The First Step You Take Is Always The Most Important One

Often, organizations look for an agency partner after feeling stuck or overwhelmed. The Diagnostic process can quickly get you inspired and give you a clear plan of action.
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Before we dive into prescribing solutions or coming up with creative approaches to our clients’ problems, it’s critical that we fully and methodically diagnose the problems, goals, values, and metrics that are most important to their organization.

Our approach for this—and the first step in new client engagements—is what we call a Diagnostic.

A Diagnostic is like getting a health assessment for your organization through the lenses of branding, messaging, marketing, and communication efforts. During this phase we are actively listening, researching, investigating, asking questions, and digging into the background, context, and desired future state of your organization with empathy and curiosity.

Through this process, we answer questions like: What caused you to reach out for help? What does success look like one, two, and three+ years from today? How might we measure success along the way to see if we’re getting closer to that vision? What isn’t working, or where are you stuck?

Questions like these, and exploratory conversations with the key stakeholders of your organization, shape and frame the future of our work together. We believe it’s our responsibility and professional obligation to ensure we fully understand and define our relationship before recommending how we can best help move your organization forward.

In reflecting on our Diagnostic process, one of our clients summed it up quite nicely:

The benefits of starting with a Diagnostic

Because we require Diagnostics as a prerequisite for all new engagements, we’ve noticed a number of benefits.

1. Ensuring that we are creating the right solution for you goals and needs

To quote another client, the Diagnostic helps us, "build the right thing right." Because we take the time to understand the full scope of the problem and opportunities, we’ve found that we often end up building something better suited to accomplish our client’s goals than what they initially approached us to build. We’ve had clients come to us asking for a website, when the right approach ended up being an awareness campaign. Or asking for an app when a marketing site with the right content sufficed. Other times, it’s more about defining the right strategies and methods for reaching your organizational goals, even if the core ideas and assumptions were mostly right from the onset. In all cases, the Diagnostic is an important first step to take before moving forward.

2. Identifying knowledge or awareness gaps (things you don’t know you don’t know)

Through our landscape analysis, analytics research, and target audience/key stakeholder interviews, we often uncover new insights, perceptions, or opportunities our clients might otherwise never uncover on their own. This allows us to provide holistic insights and recommendations that take into account the whole ecosystem that your organization lives within, and often leads to novel and interesting approaches to explore.

3. Thinking bigger picture

It’s easy to get hyper-focused and caught up in the minutiae of a particular project or initiative. By going through a Diagnostic, we ensure that our team and yours consider how this project might support or block other efforts within your organization. We often find there are opportunities to frame the project in a more impactful, valuable way than originally anticipated. This can also lead to considering new fundraising or revenue sources, creating new organization models or habits, or setting a higher bar or bigger goals than originally anticipated. We encourage thinking bigger, which leads to more impact at scale more quickly.

4. Inspiring and motivating your team (and ours)

Often, organizations look for an agency partner after feeling stuck or overwhelmed. The Diagnostic process can quickly get you inspired and give you a clear plan of action. This also helps our team connect with yours and build mutual trust and respect—the foundation for any good relationship. We’ve seen this process rapidly align a team that has been misaligned or in a stalemate about priorities and strategic direction, which is critical to resolve prior to making any large strategic decisions.

Our Diagnostic process

While each Diagnostic is custom crafted specifically to an organization's particular needs and goals, there is a structured process that we follow:

  1. We start with a series of introductory/exploratory meetings with your main project lead to understand your needs and make sure that we’re a good fit to work together. This is the first step in assessing the problems, goals, and values that will shape our work together.
  2. We send a customized questionnaire that covers your organization’s history, goals and needs, messaging & positioning, target audiences, marketing & communications, and organizational capabilities and capacity.
  3. We audit existing marketing efforts and your owned, earned, and paid media channels (including your website, email marketing, social, and analytics), to see what’s working well and where there’s room for improvement.
  4. We perform a competitive landscape analysis to understand how your organization fits into the broader ecosystem of similar organizations, with an eye towards discovering opportunities to stand out.
  5. We have an initial listening session, where we bring your key stakeholders together for a group interview to talk through any initial questions that we’ve developed in our discovery phase. This gives us an opportunity to deeply hear and understand various perspectives within the organization.
  6. If appropriate, we schedule and perform interviews with representatives of your target audiences to establish an outside perspective and hear how your brand is perceived outside of your organization
  7. Once the discovery, interviews, and listening sessions are complete, our team collates our findings and identifies all of the challenges and opportunities we’ve discovered. From there, we develop our key insights and recommendations for next steps.
  8. We present our findings and recommendations to the same group of stakeholders that attended the initial listening session, including key quotes and takeaways from our target audience interviews.
  9. Lastly, we present a phased, actionable roadmap for moving your organization forward. The roadmap includes how we can help, as well as pricing and timeframes for doing so, and other recommendations that might be outside of our skillset or focus that we’ve identified as important supporting efforts.

Typically our Diagnostic process spans a few weeks from our listening session to our final presentation of insights and recommendations. We like to keep our Diagnostics short and tightly scoped and actionable to avoid delays to beginning any creative or implementation work required to move your organization forward

For any major project or initiative, it can be hard to strike a healthy balance of researching, planning, and executing. But diving right in to tactical work, skipping research and discovery, or rushing through the beginning of a relationship is a fast track to lackluster results and falling short of your goals. Or, at its worst, achieving your goals only to realize you weren’t focused on the right areas or you’ve missed an opportunity to have made a larger impact. Starting with a Diagnostic is a pragmatic way to integrate the right amount of research, discovery, relationship building, and project shaping without slowing down your path to your ideal future state. Skip this integral step at your own risk.

Are you interested in getting started with a Diagnostic?

It’s a quick way to get unstuck, see if we’re a good fit for a larger engagement, and motivate and align your organization. If you’d like to learn more, then let’s chat.

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