How a “mission brief” makes your writing much easier, part 2

Why write yourself a brief for an important writing project? Are you “the client,” all of a sudden? No, but just as you wouldn’t cut out fabric to make a dress or suit without using a pattern, you shouldn’t approach any major writing project without a very clear plan outlining how you’re going to reach your objectives. In this second article, we turn the whole idea around … (If you haven’t read part 1, click here.)

Write the brief backwards

Because the starting point of your mission brief is what you want your message to achieve – in other words the desired outcome – your brief needs to start from the end and work backwards.  And although that might sound perverse, it’s actually easier, as well as more effective, to write your brief this way around.  Have a look at these two project briefs, and see which you think makes more sense:

Beginning to end: 

We’re going to make a video presentation starring Bernard Balderdash to be shown to staff on the company website and at the appropriate weekly staff meeting.  It’s going to tell them all about the new incentive scheme which is linked to a competition for a vacation in Mexico for a family of four.  We want them to aim each week for as many productivity points as possible and each week the top 5 people will be eligible to enter the competition.

All staff members will be given an entry form with questions and a tie-breaker to be answered by them and their families.  If they achieve their “top five” status they can then submit the completed forms and at the end of the period we’ll announce the winners. Information about these activities will have to be paper-based so staff not wishing to use their portable eDevices can take them home to show the family, and therefore some printed material will need to be developed to support the video.

The objective is to motivate staff to a) achieve sufficient productivity points to be eligible to enter the competition and b) to get their families behind them to help strengthen the work-home links.  That is especially relevant in our case because of the high number of staff on the payroll who have young families.  Using this approach we feel that we will be better placed to raise both production output and sales which is essential to the company’s survival.

End to beginning:

Production output and sales figures need to increase if we’re going to stay in business and the only way we’re going to achieve that is by getting our staff’s productivity and sales levels up.  As many of our staff have young families we also have a bit of a two-way pull between home and work which impacts negatively on performance.  We need to say to them “we care about you and your family, and if we all work hard together we will ensure the business stays successful and you stay in your jobs.”

We also need to demonstrate our caring and provide allied but external things for us all to do together.  The first of these activities is a two-tiered competition – first, staff members work to be in the top five productivity point achievers each week and second, if they achieve that, they get to enter a competition for a family holiday to Mexico.

At the launch of the scheme they take home the entry form, but they and their families can only complete it once the staff member has achieved at least one week’s “top five” status.  Completed forms are brought back/emailed back to work and submitted, and the winners will be judged at the end of the period.  The concept and basic elements of the scheme will be highlighted in the news section of the company website, accompanied by some stills or moving images of Mexico.  This will also be discussed at the weekly staff meetings.

A competition pack will be designed for each week’s “top five” point earners to take home.  It will contain full details of how to enter, the entry form, a motivating message from the HR director, some Mexican picture postcards, a small Mexican recipe booklet and for the children, some crayons and a small colouring book showing Mexican scenes.  All elements to be strongly branded with company name and logo.

So what’s the difference?

There’s a real bonus here, and this is quite common.  In the “end to beginning” version, we’ve discovered that by focusing on the outcome rather than the vehicle we’re going to save quite a lot of money.  Whoever thought originally that a video presentation starring Bernard Balderdash was a good way to launch the motivational scheme, may not have been altogether wrong.  But because we can see from the brief that the key to this is to get the folks back home on the staff member’s back, pushing them gently, a video presentation going out on YouTube or whatever isn’t worth the effort.  Far better to get everyone in a Mexican mood proactively, by cooking and colouring, and both of those cost far less.

 

To read the whole of this series of articles, go:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

More ways to make your writing much easier:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

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  1. […] How a “mission brief” makes your writing much easier, part 2 […]

  2. […] How a “mission brief” makes your writing much easier, part 3 August 25, 2011 By SuzanStMaur 1 Comment Tweet Why write yourself a brief for an important writing project? Are you “the client,” all of a sudden? No, but just as you wouldn’t cut out fabric to make a dress or suit without using a pattern, you shouldn’t approach any major writing project without a very clear plan outlining how you’re going to reach your objectives. In this third article, we take a short, sharp reality check … (If you haven’t read the early articles, click on part 1 and part 2.) […]

  3. […] honesty, simplicity and focus … (If you haven’t read the earlier articles, click on Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]

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