How's your foundation?

When I was a kid, my family went to real estate open houses for fun. My brother and I would race around each house finding corners to hide in and play. My parents are both architects, and I took it for granted that this is what every family did for entertainment.

One thing I’ve learned from my building-oriented childhood is to see the structure underneath the style. I knew at age 8 that if you build a house on a poor foundation, no amount of decorating, design or fancy fixings will fix things. I’m no engineering expert, but I can spot an aesthetic flip pretty quickly.

Like my parents, I ended up in a design field, but a different one that doesn’t need worry about gravity. Now I work with organizations helping them figure out how communications and visuals can help them achieve more effective social change. Websites aren’t buildings, but our human structures mirror natural structures and many of the same principles can be applied.

This brings me to a recent conversation about websites I was having with my wonderful business partner and friend Gayle Carney. Gayle and I started working together years ago because of our shared experiences with websites. Over the years we’ve realized how often organizations come to us with what looks on the surface like a communication ask: a new website. However, once we start digging in, we often see that there are foundational issues that must be considered before we can create a successful website.

During our process of discovery, we probe to understand: Who are you as an organization and where are you headed? What really matters to the people you are hoping to reach? How do you see the short- and long-term impact of the work you are doing? Why does your work actually MATTER?

If I’m honest, these questions can sometimes feel like a step back – both for us and our clients. We all want simple solutions and the sense of forward progress. But we believe that it’s worth taking the time to explore these bigger questions, and what those questions might ultimately encourage you to look at. Something as seemingly straightforward as a new website can lead to bigger transformation.

Once you’re asking the big questions, your communications will do what they’re supposed to do: reach your most important audiences and deeply resonate with them. And I promise there will be other, unexpected benefits too: more clarity around your impact, a clearer sense of where you’re headed and staff uniting around shared values, to name a few.

So the next time you’ve got a big communications project, consider how you might allow time to take a look at the foundation. Who knows what might emerge.

P.S. – I can help!