7 Tools for Managing Your Editorial Workflow
When you’re managing a multi-author blog it’s important to create an editorial workflow that will work for everyone on your team — editors, authors, and contributors alike. Once we made the decision to move forward with the #CreativeTribes blog we set about finding the best tools to facilitate communication, collaboration, and transparency.
Our resulting editorial stack currently includes Slack, appear.in, Timezone.io, Trello, Dropbox Paper, PublishPress, and (not technically editorial workflow) the Adminimize plugin.
Since our writers are all members of our #CreativeTribes Slack community, the first tool we make use of is Slack itself. We created a private channel for blog authors to encourage communication and transparency — a space for general conversation about ideas, writing, or any part of the editorial process. It’s also where, as editors, Sean and I can share information that’s relevant for everyone, such as updates to the Style Guide.
What we love about this channel is that it fosters stronger connections between writers, creating what Sean recently described as a community within a community.
We use appear.in to stay connected in a more human way. It’s great for spontaneous video chats, either one-on-one or up to eight people at a time, as well as scheduled meetings. And what makes it super easy is that we’ve added it as a Slack integration and can easily switch from Slack to video chat in the #CreativeTribes appear.in “room” within moments. It couldn’t be easier. There’s no need to send invite links or wait for an app like Skype to open, hit the call button, and then wait for an answer — you just click the link and enter the room.
Timezone.io is a nifty tool created by Dan Farrelly from Buffer. When anyone joins the team on Timezone.io their avatar and location are added to the relevant time zone column, so we can all know whether the person we want to chat with is in work mode, eating dinner, or about to hit the sack. And when we’re scheduling a meeting we start by checking Timezone.io to find the best time for everyone, something that’s easy to do by clicking on the arrow in the top left corner and moving the slider while watching the times change for everyone.
Our blog editorial board on Trello is the go-to place for an overview of all content, whether still at the idea stage, in the process of being written, scheduled, or published. Designed to encourage collaboration and transparency, everyone on the board can see what others are working on and what stage they’re at in the process. Writers can drop in content ideas, whether it’s a subject they intend to write about or one they think would be a great fit for the blog but not something they want to take on themselves. Anyone can pick up an “unclaimed” content idea by adding themselves to the card and moving it to the relevant list.
Speaking of lists, here’s how our board is organized:
- Start Here — the first place to go when you join the board. Keyword: orientation.
- Content Ideas — the place to drop in ideas for yourself or others. Keyword: possibilities.
- Pipeline — the place for posts that a writer intends to write. Keyword: commitment.
- In Progress — the place for posts that are being worked on. Keywords: research, writing, and editing.
- Scheduled — the place for posts that are written, edited, and ready to go. Keywords: finalized and ready to go.
- Published — the place for all published posts. Keyword: history.
We added the Slack power-up in Trello, initially configuring it to send notifications of all new activity to our private blog authors channel. However, since the well-meaning but non-human Trello bot lacked manners it had a tendency to drop in a bunch of notifications exactly at the time non-bots were having a conversation. Because of this, we changed the integration to send notifications to me only, as DMs via slackbot. This means I can still keep up with what’s new in Trello without having to go out to the board, or without the notifications bugging others.
When looking for the best app to use for our Style Guide and Editorial Process, we decided to go with Dropbox Paper after first trying Slack (notes are accessible from within Slack) and then Google Docs (who doesn’t have a Google account?). Dropbox Paper came out tops because it’s fast and has some great features that Slack lacks (adding images, at-mentions, emojis, and markdown); and compared to Google Docs it’s way, way faster. Plus, Dropbox Paper has a nice, clean interface that makes for an enjoyable writing experience. And from a reading perspective, Dropbox Paper’s contents feature is brilliant — mouse over the left margin to bring up the table of contents with live links to easily navigate around the document.
PublishPress by PressShack is a relatively new editorial plugin for WordPress, forked from Edit Flow, that was first released mid-2016. The core features include Content Calendar, Content Overview, Custom Statuses, Notifications, Editorial Comments, User Groups, and Metadata.
The content calendar is ideal for an overview of posts from draft to published. You can also create content directly in the calendar, as well as drag and drop content to change the publication date. In the below screenshot there are six published posts (with check marks) and one scheduled post (with a calendar icon). Draft posts are distinguished by a pencil icon. The content overview feature offers a good, alternative overview of posts by category, status, or user (not shown).
The custom statuses feature is key to the editorial process as it makes it possible to go beyond default WordPress statuses and create as many custom statuses as necessary. Plus, you can customize the color and icon for each status, making your editorial calendar even more visual. Here are the custom statuses we use:
- Draft — initial draft in progress
- Review Draft — first draft ready for review by an editor
- Editing Draft — revising draft based on editor feedback
- Review Final Draft — final draft ready for review by an editor
- Ready to Publish — editor to schedule post for publication
As soon as a writer creates a post, the PublishPress notification system kicks in if enabled. We (Sean and me) have opted to receive email notifications for any change in post status, which means writers don’t need to update us separately when they start writing or when they submit a post for review by changing the status. At any stage in the process, both writer and editor can use the editorial comments system to discuss any aspect of the post, and as soon as a comment is added by one an email notification is kicked off to the other. If the writer or editor would like a notification to be sent to all editors, all writers, or both, this can be done by checking the relevant user groups boxes.
The metadata feature gives the ability to create a customized list of requirements for content, from check boxes to text fields. We use the metadata section, which shows up in the right sidebar of the WordPress editor, as a checklist for things like remembering to set the featured image, choose a category, etc.
Extending PublishPress and discount coupon for #CreativeTribes readers
PublishPress also offers some really useful paid add-ons that extend functionality: Content Checklist, Slack Integration, Permissions, WooCommerce Checklist, and Multiple Authors, plus embed video customization add-ons for YouTube, Wistia, and Vimeo. You can buy these add-ons individually or together in the PublishPress Everything Club, which includes all new add-ons released in the year following purchase, plus 12 months of updates and support.
On the #CreativeTribes blog we’re using the permissions add-on, which we’ve configured to remove the publish button in the WordPress editor for all user roles except admins, as a way to prevent accidental publishing due to the alluring nature of the big, blue publish button. For the future, we’re considering buying the content checklist and Slack support add-ons.
If you’d like any of the PublishPress add-ons or the whole kit and caboodle included in the Everything Club, PressShack is offering #CreativeTribes readers a 40% discount with the coupon code creativetribes40.
PublishPress has excellent, real human support
Beyond the fact that PublishPress is an essential plugin for managing content, PressShack also has excellent support. Just after we installed the plugin we ran into a compatibility issue with another plugin which caused our site to return a 500 internal server error. We didn’t know there was a plugin conflict at the time, but thanks to the super-responsive and intelligent human support from PressShack, we quickly realized what was going on. The lovely guys at PressShack went not only one extra mile, but ten, to find the cause of the error and come up with a solution — all within just three hours of our reaching out to them.
Adminimize isn’t technically part of the editorial workflow, but an essential plugin for customizing functionality for different user roles. After installing the plugin, we stripped out all unnecessary menu items and screen options resulting in a simpler, cleaner interface for everyone but the admins, helping our writers to find those few things they need: posts, media, their profile, and the two-factor authorization plugin for setting up 2FA on their account. So, while Adminimize isn’t crucial to the editorial workflow, it’s brilliant for clearing away the potentially distracting and extraneous aspects of WordPress, making life a little easier for all of our writers.
What’s in your editorial stack?
If you’re already managing a multi-author blog, we’d love to hear what works for you and what tools are in your editorial stack.