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Failing Communication

Drake D+ OK, let's get a few things straight.  I've been teaching at Drake for over 10 years.  I love the school.  I earned my MBA there.  My wife earned both of her degrees there.  I have some amazing colleagues in the College of Business and Public Administration.  My students have been fun, challenging, outstanding up-and-coming professionals.  Even stepping onto campus energizes me.  I believe in the school, its mission, and its existence.  While the rest of you Iowa and Iowa State fans hold your silly rivalry, I laugh in all your faces.  I bleed Bulldog Blue.

So the whole D+ ad campaign bothers me.  Not just bothers me... it irritates me to my core.  I loathe it with the same loathing that my project management students feel toward my multiple choice final.  Yes, the campaign is effective.  Inquiries are up.  Student visits are up.  It's getting attention.  And as most marketing types would attest:  ALL attention is good attention, right?  Well, not if you believe what the mainstream media is saying.  The internet was littered with stories this week.

The marketing spokespeople sent out an email message yesterday to faculty and staff defending the campaign and sharing all of the positive statistics.  The message is clearly reaching prospective students.  But existing students, faculty, and alumni are NOT happy.

But this post isn't really about bashing my alma mater/employer.  This, too, shall pass.  No, what I want to point out with this marketing fiasco is what can happen on your PROJECTS if you don't think through your communication plans.  At the beginning of every project (and when I say "beginning" I mean when your project is still just somebody's idealistic brain-fart), the project manager needs to start creating a project communication plan.  You need to think about every audience:  business partners, software users, suppliers, customers (internal and external), IT support, industry watcher, and (sigh) marketing.  Then build a communication plan around the messages, frequency, and channel/medium each member of your audience needs.  Finally, weigh your communication plan against those stakeholders who will see it, but for whom the message is NOT intended.  That last one may send you back to the drawing board, but it will be worth it.  The conventional wisdom in project management circles is that a project manager's time will be spent communicating... between 70-90% of the time.

So to prevent a project failure (or at least a D+), make sure you are communicating effectively with ALL of your stakeholders... not just the ones to whom you THINK you're communicating.

Carpe Factum!


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