Communications is a creative and constantly changing field with many different options and choices.
Communications team are usually understaffed.
Too many ideas and not enough resources to implement them: It’s a perfect storm that can sink your communications strategy if you aren’t careful.
Whether those good ideas come flowing in from program staff, board members, your visionary leaders, or your own mind, you need a process to manage them. Don’t just immediately start work on every bright idea that comes your way, no matter its source!
Create a Holding Pen or Parking Lot
You are probably familiar with this concept from facilitated meetings. If someone comes up with a tangential idea, the meeting facilitator will often write it down on a flip chart labeled “parking lot” so the idea isn’t lost, but doesn’t sidetrack the meeting agenda either.
You want to do the same thing with your ideas for new projects, campaigns, or pieces of content.
If the ideas are mostly related to your editorial calendar, I suggest that you use the same system for your holding pen. If you use Excel, create a separate tab. Create a separate board in Trello or a new project in Asana, with each idea as a new task. Or if you organize your content in stages, make Holding Pen the first one, followed by Assigned, Draft, Review, Approve, Published, etc.
You could also create two different sections, like short-term parking and long-term parking, based on either (1) how quickly the idea might come into play or (2) how big or strategic the idea is.
Should you add deadlines or assign ideas to someone at this point? Probably not.
Create a Process to Review the Holding Pen
On some kind of regular schedule (monthly? quarterly?), review everything in your holding pen.
Delete the ideas that have definitely lost their luster or are no longer relevant. Don’t feel bad about killing off good ideas! You can’t do it all. The more strategic you are, the more ideas you will kill off.
If something still seems like a good idea, but perhaps it’s not quite ripe, now is a good time to assign someone to review it again at a certain date.
If you think an idea is ready, start working it through the process you’ll create in the next step.
If you aren’t sure what to do with it, get some feedback from someone else. Maybe someone else is willing to breathe some life into it.
Don’t let ideas linger too long or carry over from month to month indefinitely. At some point, they need to be deleted or worked on.
Create a Checklist to Get Out of the Holding Pen
How does a good idea mature into a task that actually makes it onto your to-do list? You need some criteria!
Understanding how the idea helps you meet an important goal is an essential first step.
But then what?
For example, you could require that you have answers to the three Quick and Dirty Marketing Plan questions: Who are we communicating with? What’s the message? How are we delivering that message to those people?
You could also ask the person who came up with the idea to help you complete a creative brief.
Remember, you are already working hard. If you add this new idea to your list, that means something else will need to get lower priority. Is this new idea that important AND that urgent? What’s falling off or down the list as a result of this new idea going on it?
You might also choose to run a test or experiment with the idea to see if it will really work or not before investing too much time or energy.
How do you manage ideas and what criteria do you use to decide what gets worked on? Share in the comments!