Read the PIF Resource: A beginner’s guide to planning and developing health information
Creating any new piece of consumer health information or developing any new service can take months of planning, development, production and dissemination or promotion.
In these hard economic times, it is likely you will need to put a strong business case together in order to get the go ahead for any new project. By planning well and thoroughly, you can anticipate most circumstances and put the right people, procedures and funding in place to guarantee success.
Good planning will also help to ensure you are able to effectively evaluate your resource or service, understand the impact it has on users and use that information to further develop or expand what you do, or to raise funds.
All new information projects start long before any editorial is written or any query answered. Information development should be based on unmet need, sound research and a good understanding of your client base.
This is key; the better you understand your potential audience, and what they want and need, the more likely it is you will create something that is meaningful and effective. By involving your users, both patients and the public and health professionals, and by thoroughly testing your product or service, it is more likely that you will produce a product that is valued by those people it is aimed at, and respected and championed by those who will help you disseminate the information.
When considering a new project it’s important to be confident that your organisation is the right one to produce specific information or provide a service on this topic. This will help you ensure that what you produce is uniquely relevant to your client base, that you are not duplicating what already exists and that you a genuinely fulfilling an unmet need.
Project planning for information should not be limited to you and your information team. Others in your organisation need to be involved.
Senior support and input is probably essential to ensure you get buy in for your project and its funding; fundraisers can work with you to develop grant applications for funds or to approach corporate supporters for money; marketing and PR colleagues may need to be involved in helping you plan promotion and dissemination and your volunteers and supporters can help you by spreading the word and getting information into the hands of your users.
You should also consider how your project fits into the rest of your work and that of your organisation.
How does it fit into your information strategy; how does it impact on your PR or marketing activities; can your project be linked to an event you are running, or a piece of policy work, could it help you to get support from a celebrity or be part of this year’s fundraising plan?
Take your time to plan. If you rush into something you are more likely to miss something important or make a mistake.
Take particular care when you are working out your budgets, think through what you will need step by step and make sure you include everything, no matter how small. Ask your finance department or bookkeepers to check your calculations. Make sure you include management time and management costs.
These top tips have been put together to help you produce a project plan which will map out the elements needed to support the production of new consumer health information or services.
- Do your research – identify a clear purpose for your information – demonstrate that there is demand and that your client base needs it. Quantify and qualify this if you can – it’s useful for fundraising for a project if you can demonstrate that users have asked for your resource or service in numbers or that it was identified as a need during research, for example.
- Check out the competition – ensure no one else is already producing something very similar. If they are, can you promote the resource to your users or collaborate on the next version?
- Identify the budget – how much will it cost to produce including staff time; from where/who will you secure the funding? Plan for the future – how will you fund future revisions or print runs of the information?
- Think about any risks attached to the project and if you can rate them as high, medium or low risk. Decide what your plan of action would be to mitigate these risks. For example, there may be a risk that you overspend on the budget, that you do not get enough good input from users or that the final resource won’t meet need or be used.
- Once the above is in place, set out your business case to ensure your project has a good chance of getting the go-ahead from those who will approve the budget and staff resources. Think about the questions that your manager might have or the objections that might be raised to doing the project, anticipate what your answers would be and be firm in your convictions. Have your evidence ready, include points about how the project fits with your organisation’s aims and objectives, and how your organisation is best placed/the most relevant to produce this. Think about what you would ask or think if someone came to you and asks for funds to do the project, would you be convinced and if not, why not?
- Plan all the aspects of your project from the start, including how you will get the information out to your audience and how you will evaluate your project (and its impact). Think about what you would be likely to do after you have evaluated the project – for example could you see your project being expanded or revised and updated in the future?
- Appoint a project manager who will be responsible for making sure all stages are accomplished.
- Develop a realistic production schedule and deadlines which allows for testing, commenting, contingency etc. Outline all the work involved in the production and who is responsible for each element.
- Think about what format it will take eg online copy, leaflet, poster, film, app – this might not always be clear at the outset of the project.
- Make sure you are set up for users to test the information at key stages in the development. Get users involved right at the start in project planning.
- Identify appropriate experts to comment on materials or policies etc, and those who will support or promote your project.
- Think about any legal requirements, such as who holds the intellectual property rights on a joint piece of work between two organisations, or who has copyright.
- Plan some post-launch evaluation – possibly at 6 weeks and 6 months.
- Have a marketing and distribution plan in place. Be clear on how you will use the product so you can print the correct amount (if printed).
- Decide on a publication or launch date – does it need to tie in with any other organisational activity?
- Plan PR activity which will accompany the launch and make sure colleagues are aware of any role they will be expected play. This could be media activity or promotional activity to health professionals, patients and the public, community groups etc.
- If you are proud of what you have produced, enter the service or product for an award!