I go on the internet quite a lot. I go on the internet everyday in fact. Whilst on the internet I use my skills of observation to look at what is out there. In an un-scientific study, I’ve concluded that 98% of the internet can be broken down into two broad categories: naughty websites and blogs. Sometimes the two categories merge, but let’s ignore that for now.
What this means is that if you want to launch (or revive) a blog (or a naughty website for that matter), you are going to need a plan. As the cliche goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. If the internet generated dust you’d probably find plenty of it hanging around on blogs.
So, today I want you to decide to keep your blog dust free. Get your marigolds on, pull your socks up and get ready to sort your blog out.
Take simple steps
Blogs can be written by a single person or a team of people; either way, you are going to need a schedule to keep things on track. The first thing I normally do is decide on a publishing schedule, so I suggest you do that too. Weekly, monthly, daily, whatever, I don’t really mind, it’s up to you. Decide now…
OK, so you’ve made a decision, now you need to set some goals. Goals for publishing work best when they involve taking simple, easy to achieve steps. Think of it like this; if your only goal is to publish a blog post by a chosen date, you are left with a rather large end goal to aim for. If, instead you break the large goal down into smaller tasks with their own deadlines, you are more likely to hit the desired end goal (publishing the post). I recommend you break your schedule down into the following three milestones:
1. Submit an idea
You can’t publish a blog post until you have written it, and you can’t start writing it until you’ve come up with an idea. I suggest you start here. Coming up with an idea is the most important part of the process and by separating it into its own deadline you are guiding your writers to focus on the idea instead of moving into the writing stage too quickly.
Once a writer has submitted an idea there is a high chance that they have committed to the process early on, therefore reducing the chances of them giving up on writing the post.
2. Submit a draft version of your post
Another common issue I’ve seen when working on publishing schedules is that writers are often very keen to work on the final version of their post. Slow down there skippy. Don’t run before you can walk. Accept the fact that you are going to make mistakes. That’s fine, we all need to go through various iterations of things we are working on.
Make sure your team of writers know that the work they submit to the editor for proof-reading/feedback should be considered a draft, and nothing more. It’ll mean that changes will be seen as a positive, they will improve the post. It’s also easier to relax into writing something when you know that it is a draft. If your writer is relaxed about the process they are less likely to miss the deadline.
3. Publish post
The post has been written (in draft form), the editor has read it and suggested some improvements, the writer has responded by submitting something even better. Guess what comes next? Publish the post.
Bonus – Don’t schedule too far into the future
I use a schedule like the one I’ve described above to keep this blog (white.net/blog/) moving. The three key deadlines are split by a week each:
Week one – submit idea
Week two – submit draft
Week three – submit final version/publish
I schedule every writer’s next deadline, which covers about five weeks. I don’t go further than that. Things have a habit of changing, and if that change means that the schedule needs to move for multiple people that can cause problems. Before you know it writers are getting lost, things are going wrong, deadlines are being missed, there’s smoke coming out of the building and a picket line has formed outside the car park. Don’t let that happen.
Make it visible
The next challenge when developing a publishing schedule is to ensure that everyone involved in the process is able to see what is coming next. I’ve seen a number of publishing schedules which, although highly organised, completely fail to keep the entire team updated on who is writing what, and when.
If you haven’t got visibility, your process is hard to see and therefore hard to understand. If something is harder to understand than it needs to be, there’s a high chance the people it affects will lose energy in trying to keep up with it. There are a couple of ways to remedy this:
Kanban is a system that can be used to improve visibility. It was developed by Toyota in Japan and is a key part in helping the car manufacturer to deliver vehicles ‘just in time’ (JIT). The idea behind kanban is that your system relies on cards, each one a representation of a writer’s idea moving through the three stages of the publishing process. Below is an example of a kanban board where each card on the board represents a blog post moving through the stages to publication.
Some people like to have a physical board in place to achieve this, but an online system can work just as well. Trello is built on this principle, other project management tools borrow from these ideas. Use whatever system you like, just make sure it is always visible to the team.
In addition to maintaining an easily visible schedule, I’ve found that keeping the team updated regularly helps to stop the rot. Every Monday morning the team receives an email clarifying the schedule, and during a weekly huddle the key deadlines are covered. The update is just about short enough to avoid anyone crying, clocking in at around 30-seconds to be exact.
It’s not what you know, it’s who knows what
Have you ever seen a publishing schedule run itself? Of course you haven’t. Although it can be a labour intensive task, you’re going to have to face facts; without an editorial team your blog is going to gather so much dust, even Kim and Aggie would have trouble cleaning it up.
There are two key roles you’ll need to recruit for. They are:
This person essentially maintains editorial standards on the blog. They should decide what topics should be covered, who the audience is and who the writers are. The other key role this person will play is maintaining the schedule. Sometimes that means stepping in when a deadline has been missed.
The role of the sub-editor is to check the accuracy and style of each blog post. Their role is key during the ‘draft’ phase of the process. They are essentially the annoying people who send your blog post back with lots of ‘improvements’ marked on it.
There you have it. A simple, practical process for keeping your blog schedule up to date and healthy. You can see how well it works by coming back to this blog (white.net/blog/) again and again and observing how impressively regular we all are!
The Toyota Way – one of the best books to learn about the principles behind lean methods and JIT production
A Content Strategy Template you can Build on – a great post explaining how to take your strategy a step further