Use this Pre-flight Checklist for Project Success

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Going my way? Thoughtful steps toward strategic projects are a sure path to success.

Answer these questions before starting any strategic communications project:

1. What is your existing messaging or positioning?

Include value proposition, feature/benefit language

2. Who is your primary audience and secondary audience? What is their intent?

This should contain summaries describing a typical target audience member, including what type of person they are, what their preferences are, and what they are intending to do when they experience your project.

3. What problem are you solving for those audiences? How do you know?

What does your primary audience want to accomplish and what’s in the way? How does your message remove those barriers? Do you know this empirically or anecdotally? Ideally, you should be able to reveal something about an audience problem that they themselves have not thought of before.

4. What are the key points that absolutely must be conveyed in the communication?

Avoid a comprehensive list and narrow down the focus on 3-4 key messages.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw

5. What are the established goals and/or outcomes for the project?

Ditto. Avoid a comprehensive list and narrow down the focus on 2-3 main goals.

6. What objectives will help you reach those goals?

What specific, tactical things are you going to do to achieve the goals?

7. What timing is involved? Is there a hard deadline? Is there enough time to achieve all of your goals?

Propose a start and end date, and benchmark dates in between for stakeholder sharing as well as production milestones. If you do not know an exact timeline, develop a rough estimate.

8. What measurements would be used to gauge success?

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Establish key performance indicators (things to measure that provide insight, like social engagement), then measure progress toward the goals.

9. How will you resource and promote the program after launch, over time?

Finishing the project is just the beginning. Establish a plan for continued staffing and resourcing throughout the project lifecycle, including consistent promotions. One good tool is a quarterly editorial calendar of timely promotional messaging.

10. How does the project support the overall brand tone, manner, and visual identity?

The proliferation of discordant messaging, logos, and visual identity elements inhibits good communication outcomes. Make sure everything you’re saying and showing ladders up directly to the top -level brand promise. Disciplined communications means more clarity for your audience.

Good luck with your project! Click here to download a document of these steps to fill out before you get started. Send your questions to brand@cornell.edu and we’d be happy to answer them.