Magazine article Communication World

Time Is of the Essence! Check out These Strategies for Dealing with Missed Deadlines

Magazine article Communication World

Time Is of the Essence! Check out These Strategies for Dealing with Missed Deadlines

Article excerpt

Every project has a schedule. If you work on a regular publication, you likely have a regular schedule with regular deadlines. Ideally, your production schedules are made well in advance; take into account the time needed to write, edit, design and produce the publication; and are distributed to everyone involved. You can use online calendars to post deadlines or e-mail the schedule in a PDF or Word format. The key is for everyone to know when things are due.

But even with the best of intentions, deadlines may be missed. A story or important information doesn't come in on time, or it's unusable. A key internal reviewer might be tied up with another project and put yours on the back burner. Any number of other mini-crises could come up that threaten to delay the whole project.

Here are a few ideas to help prevent a potential crisis.

Keep "evergreen" stories on hand

This is certainly the most obvious strategy, for filling holes, yet it's amazing how few editors I know actually keep so-called evergreen stories at the ready. These are articles that have a long shelf life and require minimal editing or updating if and when they're needed.

Where do evergreen stories come from? They're stories that for some reason didn't make it into a previous issue, or that you assigned specifically for a rainy day. For example, an article about the company fitness center or the pension plan might be an excellent fit for an internal newsletter. Travel pieces often make good substitutes when something falls through, especially if you have photos on hand (just be sure they're up to date). How-to's, top-10 lists, book reviews and "did you know?" articles are other options. Even if you don't have the actual story, jot down some ideas for articles you could probably write on the fly, or at the very least create a folder of press releases that you could work with.

Expect the unexpected

Build some leeway in your production schedules. Not everything is within your control, so assume that occasionally an article won't work out or the company's servers will crash or even that you might come down with the flu and be out of the office for a couple of days. If there's a little air in your schedule, there's less reason to panic. And if everything runs like clockwork, then enjoy the fact that you can skip out of the office at 5.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

One magazine I've worked on is notorious for missing deadlines--not just by a day or two, but by weeks. Of course, that throws off the work schedules of the outside design firm and the printer, not to mention the internal team working on the magazine. You could say that the editor in chief is something of a procrastinator, but that's not the main reason for the delays. The main reason is that everyone quoted or featured in the magazine gets to review-and make changes to--the relevant copy. And no matter what the schedule says, that always takes more time than is allotted. In addition, one section of the magazine showcases events within the organization, and there's a drive to include as many of these events as possible, even if it means holding up the page.

If reviews are part of your process, make sure you anticipate how long they might take--and then add a few days. And remember that at some point you have to say, "No more. This issue is closed."

At CW, our yearlong schedule is created months in advance and includes ample time for assigning, editing, design and production. That helps when things don't go as planned. Even better, it allows us to accommodate "late" items. …

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