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Creating Effective Project Sheets

By: Wendy Ward, Constructive Communication, Inc.

How many times have you scheduled a meeting with a potential client or business partner and realized that you don’t have any materials that show the recent great projects that you have completed? This scenario leads to a scramble to assemble photos and facts about the project. All the information is then haphazardly laid out and never proofread before being presented to the owner or client. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. By taking the time to develop a process for creating project sheets, you help eliminate some of the marketing chaos and ensure that your best projects are included in your portfolio.

Getting Started

Project sheets are a simple and cost-effective way to build your portfolio of marketing materials. They demonstrate your expertise, show the diversity of projects you have completed, as well as highlight your experience with high-profile clients or projects. The first step in the development of a process for project sheets is to begin tracking project data. Basic information about projects can be used for a variety of materials including project experience lists, news releases, project descriptions and proposals. While expensive software programs do exist for this practice, it can also be done simply and effectively in an Excel spreadsheet. The tracking system should include information such as full project name, location, square footage, other key team members, estimated project value and completion date. Storing the data in one place and having it readily accessible will save countless hours of information gathering.

Once you have gathered the information, review the list and select several key projects that showcase your expertise in a particular area. After you have selected the projects, you can begin to assemble more specific information about the project. Develop a project sheet form that project managers can easily complete to garner details about the project. A project sheet form should include all the information that was included in the project database and ask the project manager to verify that it is correct. Project sheets should include a paragraph – approximately five to ten sentences – that describes that project. Include questions on the project sheet form that will aid in the creation of this paragraph. For example, ask questions such as “What is unique about this project?” and “What were some of the challenges faced on this project?” Open-ended questions will illicit responses that are more detailed. And, as with all other marketing materials, do not underestimate the importance of good grammar, sentence structure, spelling and appropriate language that speaks to your audience.

Looks Count

The final step before you begin creating a project sheet is to ensure that you have good photos of the project that are clear and visually appealing. It is important to not underestimate the value of good photography because these images can sell your next project for you. In the age of digital photography, the quest for good photos has become more challenging. Before setting out to take photos, make sure your digital camera can take high-resolution photos (300 dpi). Often cameras are set to take lower resolution photos (72 dpi), which looks great on your computer screen but will look blurry when printed out. If you are unsure if your camera can take high-resolution photos, simply use a 35-millimeter camera and scan the photos in at the proper resolution. Another alternative is to hire a professional photographer. These photos can be used for not only project sheets, but also for award submittals. Look for opportunities to collaborate with other members of your design and build team to obtain the photos of your projects.

After all the information is gathered, it is time to develop a template for all project sheets. Consistency is key with project sheets and a template will ensure that you achieve this. Have someone with a good graphic eye create a template that is easy to follow and maintains a consistent look. Many opt to hire a graphic designer to create the template so it corresponds with other marketing materials. Regardless of whether you create it in-house or outsource the initial design, be sure to create something that is versatile and professional. The template should include your logo, website address and directions for placement of text. Ensure that your template is reader-friendly and laid out in a logical manner. Readers should be able to move easily from the photos to the text. Show the template to members of your team and encourage them to provide feedback about the design. Once the design for the template is finalized, stick with it. Resist the urge to alter the design for each project. The template will save a great deal of time and ensure consistency in your materials.

Website Success

In addition to using as printed marketing pieces, project sheets are great content to add to your website. When learning about a company, one of the first steps is to visit its website. It is critical that your website demonstrate the projects your firm has completed. If you have created project sheets, you can simply add this information to your website to get more bang for your buck out of the project sheet process. If your firm has begun social media efforts, project sheets are great place to link people to on your website. When new project sheets are added to your site, it is easy information to Tweet about to get the word out about a project.

Award Submittals

One of the best ways to increase awareness about a project is to enter it in an awards competition. Awards provide easy opportunities for press releases, social media content, as wells as news items for websites and company newsletters. Developing project sheets is a great start for award submittals. You will have much of the basic information on a project assembled in one place and it creates an easy starting point. Beginning an award submission can seem like a daunting task, but a project sheet will make it easier to start.

Key to Success

Although the initial time necessary to create project sheets can be extensive, once a template and process are in place, the task should become familiar and easy, and the benefits are numerous. One of the major advantages of developing project sheets is their versatility as they can be used in proposals, as leave-behinds after meetings, introductory pieces and even for a direct mail campaign. Key to success is sticking to a defined process for gathering information and creating the sheets in order to maintain an up-to-date portfolio.

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