Keep it simple, Stupid!

As I mentioned in the previous post (which I am cleverly mentioning in vague terms so you will read it again), I felt like the well-intentioned celebrity foreclosure awareness campaign that kicked off in January of 2009 was a total train wreck.

The basic problem with the project was that there were way too many cooks in the kitchen. It was my understanding that the Fannie Mae Foundation was going to give HOPE NOW the $1.5 million and let the organization manage the project as we saw fit.

It didn’t happen that way.

One thing I have learned throughout my career is that keeping things as simple as possible is always the best path to success. Especially when dealing with people who are constantly trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

Even worse, I was under the initial impression that I had been hired to manage this campaign. I had created a well-defined blueprint for this campaign and by day one I had already lost control of the entire project.

If I was to make a conservative estimate, I would say that there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 people on the conference call for the very first planning meeting. And at least 15 of them represented the Fannie Mae Foundation. But there were also two of us from HOPE NOW, the Mortgage Bankers Association (who was technically still paying me for this venture), NeighborWorks America, Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a PR team from Qorvis Communications, a publicist from New York, a talent manager and a partridge in a pear tree.

And those are just the organizations I remember. That was seven years ago, so I probably missed at least two or three more.

I understand that everyone wanted to meet celebrities (Hell, I was excited about the prospect of meeting Halle Berry for the Cleveland event. Can you blame me?) and be part of something special. Every organization had something to gain by being involved with such a high profile campaign that revolved around the hottest issue in the country. It had nothing but upside as a public relations play, but it wasn’t realistic to have so many moving parts and so many decision makers.

To have a conference call with 35 people, each with their own agenda, does not make for a productive project. And it went on like this for the entire campaign. Making decisions was like pulling teeth. With one of the organizations in particular, it took ten people to get an approval on just about every issue.

This of course prompted the question: why the hell are ten people from one organization even involved in a project that already had so many stakeholders?

The talent manager and publicist were a downright nightmare to work with. At best, they never answered emails or phone calls and at their worst they acted like we were wasting their time. They had no problem taking the lion’s share of our 1.5 million bucks though and without them involved we didn’t have access to the celebrities. Basically, they had us by the short hairs.

And so we plodded on, clumsily, toward the first event in Newark with Queen Latifah. It would turn out to be the only one of the four planned events that went according to schedule.

Well, actually 34 of the 35 people felt that way.

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