The Challenge: An event or trend is happening now. You need to conceptualize, and
then turn-around your idea into a publishable piece of engaging content in a few hours and you have a team of at least ten people that it needs to run by before you publish. Stressed?
The Solution: A modern newsroom.
The rise of real-time marketing calls for a change in the way that marketers and clients collaborate. With the turn-around time being days, if even that generous, in contrast to traditional month-out development periods, marketers have been developing newsroom style models to remain competitive.
Since this model is relatively new to the way marketers operate, we’ve come up with a list of best practices to build a first-class newsroom that produces quality content so you can spend more time creating content and less time to figure out how to make it happen.
Establish a production cadence
Once in motion, it’s easier to stay in motion, our physicist friend, Newton, would say. Getting into a routine of delivering content from start to finish helps to set up consistent expectations that everyone, including the client, can work by. The rhythm should be quick, from minutes to no more than a few hours per step.
Same Time, Same Place Meetings
Hold re-occurring meetings at the same time and place that way you don’t have to spend time working out scheduling logistics and can spend more time on producing.
Integrate Steps Across Disciplines
It takes time for the production to move from client to sales to development, etc. The more often you can include all the parties who are going to be involved from the get-go, the quicker everyone can react. This also reduces miscommunication, which can delay a project. Don’t remove anyone from a feed or contact list unless they request it.
Use SaaS/cloud-based advanced collaboration software
Having a single place to share and collaborate on documents is essential so everyone is working off of the same material. These days work culture allows working geographically independent of one another. It’s important to maintain a close relationship with all parties since most likely you will be working with them on a daily basis. Adobe, SalesForce, and Oracle are the collaboration software industry leaders. Slack is also a great a messaging app teams can use as a supplement, to stay connected and share quick info.
Given that we communicate 80-90% with non-verbal cues, teams cannot afford any miscommunication. Tools such as FaceTime, Webex, Skype, GoToMeeting, are great for face-to-face authentic and meaningful interaction, especially for ideation, strategy, process building, or all-hands conversations.
Real-Time Team Monitoring
Viewing a live event with your team helps expedite the creation and approval processes. This allows you to have more in the moment conversations rather than post-event reflection, which can often lead to very different pieces of content.
Have Stock Content
Having a repository of ready-made content that is waiting for its “When this happens” moment. For example, holidays, elections, award shows, natural disasters, etc. This accelerates the process significantly.
Traditional meetings where you talk about what you are going to do and re-establish or change working agreements each time are out. Your production process should be refined to the point where everyone already knows the general tasks that need to be accomplished, whose responsibility they are, and what the turn-around time is on them. Instead, get straight to work and do the work side-by-side which will allow the team to get a head start, as well as change direction sooner than later if needed.
It is essential to create some kind of communication/escalation plan ahead of time. Establishing a main point of contact (POC) and backup POC that are always available and can be counted on to respond immediately reduces downtime in the approval process. This persona also must have the appropriate authority, and should not need to get additional approval from someone above them.
Senior Leadership Support
Nothing happens without the support of senior leadership. People start to second-guess and lose confidence, drawing out their part until they are sure. Having senior support is essential to running a newsroom properly. This should be clearly communicated, heartfelt, and reiterated continuously.
An emergency is only an emergency if you don’t prepare. To avoid the emergencies, you need a plan for when something goes wrong. Review your current process step-by-step and brainstorm failure points, such as if your brand receives bad PR, or posts/does something controversial. From there, brainstorm the best way to handle it. No one expects perfection from anyone or brand. When we make mistakes, a great brand knows how to leverage those mistakes as opportunities to show their human side and do everything in their power to rectify it. A mistake can make you look bad, but how you recover from a mistake can make you impressive.
Audience Development First
Make sure you have an audience for your content before you create it. Monitoring the social space for trends and topics keeps you in the mindset of your audience as well as allows you to time your release right. As Tom Critchlow, VP of Operations of Distilled, an SEO and online marketing agency, could tell you the cycle of creating and scrapping content is too expensive to not do your audience due diligence ahead of time. Otherwise, you end up with a great looking content, but no audience to consume it. This is one of the winning principles that have allowed Distilled to be so successful.
News changes by the second and you never know which way the wind is going to blow. Working in an agile framework allows teams to incorporate changes as they come. This gives your operation more flow and less resistance. Agile programs we recommend are MarkoDojo, Trello, and Asana.
Documents and Share your Best Practices
This will help your team become more efficient over time. The most effective approach is to encourage this and bring it into your culture. Make campaign retrospectives mandatory. You will avoid pitfalls in the future and recover from ones you did fall into, faster.
Remove Barriers and Funnels
Eliminating downtime and lag time, not just in the approval process, but at every step, helps create a smoother flow. If there are lags, ensure that you have a notification system in place so work doesn’t sit in anyone’s lap and doesn’t know about it. Eliminate downtime by finding ways to re-arrange work so that it moves through any funnels at a constant pace if unable to eliminate the funnel altogether. You can also get started on other work that doesn’t have a current dependency. Lastly, reduce time by consolidating steps. For example, the senior editor and legal can review the final draft side-by-side versus separately.
An open-door policy should be a part of your culture. As a senior leader, you have to encourage this and set the example. Be open and share your ideas, over-arching objectives, strategy, challenges, and works in progress. And do this across all departments. Transparency helps everyone to be armed with as much information as possible in order to be a better asset to the team. Withholding information only serves as a hindrance to progress and delays deadlines.
Goals are fundamentally the key to psychological drive. Empower your team to come up with clear S.M.A.R.T. mission-critical goals. Goals work best if they are self-set and not handed down by senior management. Instead, be the guide in the goal development session. This is a great tactic to get everyone on board, take ownership and inspire contribution. Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments in a memorable way to set the stage for the next benchmark.
Draw out the workflow
Being a closer-knit team requires a little more insight into the overall process so everyone can understand their dependencies, those dependent on them, as well as where they fit in the process. When someone sees how an idea evolved from start to finish that they contributed to, it brings a greater sense of satisfaction and ownership. The workflow should be understood by and visible to everyone.
Trello, is a simple agile project management tool I recommend, reminiscent of Pintrest with movable visual boards that can help keep everyone in the know as well as collaborate.
The modern newsroom is heavily focused on collaboration and consistency in communication and workflow. The best newsroom modeled marketing teams have that familiarity of family and are agile and proactive. Granted every family runs into some kinks and growing pains here and there, but work them out, learn from them, and put new processes in place to get around them the next time with more ease.