With an understanding of modes of communication, and after viewing the results of our research, we now look at the framework itself. Who is it for, and how does it work?
It is worth reiterating that this framework is being designed to adapt to the needs of creatives without enforcing a specific creative media project methodology. Each creative professional has a different system for how they serve their clients. Any framework developed for better client communication needs to be adaptable for each specific creative’s process, and each specific project media’s unique attributes.
While this creative media project communication framework is adapted from the “4D” project phase structure (Discovery, Design, Development, Deployment), it is meant to be media-agnostic, not relying on a specific type of creative media.
Given the importance of the Discovery phase in setting a client’s initial expectations as well as providing a comprehensive scope of their responsibilities, this framework is heavily front-loaded in the first phase. Most of the early work is designed to properly set client expectations and provide opportunities for them to ramp-up as the project moves forward. This is also necessary to ensure that systems are in place as the project progresses, with each phase increasingly dependent on the successful implementation of a foundational communication methodology with the client.
Since clients and creatives emphasized frequency of communication as an important element for project success, it is necessary to set up a consistently scheduled touch-base meeting between the creative and client. The scope of the meeting and the time it takes is relatively less significant than keeping to a consistent schedule and allowing the client to feel that they are always aware of the current status of the project.
It is important to encourage a habit for the client to check your web-based portal (or another central repository of project information). A central client portal provides better customer collaboration, saves time, money, and improves productivity, but it also requires consistent reminders for the client to adapt to this potentially new way of checking a project’s status.
Since it may also be necessary to receive content, assets, or information from the client, it becomes necessary to provide a stable and easy-to-use platform for the client to send these to the creative. This system can be a part of the web-based portal or linked from the portal, but the training of this system should be done in-person, via teleconference, or with a video walkthrough.
One of the responses to the client survey expressed a concern that certain methods of communication are “too limited to create full understanding” so it is a good practice to record all meetings and training sessions. The format can be audio or video, and then uploaded to the web-based portal building a library of all project knowledge and further security against misunderstandings.
With communication practices firmly in place, the design phase provides an opportunity to practice methods for sharing designs and receiving feedback. The survey responses show that clients prefer in-person meetings when providing feedback so this communication method should be utilized for at least the initial feedback session. Depending on how well the client and creative understand each other additional feedback rounds can be utilized through emails or telephone conversations.
When submitting designs to clients, the first round typically requires a more detailed explanation. For this purpose, a video walkthrough can provide the necessary context for the client to understand the deliverable’s intent. Additional rounds can be submitted through email or further video walkthroughs depending on circumstances.
This phase also requires further utilization of a web-based portal as a central repository for the creative media project’s deliverables and documentation.
While a creative is building the final deliverable it is easy to slip into “work mode” and not focus on the client’s need for information and assurance. Since many media projects have many aspects which, while important, are effectively invisible to the client, the previously-established touch-base meetings become vital to providing the client with regular status updates.
It is also valuable to acknowledge milestones, regardless of their perceived importance, and share their significance with the client. This allows the client to participate, albeit vicariously, in the building process. Back and forth collaboration was cited as contributing the most to the quality of communication so this look “behind the curtain” allows clients to feel a certain level of participation. These status updates can be provided more frequently than the regularly scheduled touch-base, and may take the form of an email or video walkthrough. The key point, as emphasized throughout the survey responses, is the value of consistent and frequent levels of communication to improve the perception of the quality of the project.
When the deliverable has been approved and is being prepared for distribution to the world, this is an excellent opportunity to prepare the client for their role in the future of the project results.
During the finalization of the deliverable, there is often a considerable amount of back-and-forth communication. If information is factual in nature, such as PMS color codes, printing requirements, web hosting information, or video screen resolution, email and documentation are adequate. However, for discussions on specific processes or distribution methods, a telephone, teleconference, or in-person meeting is ideal.
If the project requires training the client on systems, processes, or technologies, then an in-person meeting or teleconference is preferred, along with sufficient documentation and/or video walkthroughs of easy-to-forget processes.
A final hand-off and celebratory launch meeting can also provide closure to the project, allow the creative to give the client required files, hard drives, documents, and deliverables, and lead into a possible maintenance agreement.
For some creative media project types there may also be long term maintenance and upkeep requirements to keep in mind. These items are best covered in an extended in-person meeting where the expectations of the client’s role can be clearly established.
It is worth noting that the framework is an initial prototype based on initial research and experience, but there may be opportunities in the future to continue iterating and improving the framework for increased effectiveness. Field testing of the framework is also necessary to establish a feedback loop and ensure continued improvements.