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Selling Your Ideas to Stakeholders; 6 Tips for a Smooth Approval Process

by Vaughn Anthony

In our first branding blog post, we presented the concepts of branding and marketing, and how they are different. Now we move forward to an important inaugural step in the process.

You’ve worked on your concept. Let’s say it’s a study name or a poster to promote your study to potential participants. In most cases, you will find you are creating for two audiences: the audience the final product will reach and the stakeholders that will sign off on the work.

Stakeholders can be your supervisor, your organization’s upper management, or an outside client – anyone who has to give your work the green light before it can be sent into the world to start its mission to recruit patients.

If your concept is good and you believe in it, you’re in good shape. Confidence helps and excitement is contagious. These additional ways can help the approval process work in your favor:

Tip #1:  Gather the stakeholders’ expectations up front. Let’s say you’re creating a campaign for a diabetes study. Ask a lot of questions before you get started. Questions can include: Do you have any specific colors in mind? Are there colors we should stay away from? Do you want photographs? Images of people? Just graphics? This is a smart way to narrow down the perimeters and get you closer to hitting the target.

Tip #2: Work with someone close to the project within your organization or with your client’s staff who can give you feedback before you submit your campaign’s concept. Bringing others in, and making them part of the process, can provide you with a valuable perspective and also turn them into allies to support your vision.

Tip #3: Provide a professional presentation with options as close to the finished product as possible. The less your audience has to stretch their minds to understand your concepts, the better.

Tip #4: Present several options. It never hurts to give them something to say no to, something they can reject. This gives them a sense of power, and it can help narrow the focus (let’s hope) to your favorites.

Tip #5: Explain your reasoning. Why did you choose these colors? Why did you use a beach scene and not a city view? This is your work, and you made deliberate choices, so be prepared to justify and explain your decisions.

Tip #6: Forecast their reactions and anticipate any objections — Jones never likes bullet points. Smith always likes yellow. This is where your allies can help. Explain your reasoning before they speak up to object.

Communication is key throughout all of these steps. Presenting your ideas in person or via video conferencing, like Skype, is essential. It allows you to guide the discussion and answer any questions.

I hope you find these tips helpful, but everything boils down to this: Your study name or your art concept has to have merit. Ultimately, it will stand or fall on its own. If you have a project you’re about to present to stakeholders, let me know if we can help.

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