support in hand, it’s time to bring the campaign to life. It’s time to develop the theme, the visual identity, and the messaging platform—the visual language and expanded editorial for the campaign. This phase is all about how the campaign will feel, look, and sound.
- The theme should encompass the inspired vision for the campaign. It should be a hook to grab attention and serve as a thread to weave throughout all editorial and creative execution. The theme must be authentic to your organization but aspirational too. It should bubble up internally and not be solely an external construct chosen by consultants or an outsourced marketing firm.
- The graphic identity for the campaign should be on brand, a springboard from the current identity (logo, tagline, visual expression). It can stand on its own but shouldn’t be uncoupled from the organizational brand.
- And the core messages should further flesh out the case, providing primary and secondary messages that convey deeper insight and details. Messaging should be memorable and resonant, carry the story, and drive calls-to-action throughout the life of the campaign.
This phase brings its own pitfalls, including too many people thinking they know best and not heeding the advice of marketing and communications professionals. You’ll cause your own grief if you neglect to include all who need a voice (though not always a vote) in coming up with a theme and the graphic identity of the campaign. And if you fail to include essential strategies and tactics from the get-go, scrambling later to get something vital into the comms flow is a sure way to get distracted and lose focus.
It’s good to remember that coming up with the theme takes longer than expected, in part because many people want to have a say. So, facilitate the process to engage people at the right time, but ensure you have a small decision-making group that can act quickly.
Once the campaign theme and visual identity are established, be vigilant about consistency and integration—it’s how you’ll build awareness and trust. And use your well-thought-out communications plan to get you up to warp speed and stay there. There’s much more work ahead.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Campaign Communications Countdown!