The Storyboarding we execute alongside our clients at the beginning of each project is a 2-4 hour exercise that gets all parties aligned in a direction, and it's where our messaging begins getting crafted. We use a super analog technique we learned from a project management ideology called Scrum. In Scrum's Roadmapping exercise, a project owner uses color-coded index cards, painter's tape, a marker, and a wall to lead the client and production team through a series of topics covering everything the brand means (and/or wants to mean) to the marketplace, along with deep dives into targets and competitors.
How It Starts
We start with our first column of cards which 9 times out of 10 is centered around brand DNA & qualities. Not every Storyboarding session looks the same, but it's usually a good idea to start with an exploration of the full breadth of the brand in order to get a good feel for how the client perceives the brand. Oftentimes, some conversation is required to align a client's perception of their brand with our own. This topic/column can go on forever if you let it, so we tend to limit the qualities listed and discussed to 7-10. That ensures that the client knows how important each card that makes it on the wall truly is.
The Most Important Part
The next topic of discussion and next few columns of cards are focused on the targets, consumers, customers, or users, depending on the situation. We see the importance of this as two-fold. We firstly need to make sure the client is able to take their focus off of their brand and to place it squarely on their customers' pain points and what the brand means to the customer in terms of providing solutions to those pain-points.
Second, we MUST make sure all parties are aligned on who exactly we will be targeting. I can't remember the last time we spoke to a prospective client in an intro meeting, and when we asked "Who exactly will we be targeting, on whom should we focus our messaging" they didn't just say "well, everyone of course." As most of you reading probably know, this is a doomed strategy. If you try to speak with the same tone and use the same language with a 68-year-old grandmother and a 28-year-old new mother, you're going to strike out with both. Even when you're trying to sell them the same product. EVERYTHING has to be highly targeted in the modern marketplace.
First Swing At Messaging
At this point in the process, we're typically a little over an hour into the exercise, and all parties are nice and warmed up, feeling energized. We believe this a great time to start spitballing ideas of how to address our newly crafted and refined target personas in order to catch their attention and make a swift impact on their decision-making. This discussion is very loose and fun. We take any pressure off the team by making clear that what we're coming up with right then is not what we're going to copy/paste onto the new website or brochure. Although we don't use anything word-for-word, we almost always get some great nuggets of inspiration.
Enemies and Lovers
The next two topics we cover are the brand's competitors as well as the brands that inspire it. There is always a shift in body language at this point. When you start talking about the competition tensions rise just a little, but the challenge of talking about other brands is incredibly productive. For me, I typically learn more about the client by how they talk about their competitors than anything else. You get an even greater idea of how the client views their brand's position in the marketplace, and you get to learn what the client is envious of what their competitors do, and most of all what they passionately aim to do differently. We then move into our next column covering inspiration. Here, the client informs the production team as to which brands (regardless of industry) inspire them. It's extremely valuable to learn the in's and out's of what the client sees in their favorite brands that moves them. We use their inspiration as a sort of standard to hold ourselves to in terms of brand tone and content strategy.
The Final Cards
Lastly, we always like to cover all the goals and expected outcomes from the work we're about to execute. Since this is usually a post-sale meeting, we have already agreed on each party's expectations for the project, but we believe it's well worth the time and energy to go through this information with everyone (client team and production team) involved in the project to ensure 100% alignment before beginning the work. If you can't tell by now, we like alignment just a little bit.
We're well aware that our version of Storyboarding isn't reminiscent of what one would complete for a film, nor does it align terribly well with the Scrum Roadmapping process. Evangalist Storyboarding is a combination of exercises we know work paired with our own ideas, and it has become a HUGE part of what has enabled Evangalist to serve our clients with precision and clarity. Despite our success thus far, we're always tweaking our process to make it better and more impactful. Cheers to many successful sessions in the future!