Don’t miss the woods for the trees

“Don’t miss the woods for the trees” is an oft-repeated phrase used to remind us that we should focus on the bigger picture and not get caught up with tunnel vision. While this is a good reminder and protecting the woods is a noble goal, it all often begins with one tree. I was recently invited to speak at an offsite where marketing and communication leaders from an organisation had gathered to sharpen the proverbial saw. The speaker before me talked about the importance of putting together a good creative brief ahead of a big campaign. Looking at trees on my morning walk, the “don’t miss the woods for the trees” thought connected with the framework of building a creative brief and this idea took root.

A brief could be of three kinds 1) A Narrow Brief 2) A Middle brief or 3) A Broad brief

A Narrow goal (is when you focus on one tree)

A Middle goal (is when you focus on one species of tree)

A Broad goal (is when you are focussed on the woods – the full forest)

It is not always one or the other. Most often it’s an ‘and’ approach. There can be no woods without trees. So, focusing on a narrow goal is helpful but there is the need to nurture a particular species and the forest as well. Finding the right objectives and goals in life or for a PR campaign requires us to be aware of the trees, the trees, and the woods. The ability to zoom in and double click when needed and zoom out at will is a super way to script sustainable success. 

To illustrate how this can be used, let’s take the case of a life insurance company. What could be an example of a narrow, middle and broad, brief, and goal?

Narrow: (The one tree wonder approach) – Focus on a specific ‘Retiral benefits Product’. How can PR help shine a spotlight on a particular policy? In doing this the benefit for people is they get to know about innovative and useful solutions as a way to plan for their retirement. The benefit to the company is that the product is well-received by customers.

Middle: (The species of trees approach) Focus on the silver economy and build awareness around the incredible value that timely investment in insurance can play when it comes to planning for the next innings. The benefit to the silver community is that they are well covered as they enter this phase of their life, and the benefit to the company is that this segment sees good growth.

Broad: (The entire forest approach) – The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has embarked on a visionary mission aimed at achieving “Insurance for all by 2047” and as a company, we must do our bit to help achieve this goal.  Life Insurance is an underserved market (penetration is 3% of GDP as of 2022-23 according to IRDAI). We need to protect the entire population and nurture the ecosystem. When the country is better served, our business too will grow.

Once you define the target audience and how narrow or broad you want to go, there is no dearth of creative ideas that will flow. From this clarity often grows powerful insights that unlock the ability to create pathbreaking campaigns. A good brief is like fertilizer and water for a communications team. The onus of getting this right therefore must rest on the communications team, we cannot allow unclear briefs (lack of fertilizer and irrigation) to destroy our forests. We must make it our business to ensure we get the brief we need to protect and grow the trees, the woods, and the forest.

Don’t miss that critical step of helping craft a clear brief. With that clarity, great work will emerge. In the shade of these kinds of well-thought-through campaigns, profit, people and the planet will grow sustainably on the wings of powerful PR.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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