As a startup entering “super-growth” last year, my company, L&T Co., started hunting out the best tools to help us manage our content, clients and writers in a more efficient way. We found two that have not only proven indispensable to us, but will help any marketing department or agency boost productivity, motivation, and most importantly, offer clients as much transparency into the daily workflow as you wish.
With a portfolio of 20 clients for which we spearhead campaigns varying significantly in scope and duration, L&T needs to stay constantly organized around our projects. Add to the mix a team of 40 writers — all working remotely — and half a dozen in-house editors, and you can see how the company could have devolved a long time ago into a scrambled disaster without effective project management.
We started using Trello about a year ago after relying exclusively on a clunky Google Drive-centric process that dictated moving a document from one folder to another for editing, and then to another for client approval. Not only did this quickly turn into a logistical nightmare, but there was practically zero transparency into the process for our clients. Although we were only working with a handful of companies at the time, the process was already proving too convoluted for anyone to keep up with.
The decision to use a project management tool didn’t come lightly. Although L&T was definitely in “growth mode” at the time, we were a bootstrapped startup nonetheless, and couldn’t fathom shelling out thousands of dollars for a fancy new platform.
After looking at what a range of systems were offering (as well as the price of each), we opted for Trello. And with the platform’s seamless integration with Google Drive, affordability, functionality of numerous privacy settings, easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface, and free support for our rapidly growing team, the choice ended up being an easy one.
Now, every one of our freelance writers has access to a Trello board where we provide assignments through “cards,” each with a Google Doc attached in which a writer completes their work on an article. Here’s where the integration with Google Drive has proven so powerful, as our editors can easily access the documents through Trello and pick up right where the writer left off, providing comments and general transparency into the editing process that these freelancers can incorporate into their future work.
Moreover, each of our clients has their own Trello board where they can submit story ideas for us to pursue or review our own suggestions for potential features or blog posts. An unlimited number of company representatives can also follow along with each step of the process, such as when an article has been assigned to a writer, when it has been received by our in-house editorial team, and when the final version is ready for their review and approval.
This siloed approach allows L&T’s management to meticulously control what each team member and client contact can and cannot see, dramatically boosting the efficiency of our daily workflow process while eliminating a number of privacy concerns. Not only has Trello kept our management and editorial teams organized and on-track, but it has produced far greater transparency and feedback for both clients and freelancers.
Soon after moving to Trello, L&T decided that Google alone also wasn’t cutting it as our sole communication platform. Although it allowed quick chats between team members via Hangouts and unlimited sharing of files via Google Drive, we still couldn’t keep track of a lot of important internal KPIs, such as the frequency and timing of posts to clients’ online publications and updates on our social media coverage of published content. Furthermore, communicating with more than one team member at a time remained a huge and unnecessary struggle.
Although Slack has a bit of a creative, artsy reputation, it’s also increasingly being used by brands and individuals outside of the creative space. In fact, it was one of our more technically oriented clients that introduced me to it, raving about how it revolutionized the way their company communicated.
At its core, what we needed from our internal communication platform was the ability to convey any and all types of information in real time, ensuring that all team members knew what was going on with any one client while keeping the management team constantly updated on staff progress and development.
We have set up Slack with a channel dedicated to each client. Each of these channels is calibrated with an RSS feed of not only everything published to the client’s blog, but also any changes to their assigned Trello board. This means everyone on the team can see the progress of every piece of content through our system at any given moment.
As I just alluded to, Slack’s staggering range of plugins are a huge winner. In addition to Trello and WordPress, we’ve integrated the platform with Google Hangouts and Drive, and there’s the opportunity to add social network APIs, CRM platforms, error monitoring and bug tracking, just to name a few others.
We also have set up private chat groups for departments (editors, management, and social media staff), meaning we can chat between ourselves if required for instant feedback and communication.
Making Processes Seamless
As you’ll find when introducing any new tool to manage your company’s workflow, it’s important to get your whole team on board before forcing them to learn and use new software.
With cross-platform mobile and desktop apps available for both Slack and Trello, we’ve found our teams — both internal and external— have taken to these two tools much better than we could have ever imagined. At the end of the day, that’s because they are super-simple to use and foster an environment of constant feedback, communication, and learning on the job.
Additionally, Slack’s in-depth analytics show us which elements are being utilized the most — and therefore, working— and which aren’t, allowing us to adapt our process on the fly without any headaches and ensure everyone is comfortable with these tools and wants to use them.
Has your company has started using any services that you can no longer fathom a life without? Share them in the comments!