This month, we celebrate the unglamorous realities of workflow that works. In our Feature, we share tips for building editorial calendars that connect all the dots. Our latest Question explains how to work the kinks out of reviews, revisions, and approvals. And in the new Case Study, we explain how our development team saved the Harvard Business Review’s editorial team countless hours. Throughout, we’re highlighting some of our favorite workflow tools for publishing teams.
Also notable: Male-dominated networks like Reddit and Google+ have never attempted such an explicit ploy to appeal to the opposite sex.
Favorite Tools: Boomerang
When creating your edcal, set it up with fields that relate to each of its purposes:
While some publishing tools have built-in calendar functions, it’s better to keep content planning separate from publishing. This allows you to involve many stakeholders in your planning process while restricting access to publishing, reducing the likelihood of a publishing mishap. It also adds another layer of review, as the person who moves content from the editorial calendar into the publishing tool can give it one last review before scheduling or publishing it.
Ready to take your editorial calendar to the next level? Here are some how-to’s, tailored specifically to Google Drive:
Favorite Tools: Pomodoro Technique
Of course, you can adjust the timing in a way that makes sense to you. The point is to make it less scary to tackle a project you’re dreading or unsure how to start. Rather than saying that you’ll do the whole thing, you’re committing to spending 25 minutes figuring out your first steps and getting started. The built-in breaks ward off fatigue and help you feel like a respite is never too far away. You can set your own timer, or use Moosti, an in-browser Pomodoro timer with adjustable intervals.
It’s a good idea to include a checklist for writers to reference before sharing content for review. Content templates are useful as well. For each content type, create a document template with fields for every element you need (meta information, byline, image details, etc.), to ensure nothing is missing from each draft. The publishing tool GatherContent takes this a step further, making it simple to build templated forms for each content type.
Define a meeting leader who is guiding the conversation, define the objectives of the meeting, have an agenda, follow it, and send out a recap with decisions and next steps. It’s my nature to be like, “What’s the net net here? What’s the story? What’s the take-away?” so I always tend to be a bit impatient and want meetings to go fast. It depends on the nature of the meeting though — sometimes, you don’t get to the best ideas and you don’t have the best conversations when you’re just trying to get done within a half hour.
I am not a morning person. My husband has learned this and usually brings coffee to me in bed, which is pretty great. I get up and get myself ready, then wake up my son (who’s almost 4) and get him ready for school. My husband takes the bus 10 minutes to work, and I take the dog and my son about 10 minutes by car, dropping my son off at school and bringing the dog to work. I love my son’s school — everyone there is so sunny, and they have an awesome chef, so it always smells good. I stop at a beautiful natural foods store across the street to get more coffee and breakfast, plus sometimes lunch and snacks for the day, too.
I have a rectangular desk with two monitors, which is great for being able to reference two documents at the same time. I nearly always use a headset when on the phone. Above my desk is a bulletin board of several documents to easily reference — job numbers, protocols, stats we use a lot, approved messaging, our advertisements, market research summaries, and a hard calendar with key dates for the current month and the next month. Behind me I have a table, where I can swing around to concentrate on conference calls. When I have a full week in the office, I try to buy flowers on Monday to put on the table and enjoy all week. Also worth mentioning is a whole wall of my office that’s painted with black chalkboard paint, so I can keep track of longish-term things not to forget, like travel dates for the next few months and plans I’m thinking about (e.g. remember to find funds to update a section of the website in Q3).
The Almond Board’s marketing team and our agencies all work from a cloud-based program called Huddle to have each other review documents, so that works as a very easy to-do list of documents that I need to react to. Otherwise, I keep a notebook where I keep a running short-term to-do list, and I put my long-term to-dos on my office chalkboard, mapping them out according to timing. I always find that scheduling out my to-dos helps calm me down when I feel overwhelmed, and somehow it’s more satisfying to do it across a big chalkboard as opposed to a small piece of paper. And finally, I also flag emails and address them throughout the day or week as needed. Often I color code those according to project area, so they’re grouped.
I bring my dog to work. I love having her here, and I think it totally releases stress to pet her and take her out for a midday walk. So if you’re talking to me on the phone, it’s not uncommon to hear her bark in the background (like if UPS knocks on my door), and generally I just figure that to work with me, you just have to deal with my dog and that’s that. If you saw her, you’d understand, because she’s just so sweet. However, if I do have a really important, formal meeting, I put her in my car in the office building’s garage, where she takes a nice nap with her blanket until I’m done.
Throughout my career I have often been a remote employee, including now. I used to work at home, and work life and home life would blend together quite a lot. When I took this job with the Almond Board, I asked them to set me up in an office near my home, in an office building right near my son’s daycare/preschool, and they were amenable to that. So most days I go there, rather than working from home, and I just lock myself away and work. It’s kind of weird, and some people wonder how I manage not to go crazy being alone all day. But I really feel like I’m not alone, with my office neighbors and with talking on the phone and emailing all day long. And it’s an effective way for me to be really productive and be done pretty much at 5 p.m.
Left to my own devices, I’m a terrible procrastinator. I think most of us are, really, so it’s good to have systems and sub-deadlines in place that prevent it, and to have others involved so that we all check each other.
I monitor it pretty constantly when I’m at my desk, but don’t necessarily respond right away. I try to answer easy emails right away to just get those off my plate, then flag emails that require further reading or action and color code them, then get to those throughout the day or week as necessary. It’s always great on Friday afternoon to take stock of where you are, and look ahead to the big priorities for the next week. And then try to leave for the weekend with a clear conscience!
Favorite Tools: GatherContent
We assign each page to the appropriate writer and reviewers, establish an approval workflow, and set due dates. As the content comes in and goes through approvals, we always know the status of each page. We can start getting finalized content up on the site while other pieces are still in progress, without any mixups.
HBR asked Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli company, to give the editorial team a simple way to publish content for digital channels. But they also wanted to keep their existing toolset, which meant connecting these two stand-alone systems.
Pulling from their extensive WordPress expertise, the Voce Platforms team mapped out an approach that would use WordPress as the go-between from one system to the other, converting material from the print production CMS to the web publishing CMS. The team built custom extensions to take the raw output from one system and convert it to a suitable form for WordPress to use and store. Next, the team developed an API allowing WordPress to convert that content into an XML format used by the front-end publishing system.
For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.
Mary Gaulke in Sarasota wrote this month’s Feature about building effective editorial calendars, and Chris Thilk in Chicago wrote our new Case Study on the Harvard Business Review. Tom Harris in Raleigh wrote this month’s Question on reviews and approvals.
Ervins Strauhmanis uploaded the cover photo to Flickr, Dominic Sayers uploaded the Welcome photo, Michael Coghlan uploaded the boomerang artwork photo, Michael Mayer uploaded the pomodoro timer photo, and Johann Dréo uploaded the paper pile photo.
Thanks to Mary Gaulke, Tom Harris, and Chris Thilk for editorial oversight.