Over half of project management happens before you even begin working. While beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, beautiful project management lies in the hands of the planner. Planning is key to smooth project management. It’s not improv — it’s a fully rehearsed production. In this episode I tell you the steps to success and then chat with the MayeCreate Project Managers about how they get it all done.View the Episode Goodie Bag >> Hosted By
At its root, making sure your marketing gets done is simply project management. And good project management looks a lot like goal setting:
Yes, the steps are front-loaded. Over half of project management happens before you even begin working. While beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, beautiful project management lies in the hands of the planner. Planning is key to smooth project management. It’s not improv — it’s a fully rehearsed production.
It's funny that I'm talking about project management because, in actuality, I am a horrendous project manager. Hey, don’t leave yet! I’ll redeem myself sortly…anybody in my office can tell you that when we have a project manager quit, it’s a terrible ordeal. I have to step into their role until we find a new person. It's awful for everyone involved.
What I can do is plan: I can create the process, break it into the smallest components and assign due dates. That's something I'm actually really good at. It's the implementation of the plan, the actual “management” where I belly flop.
Fortunately I’m aware of this weakness and surrounded myself with people who are exceptional project managers. I also have many crutches I use to get me from point A to point B in a timely manner every single day, including Google Calendar, a project management system, and daily to-do list.
So what I'm going to talk about in this post are the things I can do. We’ll ask the MayeCreate PMs Erika, Stacy and Jacob to chime with a blog post later with how they actually get it all done.
To start, hopefully, you have a plan. And within that plan, you have outlined all of your marketing activities for the year. If you don’t have a plan yet you may want to detour and create a marketing plan.
Some of the activities in your plan may just require you to show up, while others actually require you to produce something.
The ones that require you to actually produce something are the ones that need project management the most.
In your plan you’ve outlined your deliverables, or in other words, all the things you’ll produce throughout the year. Usually I start my project management process there, treating each deliverable as a big picture starting point in the planning journey.
One deliverable might be a Google Ads campaign, or it could be a website, a brochure, or a trade show booth. All these deliverables have varying levels of complexity. You’ll approach managing each project a little differently. So, let's start our examples with a hard one, the one I know best - websites. A website is a pretty complex beast, so it’s a great example of something that requires beaucoup project management. Then we can go a bit simpler with another example of how we project manage our blog.
Before you can really plan out all the small components of a website, you have to have a process to go from concepts to a finished site. These are your big picture benchmarks.
We’ve been evolving our process since beginning MayeCreate in 2005. Really, the journey never ends, and the process is never completely finished because the deliverable of building a website is a moving target. While the individual steps inside of our process continue to evolve, the phases and benchmark of the process have remained the same since we started.
Our big picture process looks like this:
I like to call this planning. You can also call it CYA, because completing this step means everyone involved in the project, including the client, should be all on the same page from the very beginning.[cta_left id="36"]
When we plan a website, we start with a master document. We call it a working document because it not only outlines outlines everything that's going to be on the website and exactly how it's going to work, it also may change throughout the project.
The time invested to build a website is more than just about coding the pages and building the templates. There are other deliverables that are needed in order to build the website, like research, text, photos, and videos. It's also the time it takes to plan programming features, research SEO, write the content, take the pictures, and develop the videos. So we break everything into little pieces and outline each in detail, all in our crazy long working document. Every. Single. Page. This includes every element and all the functionality for every single page.
That's where it starts. We’ve basically created a blueprint. And once you have your blueprint solidified, you're ready to move on to applying a timeline.
With our blueprint in hand, we move on to creating timelines. At MayeCreate, we call our timeline a task calendar.
In the task calendar, which is a magical Google Sheet created by our spreadsheet guru, Stacy, we outline the benchmarks and their deliverables in the order they need to be completed. Using the project estimate, the task calendar assigns a time estimate to represent how long it will take to complete each deliverable. Yes, for every single task. And it assigns a due date for each task as well. All we have to do within this magic document is type in the project start date, and the due dates for all the tasks, and even the project completion date, all auto calculate.
In the olden days of MayeCreate, what our designer, Katie, likes to refer to as “the long ago,” what used to happen is that the project manager had to create an event for every single deliverable on the task calendar on the Google Calendar of the individuals who were expected to complete them. This was extremely painful, not to mention a huge time suck.
So, over the years, we have tried so many different calendaring systems… fancy ones, not-so-fancy ones… And eventually, we've just settled on the fact that Google Calendar is it for us. It may not be forever, but it is for right now. We're able to put out almost 50 websites a year using Google Calendar as a scheduling system.
After trying to use a fancy calendaring system for a while and falling flat on our faces, we found a hack that saved the project managers a mountain of time: We realized you can take things from a Google Sheet, which is what our task calendar is built in, and with a little bit of extra formatting and a sprinkle of pixie dust , you can push it into a Google Calendar to schedule out all the deliverables. ✨🌟✨
Yes, it is magic. Really, this whole step is magic. You can’t just make a huge list of stuff and start checking boxes. You need to physically assign it a due date and put it in a place you will see everyday as you go about your other tasks. Adding your due dates to your calendar is the best way to make sure you see them and the work gets done.
The work begins by putting all the deliverables into our project management system. We have a staff of 10, so a project management system is essential to keep all of the details and lines of communication straight. All the information from the estimate and parts of the working document are entered into the project management system and assigned to the appropriate people.
You can manage your project however you like. You might use email and a spreadsheet or even a good old fashioned binder to keep the details straight. Do what works for you. You just need an established protocol to hold all the details and communicate each step of the way.
We use Active Collab as our project management system. Like our calendar, we have considered other options. Every few years, I get a crazy notion to compare different project management systems, and honestly, Active Collab just gives us the best bang for our buck. There are others that are fancier, but this one has more than enough features to do the job for us. We've used it for years.
Then the work-work begins.
We have weekly meetings in which we talk about every project we're working on, where we're at with each, and what we need to do to move on to the next step. We also have meetings, both internally and with clients, throughout each project to make sure we're still on the right track. Each benchmark in our process requires client interaction and approval before we move on to the next step.
Let's look at a simpler project and talk a bit about posting to a blog, another thing with which I’m intimately acquainted.
The first step in publishing to our blog is creating the content plan, which I will break down in more detail in Step 2, but before we ever started publishing posts, we first outline what types of content we want to write about — consider these your blog categories.
I also outline the writing and formatting process for every blog post. This is super important because I don’t write every post, and I’m terrible about doing things the same way twice. When I write, and I don't mean typing, I mean physically writing on a piece of paper, I spell the same word four different ways. Call it creative, call it complete idiocy, call it whatever you want, I'm just not good at following a process that isn't documented.
By documenting our process, I gave myself control over said process in more ways than one: When I begin a task I don’t do every day, I often feel overwhelmed because I'm not sure where to start, even if I've done it a hundred times before. I am not a creature of habit. But I know all of the content published on my site needs to feel the same and have consistent formatting to feel professional. So my blog process and formatting document is as much a checklist to give our writers a place to start as it is a tool to guide me through editing other people's blog posts and ensure they meet MayeCreate standards.
It should come as no surprise to you at this point when I tell you the first thing you need is a plan. You need to outline everything you're going to write for the whole year, not just today. I like to go all the way back to buyer personas, and I also try talk to the team members who talk to our clients every day to make sure we're addressing the issues they have in our blog articles.
We call what we’re going to write about our Content Calendar. It lists out each blog post we're going to write in a Google Sheet.
Once we have them outlined, the blog posts are scheduled on the calendar. Time to write. Time to edit. Time for keyword research. Time to revise. And time for publishing.
We document all of our blog posts within a blog project in Active Collab, meaning we create tasks for each one and apply appropriate labels to allow us to see at a glance the status of each post (i.e. In Progress, Up for Monica’s Review, Need Images, Published, etc.).
We have a template set up in the system to guide us through writing and formatting process. It reminds us who we're supposed to hand the project off to next, what the steps are for editing, and even how to format all the titles and subtitles to keep our blog post layouts consistent. And we make sure everything publishes to our blog without interruption.
Monthly, I review the performance of our blog posts and make a list of items that may need to be updated or considered for future topics and report back to the team.
These principles aren't new. They're not exceedingly inventive. They're just the backbone of how we manage to get things done on time and on budget, over and over again. And you can use these same techniques for your company.
Document your process before you begin to guide the project from concept to completion. Then turn to the details, documenting as much as you need to ensure you don't forget anything while creating it. Then schedule all the deadlines on a calendar (or several calendars as needed). Figure out how you're going to manage all the details and communication for the project. And last but not least, do the work.
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