After spending a good amount of time on theory, let’s see how easy it is to create a workflow in practice. I sat down earlier this week with the impressive LucidChart app to have a crack at mapping out the editorial process for BoxFreeIT.
The goal was to find ways to improve the process by making it faster or improving the quality of posts.
As far as workflows go, writing a blog is pretty straightforward . There is no secret sauce to blogging; over 2 million blog posts are posted every day. The hard part is coming up with good topics and (hardest of all) keeping to a regular schedule.
That said, there’s plenty of room to finetune the art of blogging. Here’s an image of the current editorial workflow and below is a short list of the steps I took to create a workflow for the editorial process at BoxFreeIT.
1. Break Up Job Into Individual Tasks
It sounds simple but first you must decide how much detail is required for the overall process. For example the first step “Interview sources” could have been broken down into four or more smaller steps, such as Draft concept, Research topic and sources, Set up interview times, Conduct interviews, Write draft.
Too much detail for an overview of the whole editorial process as I suspected the bottlenecks would follow later. Also there aren’t that many ways to streamline interviewing and writing a story – you’re pretty much at the coal face of journalism.
2. Map Out Tasks as a Diagram
This was very easy and actually quite fun. LucidChart has a very useful drag-and-drop interface onto a graph background which makes it all very simple. The best shortcut is that after dragging an arrow from an object LucidChart will automatically open a window of shapes so you can select the next step. Brilliant.
There’s a whole language in workflow design – use a rectangle with rounded corners to denote a process but a diamond shape for a decision – and I would have liked to know more about the shapes and arrows. The beauty of this language is that a diagram can say a lot without slabs of text explaining each step.
3. Identify Trouble Spots
Trouble spots in a workflow could be processes that aren’t working well or just areas that could be improved. In my case, the parts I like the least involve finding pictures for each story. It can be very difficult to illustrate a tech story on mobile technology, for example, without resorting to clichéd images of mobile phones or swooshy futuristic designs supposed to represent data streaming through the air (I’m guilty on both counts).
If I could ditch the images part of my job and focus on the words that would be a huge relief.
4. Brainstorm Solutions
The easiest way to improve the editorial process would be to outsource the image discovery and creation to a picture editor. That would allow me (the journalist) to get on with the job of writing the next story.
A picture editor could find better images, crop and optimise them for the web in much faster time than I could.
5. Update Workflow, Update Business
Below is the updated editorial workflow with the image work farmed out to a picture editor. I have never used a picture editor before so the steps involved are an outline based on my limited experience at selecting pictures.
The improved workflow now becomes a business template. Ideally a new design could be linked to performance goals that would underwrite the required investment. In a theoretical publishing model, a journalist freed from picture editing could write twice as many stories which would drive 30 percent more traffic and result in a $3,000 increase in advertising inventory each month.
I found the process of creating a workflow very revealing – splitting up a job into discrete tasks forced me to think about which parts of the job I was good at, which ones I liked (generally the same as previous), and the bits I could happily do without.
It also helped me think about the relevance of each step to the business. For example, one of BoxFreeIT’s primary goals is to build a very strong relationship with readers based on trust, credibility and newsworthiness. The best way I can reinforce those qualities is by doing a great job on coming up with good ideas for stories, interviewing the best sources and writing an insightful or highly useful article.
If BoxFreeIT had better images used throughout it would raise the quality of the blog. And these days with Pinterest, Instagram and the like, it might drive more traffic to the blog through social sharing.
Want to have a go at doing your own workflow? Let me know how you go.