Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Playbooks. You may be used to hearing about them in the context of football or other sports, but playbooks are used often in business as well.
In fact, they are an excellent tool for spreading information to people and they can include everything from best practices to new strategies. However, there is a fine line that separates mediocre playbooks from great ones. A large component of what causes playbooks to either cross or fall short of that line is the quality of their development process. So how do you develop a successful playbook?
Determine the goal of the playbook. Why are you making this? Who is it for? It is vital to answer these questions before diving into any of the details. Having a central goal and audience in mind will keep you on track as you get into the specifics of structure and design. The playbook needs to be a value-add for your audience, so if an element is not useful for them, even if it seems very interesting or cool, you should not include it.
Determine the stakeholders involved. Who is going to be part of this project? You need to get everyone who is going to partake involved from the start. Sometimes this will be determined by the goal you came up with, while other times the other stakeholders will help you determine the goal.
Whiteboard the playbook with your stakeholders. After getting everyone on board it is important to whiteboard the playbook together. This way you can make sure all the stakeholders’ visions on the playbook are aligned for the final design. This may also help you think of ideas you may not have thought of!
Take a pass at it. Nothing is ever perfect the first time through, and this playbook will be no exception. Don’t be afraid of messing up or creating something imperfect. That is what editing is for. It’s much better to have something to edit and work off of rather than nothing at all.
Get feedback. Now that you have made your first attempt, and probably done some initial editing yourself, it’s time to send it off to others. I would recommend not only sending it to your fellow stakeholders, but also to some representatives of your audience. The stakeholders can tell you if the playbook is conveying what it needs to convey but your audience will tell you if it is conveying it effectively.
Put a stake in the ground. You will probably go through multiple edits and versions of your playbook and that’s a good thing! Every edit contains small improvements that eventually combine to make the whole thing awesome. However, it is surprisingly easy to keep going back and forth and never reach a stopping point. Keep this in mind: Yes, there will always be things that can be improved. Always. But your playbook is not going to be of any use to your audience if they never actually get it. Accept that it may not be perfect, knowing that you can always send out an updated version at a later point in time. You do not have 100 hours in a day to create the pinnacle of all playbooks and that’s OK.
Keep copy short and sweet. Remember that no one is going to read a 100-page playbook. Playbooks should be kept at 20 pages maximum with the intention that each page can stand alone. Your audience should be able to tear out a sheet and execute against one task at a time.
A final tip on content. This article is focused on the process of creating a great playbook because we believe that said process will allow you to arrive at the best possible content. Also, because subject matter can vary so much from situation to situation, there are few content-specific recommendations we have found to apply across the board. That being said, one strategy that we at Odigo have found to apply to almost every situation in creating successful content is to show—not just tell—your audience that your playbook will help them achieve positive results. Don’t just assure them that your new strategies will help. Back up your statement with proof of how it has already helped other people in similar situations. You have to prove you can walk the walk before they will follow.
By following these steps, you will be well on your way to developing an interesting and successful playbook!