Why branding agencies want adventurous managers (like me)
Get the story out the door. My only aim for an entire decade. And at one point in my journalism career, I cranked out up to 10 original stories a week. That’s a lot of writing. A lot of focus. Working for community newspapers, much powwowing took place to meet weekly deadlines. Tracking down the best contact information for my sources. Developing smart, pressing questions to ask them. Conducting interviews either on the phone or by email. Following up to confirm specific numbers, additional facts.
And that was just one part to my job description. Then, I had to carve out time to research, write, edit, re-edit and help paginate the newspaper. As my titles changed from reporter, writer to editor, so did responsibilities from newspapers to higher education. Handling anywhere from 15- to 20-odd story projects. And the projects got bigger and more complex. By the time I become a communications consultant for U.S. Department of Agriculture grant project Black Farmers’ Network, my status shifted yet again to more of a full-time, freelance project manager.
So here we are. Beginner creatives don’t even know they’re automatically walking into project management roles for publications and marketing companies of today. Having to know new software to track their work as well. So, it’s imperative to cultivate these project management skills early on in order to smash business outcomes and make bank in this new digital economy:
MAKING DELEGATION LOOK DARLING
Identify your team’s strengths, weaknesses — quick. I know exactly who I can depend on, when and where for certain editorial tasks. Because at the end of the day, it’s about meeting deadlines and exceeding your employer’s or client’s expectations. Past conversations and experiences with creatives lets me know off the top if a they’re capable of pulling off new projects. Their body of recent work is telling, too. I have no time for former lollygaggers. From photogs, graphic designers and Web developers to videographers, content creators and social media strategists, I have the best of this batch cataloged and can pitch project tasks to them throughout each year. When I make contact about collaborations, I make sure to detail the project scope and pay. It’s crucial to explain this information to potential team members in plain language.
TO TRY: Examine your family tree. No, seriously. Can you identify your sisters’ strong points? Parents’ weaknesses? If you had to assign them roles to pull off the most engaging virtual family reunion, who’s assigned to what task? Why? These are the questions I answer daily to execute editorial projects smoothly.
LIVING AN ORDERLY LIFESTYLE
Enter my countryside crib and the organization is ridiculous. The most memorable parenting quote from a friend when my daughter was 2 years old: “You would never know a child lives here,” she said. Lol. Yes, I’m a super neat freak, but I taught my mini me where things go after playtime and wall oh-ohs were over. Organization is key to the success of any editorial, marketing or branding project. I arrange assignments like my home — within a functional framework that creates a sense of tidiness. Creatives always know where we’re going. For one, I incorporate project management and marketing campaign software like Smartsheet. This project tracker allows me to give the creative team a clear roadmap to project success. If I need to provide additional instructions to group members, I follow up Smartsheet with text, phone or email communication to verify we’re all on the same page. I stay in constant contact to keep accountability moving toward the finish line.
TO TRY: Pick an area in your home that could use more coordination. Maybe the laundry room or kitchen. What system can you put in place for you, your husband or the kids that makes the logistics of washing, drying and storing happen easier? One that minimizes feeling overwhelmed. For instance, my daughter and I have a tag-teaming system for chores. I wash. She dries. I sort. She folds. It cuts time and establishes a sense of order.
REFINING TECHNICAL SKILLS
My technical knowledge is forever advancing as a journalist and project manager. I perform digital and physical tasks almost daily. Hence, this post. Creatives holding down project management roles have to depend on programs, tools and processes to drive results. In addition to Smartsheet, I use other platforms like Basecamp and Hootsuite to manage podcast to social media projects currently in development. Each continues to improve my online abilities to assign, file share, schedule, report and communicate with small to large teams. Picking up newer marketing skills along the way: user experience writing, digital storytelling/content creation, Google analytics and automated marketing software.
TO TRY: A devote product tester, it never hurts to demo what’s brand-new, mastering talents to add to your portfolio. You already do it at department stores like Belt for beauty buys and warehouse clubs like Costco for food samples. Really assess the latest in project management software to see what works easiest and still accomplishes end goals. Because no creative project is the same. Knowing different platforms makes managing different teams and their work styles simpler.