The Reviews

Getting the Most from the Reviews

You should try to schedule a minimum of two reviews during the proposal preparation process. We refer to the reviews by color to designate their importance and to act as reminder of how close you are to the final deadline. The first review is called White, the second is Pink, and the third is Red.

The White Team review occurs right after the storyboards are completed, but before any writing is done. The Pink Team reviews the first draft of the proposal. And the Red Team reviews the final drafL

The White Team Review
Before any writing begins, once all of the storyboards are completed, a White Team review is in order. One person (though two is better) from the upper echelons of your organization but who has not seen or beelin involved in any of the prelimary work, reads the proposal request and talks to your research person to find out what's required and/or what the client really wants. He or she then reads over your storybvoards and comments on them.

This kind of review is especially important in a one-person proposal. In fact, if there is no "upper echelon in your organization, you would still do well to have someone, even an outsider whose opinion you trust, look at your storyboards. The reviewer's comments and suggestions can save you a great deal of time and effort later on. A White Team review is critical before the actual writing begins.

The White Team reviewer(s) reads each storyboard in sequence, asking the following questions as they go:

As the review is made, the reviewers should discuss the strengths and weaknesses with you. This is not a time for tact. A lot of work will proceed from this point, so you should try to clear up as much as possible now. This avoids having to do things over later. A good, objective White Team review can save you a lot of time and money and go a long, long way toward assuring success.

Once the White Team is finished, you can rework the storyboards and get them ready for whoever is preparing the First Draft.

The Pink Team Review
The job of the Pink Team reviewers is to simulate the grantor, reading the proposal as if they are the ones being addressed. The Pink Team review is designed to catch the things that YOU or your writers missed.

If possible, Pink team reviewers should be people who have had NO involvement with the proposal up to this point and yet are technically competent 'in the areas it deals with. They should have no preconceived biases, understand the client, and have a full understanding of the theme and discriminators.

The draft copy the Pink Team receives should be as clean and complete as possible. As much artwork as possible should be included, even if it's still in its early stages. If tables or appendices with supporting data are planned, those should be included, too. And there should be "placeholders" for all missing material, so that it's clear to the reviewer that the authors know something is missing. Although it's good to show the format for a few pages, it's OK if the Pink Team draft looks "rough."

The Pink Team should read the proposal from beginning to end and compare it to the guidelines, answering the following questions as they go:

The Red Team Review
The Red Team's review is the last look at the proposal before it goes to print. The Red Team should be composed of people at the highest level of your organization. And the proposal they review should be as close to final as possible. There should be no missing pieces, no artwork left out, no remaining work to be done. In fact, the 2 or 3 days devoted to Red Team review can often give the writers and production group a "breather," before the last big push.

Like the Pink Team, the Red Team members should be people who have had no prior connection to the proposal. They should not have been consulted for content mattws and they definitely should not have contributed to the writing. They should also be willing to commit the necessary time and attention to the proposal. For this reason, I recommend that they be given a weekend in which to do the reading so that distractions and interruptions can be kept to a minimum. And, if possible, the review should be held in an isolated location, away from where the proposal was prepared. Each team member should have a copy of the guidelines in advance and for reference during the reading.

Red Team mark-ups can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The old-fashioned red pen works just fine. Electronic mark-ups (like those possible in programs like Word Perfect's Envoy) are also acceptable, provided the readers know how to do them and the you know how to deal with them.

The most important thing your reviewers need to keep in mind is that their mark-ups should provide guidance to the proposal team. Comments like "Wrong!" and "No" written in the margin are useless. If something is wrong, the reviewer should make it right or, at the very least, provide directions for the writers so they can find a solution.

The Red Team looks at the proposal through the grantor's eyes; they evaluate it as if they are members of the grantor's evaluation board, looking for weaknesses and strengths, checking to make sure it responds to the guidelines in every respect. The Red Team should read the proposal from beginning to end, answering the following questions as they go:

If possible, your reviews should be followed by a debriefing. This is a meeting where someone from the Red Team goes through the proposal with the you (and other writers, if you have them) and discusses each portion of the proposal that needs work. When it's over, everyone should have the guidance necessary to incorporate the Red Team's comments into the proposal.

The debriefing can be torturous, so everyone needs to be prepared for it. You'll need a thick skin and the understanding that the success of the proposal is what's at stake. Egos should be checked at the door.

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