For every project we embark on, we always need to get to the bottom of what meaningful change looks like for the target audience. To find our way there, we start by asking three important questions: Why? Why? and Why? Audience Creative Director Miles Dutton gets wordy with us and explains… why.
All good things come in threes. They all sound the same, they all look the same, they all have the same importance. Starting with the why makes a lot of sense and it definitely bears repeating. When it comes to starting a new project – or even deciding if a project should happen at all, why is the most important question we can ask. And that’s the reason we ask it three times.
Why? Why? and Why?
Why, oh why?
The first and most important why is all about the audience. Why will our target audience engage with this project/initiative/campaign? Why should they? Why wouldn’t they? What’s in it for them?! By starting with the audience and their unique perspective, we start by focusing on the most important element of any project related to meaningful change. How will it change behaviour? How will it make a difference to what someone will think, feel or do?
Why number two is all about purpose. Why does this project need to happen? Why do we need to communicate this specific message to this specific audience at this specific point in time? What has happened, is happening, is going to happen, do we want to happen?
In order to understand a project, to define a clear purpose for it and to deliver on that purpose, we need to better understand the reason for the need. Understanding this context allows us to start thinking about the mindset of the audience(s) we want or need to engage, the business reasons for the communication and the desired outcome.
The third and final why is around our own beliefs. Why are we taking this specific approach to the project, whatever it may be? Why do we believe our planned communication, initiative, meeting, campaign, video, slide deck, workshop or presentation will succeed? Why do we believe this is the best method, format, tactic, channel to communicate through?
Wise after the event
When you see it spelt out like that, it seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? So why is asking ‘why’ something that doesn’t often happen? What happens without the ‘why’? And why wouldn’t you start with the ‘why’? It’s because, as Miles says laughing: “We all want to be wise after an event, not still asking our ‘whys’ after the event.”
“There’s often a tendency to start a project for reasons that don’t consider the why. Maybe it’s a legacy issue, a feeling that things need to be as they always have been or that something ‘should’ happen. As an example, for me the alarm bells start ringing when I hear that a meeting venue has been secured before an agenda has been put together. How do you know how many breakout rooms you’ll need if you don’t have an agenda? It’s no disrespect to the amazing work event planners do, but it tends to focus more on the event hosts than the audience. And meetings aren’t the only projects that are affected by a lack of why.”
Starting with the audience has always been the key to the projects we plan and implement. Understanding what truly makes them tick; what they need, want, expect and would pay their own money to be involved in are some of the questions we explore during an Audience Design Lab. Miles often runs Design Labs to help get to the bottom of the true purpose and objectives of a project. It’s in this setting that he gets out his big bag of why.
“It’s really important that anything we plan is a co-creation with the client team. These teams are usually made up of a group of people from the client company who have volunteered to make the project happen. That means they’re prepared to do additional work on top of their daily jobs, that they’re passionate about delivering great work for a great reason and that they represent the wider group at their company. This makes them extremely interesting to work with and experts in their field. As experts in our field, a Design Lab is the perfect opportunity for us to pool our information and resources and start to better understand the project. ‘Why’ is the key to making the most of the Design Lab time and moving a project forward.
‘Why’ is the key that unlocks the possibilities
and from there, it’s a much easier step towards a theme, a visual identity, an agenda, a campaign or a meeting.”
Understanding the needs of the audience first and foremost means that we can start to address them as we move forward. Addressing those needs is the start of creating change. It’s when we connect the audience needs with the underlying purpose that we take a real step towards meaningful change. Change is always a process and, typically, anything we do is just one step in the process. But all change is progress.
Change for the sake of change
is not meaningful
Change for the better
So what represents meaningful change versus just plain old change? “I believe meaningful change happens when it is relevant, important, worthwhile and sincere. Change for the sake of change is not meaningful,” says Miles. “Paying lip service to change is also not meaningful. It needs to be heartfelt and make sound business sense at the same time. We can only judge that if we understand how our target audience currently thinks, feels and does things; and what change might mean to them. The only way to get there is by asking why.”
If asking why is the secret sauce, what advice would Miles give those who want to try it for themselves? “A basic understanding of, acceptance of and agreement with the fact that asking why is helpful and is intended to be helpful – even if it seems challenging – are probably most important. We’re not asking why to be difficult or judgemental, we’re asking it to make sure people really think before they do. Sometimes the right answer to ‘why’ really is ‘why not?’ But that’s something that should be part of a broader discussion, rather than a reason to move forward in and of itself.”
Would you like to learn more about the process of why? Are you interested in running a Design Lab to find out more about your own audiences, purpose and beliefs? Check out the expertise page here to learn more.