Planning is difficult because the “assignment” is vague. In fact, any other instruction than “find an opportunity” is too specific.
The only tool you have to use, at first, is focused curiosity.
So the first part is to listen intently to the client and everything about what they do, and then find something interesting. If the client knew what that was, they wouldn’t need you. The second part is to find out who can use that “something,” and be sure you understand everything about why and how they will/can use it. And when you find it, the client might not even believe your approach is best (they may want a short-term payoff rather than a long-term brand investment). Then you identify the goal for the creative team in unambiguous terms, which is harder than it sounds.
Let’s recap: Take the vague, make it clear and sell it.
This is quite a job. It requires you to make connections that not everyone else can make. It requires you to be curious and self-directed — to develop your own hunches that prove out to be true. And the only way you get good at it is to take these challenges head-on.
When you’re teaching students this process, they want you to tell them what the assignment is. They want to know how to start. But there’s no formula for starting this process. There’s no testable, provable way to know you’re identifying the best opportunity for the client. If there were, everyone would be using it. But there’s not. The only way to start this process is by focusing your curiosity on the client and understanding what they do.