Your org’s anniversary is happening soon, and you’re not prepared with a campaign. The CEO is adamant: get it done! Here are 7 suggestions to make the deadline. Have them ready as a reply when you call corporate history vendors whose first response is a polite “good luck.” Tell them what you’re ready and able to do to make it work. These workarounds are based on a real-life case study at Organization X, whose leaders suddenly realized they wanted a campaign and commemorative book “right away.” The deadline was vital because it was tied to a fundraising effort.
1. Stretch the time frame. Organization X stretched the celebratory period to the 12th month of the anniversary year. They quickly created a brand-related logo and theme, and accelerated the rest.
2. Slash red tape internally. If you’re using outside vendors, finalize contracts and have the on-signing payment ready asap.
3. Use a team approach, a/k/a modified assembly line. In X’s case, volunteers from the organization assisted the vendor’s creative team with archival and photo research, both on site and in local archives. This freed the book author to get straight to oral history interviews. And it unearthed images for a steady stream of social media posts.
4. Tap additional in-house talent. Org X had skilled employees in-house to project manage and shoot new photography.
5. Keep the text short. Enough said.
6. Adopt a simple, modular design template. Text should be written and kept to a strict word count that hews to, say, two-thirds of a chapter (or of the entire publication, if it’s a booklet). The remaining one-third will be used for photos and pull quotes. Forget about fungible design elements, such as timelines that run across the top or bottom of pages. Prepare stand-alone elements separately. These might include a profile of the founder(s) or financial charts and milestone spreads. Bonus: these can be repurposed as stand-alone infograms and displays.
7. Consider chapter-by-chapter review. At Org X, subject matter experts (in-house) reviewed the writing and design one chapter at a time, quickly reporting back with queries and suggested technical changes. More on this technique next month! In reality, if you’re hustling to make a short deadline, stick with a booklet that’s basically one chapter. But be prepared to pay fees that reflect rush charges.
Caveats: When you hustle to produce a book or campaign, all parties should be comfortable with higher mayhem levels. (Check out these articles on the motivating value of deadlines from the BBC and Inc. magazine.) And be aware that printed books are encountering supply chain issues, like other physical products. So even the most ideal schedule may be upended.
Reality: a few months’ lead time isn’t long enough to research and produce anything short of a brief history. Quality vendors will tell you that the minimum is 9 months from contract signing, preferably 12 to 18 months. Your history is among the few things that can’t be ordered overnight on Amazon Prime.
In flexible cultures, these scenarios probably reflect business as usual. But if your organization tends to be highly analytical – and if people involved with the project are uncomfortable “muddling through with a purpose” – consider proceeding more traditionally. Readers don’t ultimately care about timetables; they care about seeing themselves reflected accurately and compellingly. As our client Dominion Energy said when we developed their centennial history: “CorporateHistory.net provided Dominion with more than a retelling of our 100-year history—they helped us produce an engaging story that captures in print and pictures the people, places, and essence of our company.”