This article originally appeared in Chief Marketer

In our ever-changing industry, marketing campaigns are more real-time than ever before, forcing brands to quickly mobilize to deploy messaging to take advantage of opportunities that exist in increasingly small windows. Ramping up campaigns in a matter of days can be frenetic and stressful, but laying out a roadmap by asking key questions from the start can help form the foundation for a successful program.

The first question that needs to be addressed is “What is the one thing?” Identifying the core deliverable is paramount because all campaign strategy, creative concepts and marketing tactics need to ladder back to this “one thing.” For example, for a recent campaign for the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the “one thing” was to sell out the home opener for the 2015 season. Once you have that bedrock to build upon, you can weave a connecting thread through all touchpoints.

When formulating the campaign strategy, you also have to ask, “Where is my target audience?” This is a question that’s much easier to address in the online world, as retargeting ads, paid social and paid search can hone in on your key demographic target fairly easily. But in the real world, we need to understand where people live, work and play and look for prime opportunities to engage them with campaign messaging.

A great example of a brand knowing exactly where its target audience was and how to reach them in a creative way was a campaign from Texas beer company Shiner Beer from almost a decade ago. In the infancy of the SXSW Festival, Heineken had reserved the rights as the official beer sponsor, thus dominating the environment made up of influential Millennials. Instead of being shut out from the festival, Shiner Beer set up camp just outside the entrance gates and handed out free Shiner Beer koozies. The brand essentially turned all the Heineken drinkers at the festival into mini-billboard holders for Shiner.

Just imagine if those partygoers had Instagram and Snapchat back then, those Shiner koozies would’ve been all over social media. Which leads us to the next question: Once we’ve identified the physical location(s) of our target audience, how do we get them to connect with others and share our message?

To move an audience from passive to active, there has to be a campaign component that resonates with them and leads them to engage, consume or share. A recent interactive campaign for Major League Soccer in Columbus, OH, the host city of the 2015 MLS Cup, used a larger than life centerpiece: a 3-D hashtag—#MLSCUP—that was strategically placed in city hotspots throughout the week leading up to the final match. Knowing that MLS has a large following on Instagram and knowing that its core audience actively engages on the platform, the digital asset that serves as a hub for connecting (the hashtag) was brought into the physical space. The strategy was that people would naturally take a picture with the sculpture-like installation and post it, using the eponymous hashtag. For marketers who prefer audience engagement metrics (shares, link clicks, favorites, etc.) over vanity metrics like followers and likes, providing a set-up for this kind of content creation is pure gold.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when faced with planning an interactive campaign on short notice, but sticking to these three fundamental questions will steer you in the right direction. A quick recap:

1. Identify The One Thing: This should be a simple goal that can be stated in no more than one sentence. Boil it down to the most essential thing that needs to be accomplished and start there.

2. Identify The Target Audience: Whether it’s college-educated women 50+ or males aged 21 to 34 with a HHI of more than $75,000, if the campaign includes any kind of on-site activation, out-of-home media or anything that can’t be directly pushed to a screen, you need to be familiar with the physical lay of the land in your target market so you can put your message in front of the right eyes at the right time.

3. Identify The Vehicle: What I mean here is, what is going to drive the audience to engage and share? Is it a scavenger hunt on Twitter? Is it holding a contest that promotes user-generated content? Is it handing out koozies at a festival where you are shut out? Is it creating 5-foot tall letters that form a huge hashtag? Every campaign is unique and your vehicle needs to resonate with the people.

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