Set up for a planning session
by Elizabeth Elmore

Twice a year, DARCOMM spends a significant amount of time planning for the next six months of marketing and communications needs across the division. At the conclusion of that planning period, a series of project lists are finalized that outline the projects being undertaken by units. At that point, we’re ready to kick it (off), DARCOMM-style.

DARCOMM focuses on having a consistent, clear kickoff process for each project. This has a few benefits:

  1. It prevents miscommunication and assumptions between teams and team members.
  2. The process becomes second nature and doesn’t require as much energy to decide how to start each project.
  3. It ensures that all important information is shared up front, which avoids last-minute changes.
  4. It helps DARCOMM deliver on units’ expectations while considering how we can innovate and improve our work.
  5. It identifies ways for our division to work more collaboratively by establishing partnerships, exchanging information, and/or avoiding duplicative work.

NOTE: While DARCOMM’s kickoff process is (pretty) consistent, it can vary across units and projects depending on the project scale.

KICKOFF MEETING STEPS

(1) A marketing kickoff meeting is set by a DARCOMM project manager.

Purpose

  • The marketing kickoff meeting provides DARCOMM with project details and expectations, which informs tactical discussions that will help achieve unit goals. We hope the unit will come with the “who/what/when/where/why” information about the project in hand. At the conclusion of the meeting, there should be clear next steps for everyone involved.

Timing

  • Typically, these meetings occur at least one month from the project completion date – sometimes several months if the project is especially complex or needs more marketing time. The earlier, the better in most cases.
  • The specific month for the meeting is approved by units during twice-annual planning meetings. It should be AFTER the unit has determined the who/what/when/where/why of the project.

Attendees

  • If the project is small or simple, the meeting would at least include the DARCOMM project manager and the project point/lead.
  • For more complex units, DARCOMM directors and specialists may attend to help guide strategic discussions or to learn more about the project.

Agenda

  • No matter the size of the meeting, it will generally follow this agenda template.
  • During the creative portion of the meeting, units are encouraged to share inspiration and examples with designers.

(2) After the kickoff meeting, the DARCOMM project manager shares meeting notes with attendees to ensure decisions and next steps were accurately recorded.

(3) DARCOMM then builds a project plan.

  • The project manager processes the information from the kickoff meeting and builds the plan.
  • That plan is run by DARCOMM team members who will share feedback and advice based on their expertise.
  • Sometimes the plan is shared during a DARCOMM staff meeting for the full team to be aware of and share ideas.
  • Once DARCOMM is on the same page with the plan, it is shared with the unit to ensure that expectations are met from a deliverable and timing standpoint.

(4) Once the project plan is approved, the project gets underway!

If you have questions about or ideas to improve this kickoff process, let me know (ude.agu@eromlee). DARCOMM is constantly looking to improve its work and its operations.

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