Is it always necessary to create graphics first? Ask the Proposal Doctor

Dear Proposal Doctor,

My capture manager is insisting that we complete a big stack of graphics before we write any proposal text. We have a decent amount of time for this proposal, more than we usually get. But, my writers are worried about how long the graphics process will take and the compressed writing schedule that will surely follow.

Is it always necessary to create graphics first? Where did this rule come from? How can I make it work with a team that does not really think visually? I understand the capture manager’s point of view, but I also see where the writers are coming from. Please help.

-Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck,

I am so glad you asked this question because it goes to a tension at the heart of our profession. Everyone wants the universal rule or the “best practice” (not my favorite term) that applies to every single proposal. And, the problem is that every proposal exists in a context, and rules have to be evaluated to see how they apply in that context. That makes it difficult to still consider them rules, since if a rule is constantly broken, it loses its meaning.

For some writers and some teams, yes, it makes sense to create the graphics first. This is true for many reasons. Creating the graphic forces people to articulate a view of the solution. It reveals differences in points of view. When those differences are resolved, everyone is on the same page, which is a beautiful thing. However, some people need to go off and write in order to think things through on their own and then participate in a group session.

The human brain is an amazing thing and no two are the same. So, I would try to split the difference and give the writers a bit of time to prepare annotated outlines (stopping short of full paragraphs) with headings and sub-headings, and then create graphics when the outlines are complete. Not knowing the particulars of your RFP or your schedule, I can’t be more specific than that. But, I can advise against applying any one rule 100% of the time. If only it were that simple!

All the best,

Wendy Frieman, The Proposal Doctor

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Lohfeld Consulting