Tag Archive for: project management

Writing Tip: Be Careful with Rabbit Holes

Don’t misunderstand me here. I’ve got nothing against literal rabbit holes. Rabbits are cute. It’s fun to watch them pop out of the ground, or disappear into it. Where could they be going? How far down do their burrows go?

The problem with figurative rabbit holes is you can actually follow the rabbit down into them. That might sound fun, but if you ever find your way out there will be consequences.

What is the Rabbit?

DISTRACTION. Your story, article, blog post, white paper, whatever, has a destination. There it is in the full light of day. Go after it and don’t stop. If a rabbit shows up maybe you take note of it, maybe you just ignore it completely. Whatever you do, don’t follow it.

Example: Let’s say you’re an HR rep writing about the importance of employees assessing their benefits packages during open enrollment. The rabbit might be taxes – there it goes! As quickly as it popped in your head, off it goes down into its abyss of irrelevant thought. You’ll be working on this article three times as long as you otherwise would have: double time to tackle two subjects, then back through to edit down to the first idea.

What is the Hole?

BURIED TREASURE. The hole isn’t always bad. The cute little rabbits down there have value, maybe as pets, maybe as food. (No offense to animal lovers. It’s just an analogy.)

Example: You’re a communications manager for a nonprofit service organization, writing about a client whose life your organization helped change for the better. Her story makes you think of a related story about a man who utilized a different service. You’re tempted to write about both, but you realize they really make two different points. You make a note of the other idea. When it’s time to come up with your next story you know just where to find it.

When you know your destination, rabbit holes are time wasters. When you’re not sure where you’re going, go ahead and explore. Just remember that at some point you just have to get it done.

(I’m done.)

How the Copywriter Fits into the Project Manager’s Workflow

The best project management professionals (PMPs) are excellent delegators. They are not only able to plan and direct a team, but they trust each member of the team to do their job.

This is difficult for the leader with the gift of the bird’s eye point of view. The clearer the idea you have of what you want to accomplish, the harder it is to give other people freedom to execute it.

Especially the copywriter.

“Do we really need to hire a writer on this?” you ask yourself, while in the back of your mind you worry, “Will hiring a writer make me lose control of my message?”  If you’re seriously asking these questions, it means you’ve gotten through at least the first two stages of the planning process to push your initiative, or “widget.”

Stage 1: Analysis of Opportunities. (“This widget can help us reach our goals.”)

Stage 2: Identifying the Aim of Your Plan. (“Where exactly do I want this widget to take us?”)

Stage 3: Exploring Options. (“How might we get there?”)

Here, you are opening your mind to potential resources to help you sell your “widget.” This is where you demonstrate what kind of project manager you are, the Taskmaster or the Delegator.

The Taskmaster will run through subsequent stages rather quickly. It takes far less time to come up with a few options independently than it does to seek input. The result is a executable plan, but not necessarily the best environment for compelling content.

The Delegator, by contrast, might engage the copywriter much earlier. Trusting his or her ability to clearly communicate goals, the Delegator will ask in Stage 3, “How do you think we might get there?” Now the task of developing communication strategy falls on the copywriter-consultant, who at this stage has far more creative potential and ability to take some of the load off the PMP’s shoulders.

Stage 4: Selecting the Best Option. The copywriter presents different pitches for content across various channels (newsletter, email, blog, white paper, etc.).

Stage 5: Detailed Planning. The copywriter participates in decisions regarding deadlines, ways to communicate with the rest of the team and how frequently.

Stage 6: Evaluation of Plan and Impact. The copywriter understands the expected outcomes and plans ahead for annual reports and other stakeholder communications.

By Stage 7, communications content is aligned with the shared vision the Delegator has facilitated through dialogue.

Taskmaster, strive to be more of a Delegator. You will have a more engaged and motivated team, and you will be forced to have higher standards for that team. If you are not sure whether the freelance writer you’re using is able to consider vision and participate in the planning process, hire a new one.

The alternative is either bland copy or content that diverges sharply from your vision. Either way you’ll have to start over, and that’s an expensive mistake to make!