The P&G 1-page memo

When I started my marketing career at Procter & Gamble almost 20 years ago, the 1-page memo discipline was in full force. Every communication had to fit on one page, and follow a fixed format. It was – and remains – a very powerful discipline. I have used it ever since then.

Here it is, with some of my own embellishments. Each 1-page memo contains five parts.
1. The Idea. What are you proposing? This is typically one sentence.
2. Background. What conditions have arisen that led you to this recommendation? Only include information that everyone agrees upon in the Background – this is the basis for discussion, so it needs to be non-debatable.
3. How it Works. The details. In addition to How, also What, Who, When, Where.
4. Key Benefits. This is the “Why?” There are usually three benefits: the recommended action is on strategy, already proven (e.g. in test market or in another business unit), and will be profitable. You can think of these three in terms of the old Total Quality mantra of “doing right things right.” The first (on strategy) means you’re doing the right thing. The second and third mean you’re doing things the right way, because you’re being effective (proven to work) and efficient (profitable).
5. Next Steps. Who has to do what and by when for this to happen?

The Procter and Gamble salesforce used to use something called the Persuasive Selling Format (PSF) in their sales pitches. PSF also had five steps. At some point it occurred to me that the two mapped to each other, which is why the P&G 1-page memo format is so effective for making recommendations: it is a document structure that is designed to sell. (Originally published Jan 25, 2005)

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