Grayton Integrated Publishing: custom publications and content, creative services
Grayton Integrated Publishing: custom publications and content, creative services
Grayton Integrated Publishing: custom publications, publication design
Grayton Integrated Publishing: native advertising, advertorials, writing, graphic design
advertorial design, advertorial samples
Choosing the right set of people to help you shape and deliver your company’s message is a key decision. Even the best messages can miss the mark when not conveyed succinctly and appropriately. With decades of combined experience, Grayton Integrated Publishing team members give their advice about this important first step in the process.
Q: My company has something to communicate. How should we start?
Before doing anything else, you need to determine the who, what, and why: Who is the audience you’re trying to reach, what do you want to say to them, and why are you saying it? This may sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many companies miss this step. 
You should answer the who, what, and why before talking about the how. Whether you’re creating a one-time brochure, starting a monthly magazine, or launching a full-blown publicity campaign, don’t discuss what it will look like until you’ve agreed on its purpose. Who is your audience? What do you want to tell them? What are you hoping to achieve? Don’t try to figure out if your vehicle should be a bus or a Ferrari until you’ve determined where it’s coming from and where it’s headed.
Q: I shouldn’t bother top management with those discussions, right?
Wrong. If you take a finished project to someone at the top without getting his or her buy-in ahead of time, you can expect changes—and they’ll be expensive, end-of-process changes. Not bogging down executives with details is one thing, but top decision makers absolutely should be part of the initial conversation when you’re crafting a mission statement for the project. Get their sign-off on the direction of the vehicle, and then you can take that information away and work out the details. Later, when they’re approving proofs and ask you something like, “Why did you choose red?” you can reply with confidence, “As you recall, you said we needed to be bright and lively. That’s why we chose red.” Or if Executive A wants to know why you interviewed Executive B, you can say, “You told us you wanted to establish the company as a center of thought leadership, and this Q&A conveys that.” 
Executives tend to think in terms of strategy. If you do need to pull information from them, ask probing questions such as, “What’s keeping you up at night? What company strengths don’t potential customers understand? What are the negatives we’re trying to overcome?”
Q: There are so many ways to get our message out there, from magazines to Web sites. How should we go about deciding on the best communication vehicle? 
Choosing the right medium for your message goes hand in hand with defining your audience, message, and objectives. 
Comprehensive messages such as details about healthcare benefits, for example, need to be easily searchable and probably include forms that will need to be filled out, so a PDF document or a Web site makes sense. If you’re delivering information that people will want to spend time with, pore over, and return to, a printed piece is better. 
Keep in mind that every decision you make, right down to paper weight and color usage, speaks volumes about your company. If your goal is to assure customers that your company is on solid ground in a shaky economy, you might want to produce a high-production piece on glossy paper with die-cuts and varnishes. On the other hand, if you’re a nonprofit and money is tight, think twice about razzle-dazzle design. Even if you can get four-color printing for the cost of two, your audience will get the impression that you’re spending wisely when they receive a modest newsletter on plain paper.
Q: So we’ve IDed the audience, the message, and what we’re trying to achieve, and we’ve received the go-ahead from management. Now what? 
Now you can assemble your creative team. Start by reviewing portfolios and writing samples to make sure you match the right person to the right job. 
Take photographers, for example: You don’t have to see the exact picture you’re looking for in their book, but you do need to be able to extrapolate from their work that they can get your job done. Photographers are like doctors—they’re not necessarily interchangeable. Just as you wouldn’t go to a proctologist to get your eyes examined, don’t hire someone who specializes in product shots to take an executive profile portrait.
The same goes for groups of people. If you want an advertising piece—maybe a short message in a mail piece—consider an advertising agency. If you’re working on a longer publication such as a magazine, you’ll want to turn to people who have experience with magazines. 
As you’re considering potential vendors, pay attention to their client list. One of the reasons to go outside your company for creative work is to leverage the knowledge that vendors have gained from previous experience. Someone who’s done a variety of projects for a variety of clients will be more valuable and have more insight to bring to your venture.
Q: How can you get the biggest bang for your buck before a project even begins?
The common approach to bidding creative projects is to say to five different agencies, “This is what I want. How much will you charge me for it?” That approach can work, but it’s important to provide as much detail as possible in describing the “what I want.” If you’re not precise, it opens the door to misunderstanding and potential additional charges later to in order to get “what I really want.” 
In many cases, it might be useful to take a different approach. We propose flipping that question around to say, “This is my budget. What can you give me for it?” When you’re presented with the choices, you can make your decision on merit and services offered rather than price. 
You know your budget—and we’re going to know your budget once you hire us. Why should it be a secret from the start? And in tough economic times, it makes more sense than ever to say, “This is what I’ve got budgeted. What can I get?” 
Q: I have a design firm offering to do pro bono work for us. What’s the catch?
Tread cautiously: You have to supervise teams doing pro bono work just as you’d manage any other team. We consulted with a nonprofit organization whose projects had become so complicated and problematic that the printer asked them to stop bringing work to their facility. The printer fired the client! 
What had happened was that the nonprofit had been fortunate enough to have a big-name design firm offer to produce materials for them pro bono. But these designers weren’t thinking about the nonprofit’s message or its goals in choosing the way their pieces would look or feel. Instead, they were reaching into their desks and pulling out all of the great, complex designs that no paying client had been willing to spend their own budgets on. As it turns out, these die-cut, six-color, varnish-finished projects cost a fortune to print. On top of high cost, the slick image didn’t mesh with the nonprofit’s more modest personality. 
The nonprofit should have said from the outset: “These are our goals, this is our image, this is our budget. Please design pieces that make sense under those parameters.” And then continue to direct the work as they would if they were paying for it. 
Q: We need help with art and design, but we’d like to handle editorial in-house. Will vendors work under these circumstances?
If you think you have the writing ability on staff, make sure your outside vendor will apply editing to the process—not just dump your untouched copy into the design. Even the best writers need the fresh eye of an editor.
But think twice about taking this on yourself. If your internal resources are limited—and whose aren’t these days?—consider letting go of that chunk of the process. As long as you’re comfortable with your vendor and able to help it navigate your organization with directions such as “never quote these two executives in the same story,” you should be confident that your creative team will help you to effectively deliver your vision to your audience.
Remember: You’re going to have final approval over everything, so you aren’t letting go completely. But the right team should deliver a product that surprises and delights you, and needs minor approval tweaks versus a major overhaul.