This week started with Blue Monday, and while this auspicious date may have been a travel industry marketing ploy I believe that none the less it marks the darkest, most emotionally draining part of the winter season, especially for those living in Canada. So if you find yourself moving slower this week, having trouble staying focused, or getting excited about the work that usually excites you, have no fear you are among millions of people with the same problem.
To add to this seasonal stress and anxiety I find myself obsessed about timelines. In marketing, like almost every industry, timelines are constantly the top point of discussion. This is for a couple reasons, but the most important of which is that no matter what challenge or unexpected issue your project faces, it will affect the timeline. (Yes, even talk about the weather becomes about how it impacts timelines!)
We do our best at MPH Agency to recognize in our timelines the need for extra time for production, extra time for creative, extra time for approvals (always extra time for approvals), extra time for shipping (see last week’s post about paper supply), but when a project decides to go sideways there is never enough time.
It’s at this point I’m supposed to share with you a “hack” or “secret” to managing timelines. The reality is in marketing and production there isn’t one. We provide timelines based on our experience, knowledge and expertise, and likelihood that some things will go wrong, and these are usually accurate. That is until lots of things go wrong.
There are two types of timeline problems. The first is with challenges you can control. This is where our team has to put our noses down and grind out the work, work the extra shift, stay late, start early, and do our best to get back on track. There is no shortcut or easy way, just grind it out.
What can set you apart from other organizations is not just grinding it out, but how you communicate about it. Nothing will frustrate a client more than lack of communication. They may not like shifting timelines but they understand (Remember: They have problems too). If you do your best to get ahead of the delays by communicating them, and proposing solutions with new timelines then your clients will be appreciative of your dedication to their project.
The second type of challenges are the ones you can not control. Here all you can do is communicate with your client. Personally, I find it very difficult to communicate when the delay in a project is out of my control. Simply put, if a delay can be solved by more of my time or a particular fix from our team - we will get it done, always. The difficult ones are when we have no control over the challenge, a supplier issue, equipment malfunction, or a global pandemic. For me, these are the hard ones. These are the ones that keep me up at night.
Running a marketing agency means on any given project there are a very large number of elements outside of our control. So, it becomes all about effective communication. If I am informing you of a delay, be assured that I have already tried everything possible to alleviate it, and I am stuck with the last resort of telling you there is going to be a delay.
In the end of it all, what makes good people stand out? It's communication, and determination. So answer that call you don’t want to answer, read that email that has been haunting your inbox, and get back to that person you need to update. We can’t stop Blue Monday but we will feel a whole lot better communicating the information we need to.