Help others prepare the communications you want, first time

2nd October 2012

Have you ever asked someone to prepare a communication for you, and been underwhelmed by what they produced?

And then of course, this is quickly followed by last minute, stressful re-drafting.

This isn’t much fun for either of you. And you can both feel frustrated by the other: you think they should have done better; they think you should have briefed them better.

It’s not always easy to find ten minutes to deliver a better brief. But it’s never easy to find the many hours you need to rectify a poor Draft One.

So, here are four quick steps to giving a better brief. Be clear on:

Step 1: What you want the communication to achieve
(“I want it to ensure my team does Action A”)

Step 2: The main sections/titles
(“To convince them to do A, I’ll need to cover topics B, C and D”)

Step 3: The key 1-3 points that go in each section
(“The main topics to cover in each section will be…”)

Step 4: A guiding one-word phrase/rule
(“while you’re creating this, at all times think FUN. The team has got to enjoy it”)

You might brief someone by telling them all four. Or you might tell them items 1 and 4 (the purpose and style), and discuss what they think the sections/content should be.

The latter is usually better, because they bring new insights, and also feel greater ownership. But, both work well. And both are certainly better than “Please prepare a report on X that I can present to the board”…

… which is usually followed by “I didn’t mean it to look quite like that”.

Action point

Identify the next communication you’re asking someone to prepare for you. Make sure you are being clear enough on the four points above (it’s quicker to do that than do needless re-drafts later).

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