News & Views

Messaging essentials: the importance of thorough discovery

A lighthouse finds a ship in the dark.

When marketing teams are kicking off big communications projects, they put a lot of balls in the air. With their eyes on tight budgets and tighter schedules, they often don’t allocate enough time or resources to the first, and in our minds the most important, phase of their projects: discovery.

Discovery, of course, starts with identifying all of the appropriate background materials and, importantly, the people in your organization with the relevant expertise and insight for the particular project. It’s important to be thorough, even though there may be a temptation to skip through this planning and get to the doing.

In addition to its fundamental information gathering value, a well-planned, in-depth discovery phase can deliver greater project efficiency, better internal buy-in and acceptance, a more authentic brand voice, and more.

  1. Greater efficiency
    And potentially less cost, too. Investing in a robust discovery phase can help you get to your goal with less side tracking and doubling back because you missed something — or someone — important. Spending quality time up front can also help you home in on the ideas and themes with the most relevance and support, and avoid results that don’t gain traction or have to be redone.

  2. Wider acceptance
    For those bigger, brand-level projects, building consensus and support for a new direction or message is often your biggest challenge. When a range of departments and staff from across your organization are involved in discovery, it not only provides new insights and diverse perspectives, it also makes everyone feel heard and recognized — even when the outcomes don’t necessarily jibe with everyone’s expectations. This makes it easier to get buy-in and greater acceptance of your results, both during and after the project.

  3. Authenticity
    If you want your communications, campaigns, or brand to ring true, giving your strategic and creative partners enough time to really dig into the ins and outs of your business is critical. A lot of that is connecting with and talking to the right people — people with unique ways of telling your business’s story or firsthand knowledge or your target audiences. We think these one-to-one interactions are critical to any comprehensive discovery, because you get more than just good information. It’s also fertile ground for the personality, style, and voice of your brand or messaging.

    You may think (or they may say) that they don’t want to be bothered, but once you engage, we’ve found that the experts in your organization are most often passionate about what they do and what they think, and are happy to talk about it.

  4. Fewer blow ups
    When you commit to a comprehensive discovery phase, you have to be ready to pivot or even change course if you find out your project has the wrong premise, the wrong proofs, or lacks support from leadership or employees. When you have benchmarks and KPIs to hit, that can be nerve-racking. But in our view, that’s a feature, not a flaw. By getting the detours and sidetracks out of the way early in the project, you won’t have to abandon ship when it’s too late and scrap the time and budget you put into it. Or the goodwill of your subject matter experts and leadership partners.

And sometimes, discovery can be just that; an opportunity to uncover a great direction, theme, or message you hadn’t thought of in a place you didn’t think you’d find it. So even if it’s hard at the beginning to find the time and resources, make the case for a meaningful discovery phase. When you wrap that successful project up, we think you (and your creative partners) will be glad you did.