Whether you’re busy crunching on a big campaign proposal or developing a strategy or tactic for a client, you might overlook some of the most important aspects of the project: the details. Even if they seem like no big deal, at the end of the day, small details matter, and can end up being a very big deal.
In public affairs, major communications campaigns require close attention to detail, from correct name spellings in a proposal, to accurate dates and travel logistics, and even items as miniscule as footnotes or using the right style guide (is it AP, MLA, APA or Chicago?!). However, when it comes to meeting your end goal, the details are crucial. Below are a few tips to make sure you don’t let one small missed detail derail a project or your work ethic:
I work in an industry where several of my coworkers are experts in a lot of different areas, from grasstops to Congressional issues. If I’m unsure about a small detail that I can’t figure out myself, I always ask a colleague—it is always better to double or triple check than to be wrong.
When in doubt, get a second set of eyes
Reading the same pitch or memo can often give you highway hypnosis. That’s when phoning a friend comes in handy. Ask them to double check things that you know are easy to let slide (did you use a semi-colon properly? Include or remove Oxford commas?). Incorporating a trustworthy, outside voice of reason into your review process can provide clarity and make sure no important details fall through the cracks.
Take a snack break
One time, I sent an email with a glaring typo and I spent a few hours of my life I’ll never get back asking myself, “How did I miss that?!” While beating yourself up over a mishap won’t make things better, taking a break and coming back to the project a little bit later will give you fresh energy and a more watchful eye.
Literally check a box or cross an item off your to do list
Before starting a project, create a to-do list of not only all the items that need to get done, but the details that go with it. For example, when you draft an op-ed, make sure you have all the submission guidelines attached, or when you create a media list, make columns for important contact information. That way, you can hold yourself and your team accountable AND enjoy the satisfaction of crossing crucial details off your list.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time
Working on a big project, especially multiple ones at the same time, can be difficult. Start by breaking down your tasks into more digestible projects—it will be easier to make sure everything is done well and right. When you finish each part, practice any of the above tips to make sure nothing gets past you and off to the client with an error.
While pleasing a client is critical in public affairs, you can’t accomplish your goals without getting the small things done. Making sure all the details are right will build trust and turn you into a detail-oriented expert!