Producing a piece of communication is a bit like painting a painting. At a certain stage it’s perfect. Fiddling with it still further – a dab here, a dab there – can ruin the final product.
But it sometimes happens that a publication is ready to go to press: all stakeholders have approved the text, the designer has put all the text into the design, the proofs have been read and corrected … and then … the boss (or the communication department’s internal client) has a new idea. Or worse still, several new ideas. Sitting in the plane on the way back from a meeting, or relaxing at home the weekend, he or she reads it through once more. “Shouldn’t we add a bit about…?,” they ask. “I think we should mention… and Bill said he’d like to see more about…”
In many cases, especially if the publication is supposed to have some news value or needs to be deployed quickly, adding new material at this stage is a bad idea. Of course, it always possible to add more details or to give a more complete picture. But it is not automatically the case that more detail means better communication. On the contrary, it may mean less effective communication, creating a confused picture and puzzled readers.
It will certainly also mean extra expense – because altering a document at such a late stage is always costly. And it may well mean lost time and money (in terms of lost sales, for instance), as publication date is put back. The 80-20 principle is relevant here: if you have 80% correct, that’s probably as good as you need – time spent on getting the other 20% right is likely to be unprofitable.
If you are faced with a situation like this, you should probably try talk your boss or client out of adding lots of new material. You could suggest that it might be turned into a new publication instead, or be put on the website. But it should not delay publication of the present document. Otherwise, it may end up being delayed indefinitely, as new situations arise and “need to be included”. We have seen (non-compulsory) annual reports, for instance, being delayed so long that their distribution was eventually abandoned because they were so embarassingly late.