Project Manage Like a Pro With Kelly Santina — Part 2

June 6, 2017 Marcus Varner

In a recent webinar, Kelly Santina, senior digital marketing strategist and director of operations at Convince & Convert and Ashley Spurlock, solutions marketing manager at Workfront, shared three ways you can streamline reviews and approvals.

What follows is the second in a three-part recap of the webinar. See part one here and part three here. If you want to watch the entire webinar on demand, click here.

Ashley Spurlock: Okay, let’s go to number two: you’ve got mail.

We talked about interruptions physically; someone coming over to your desk and saying, "Hey, can you do something for me or can you look at something?" Also phone calls, we talked about that a little bit.

Download our free executive brief, "Stop Wasting 45% Of Your Day," to learn how you can avoid and manage interruptions in the office.

But this one is kind of the silent interruption; the silent nudge. Your inbox is constantly full of unanswered emails, and they just keep piling up. It can feel overwhelming. I was a PM for a creative services team at my last job and, man, the email thing was so overwhelming.

We didn’t have a real great way of managing work there and so requests were coming into me via email. Reviews and approvals were all routed through email. And then, of course, followups to those things; "just want to put this at the top of your inbox," "just want to make sure you see this." 

And if you get seven of those, then when you finally get down to the other ones—"Oh, I’ve already looked at this"—it’s just adding more chaos to your day.

In fact, 40 percent of marketers say that dealing with email is one of the biggest obstacles to getting work done.

But, it’s not just the time suck of checking it or responding to email; it’s all the feedback within the emails that must be sorted and addressed.

If you are receiving feedback on an asset or something you’re working on—a project—via email, then you’re going to have to gather all those comments, make sure you don’t miss them in the pile of emails that are sitting and waiting for you to review them, and then add them wherever you’re working on your reviews and approvals.

If that’s in another platform, if you’re working with a software tool, if you’re doing it manually, if you’re doing it on a printed piece, or if you’re sitting with a graphic designer to make changes; of course that’s probably the worst way.

But, that feedback has to be gathered. And if that’s in your email, that just adds more chaos.

When I was a PM, I would schedule time for email. Kind of like, "Yeah, I’ll ask my reviewers to follow up on their content later on in the day because that’s when my brain is gonna be fried."

Same thing with email: "Oh, that’s the kind of work that I’m going to need to do a little bit later because I need to be fresh and ready for the strategy meeting," or "I have a status meeting update." So, a lot of people do this where they schedule time for their email, and that’s certainly one way to do it.

But, of course, you’re still dealing with those interruptions.

Sixty-one percent of marketers rank overflowing email inboxes as a major work inefficiency.

So, let’s get to some solutions. Kelly, why don't you tell us how we can solve that with some easy things that the folks on the line can implement today.

Kelly Santina: Sounds good. Thanks, Ashley.

Centralized communication and collaboration. Sounds easy, but how do we make it work?

Email will probably never disappear completely, unfortunately. But let’s talk about some practical applications to make your life easier and get you out of the office on time. Real-time access. So that could mean a couple of things. We all have email on our phone, so you are always accessible.

There are some personal discipline tools to learn to turn it off and only read and respond to email when you are in the zone to actually do something about it.

You can make your life harder by trying to always stay on and mark read when you’re on your phone and you’re back to your laptop or desktop. So try to set personal boundaries there, and get in the zone for when you can actively work on emails that are coming into your box.

The other thing in terms of review and approval, is, again, give your stakeholders and your team members real-time access to see other changes and to make edits.

This can also save a lot of that back and forth time and the disconnect between one reviewer saying they like the headline and the next one saying they don't like it. 

When everyone can see the real-time review process, they can work that out amongst themselves in some ways, rather than you sifting through email trying to find which one is right.

Choose the right tech.

It could be big tech or it could be small tech, but this is a huge, huge process improvement even for solopreneurs or small teams. There are so many tools out there that can help you revolutionize how your team works, how your stakeholders see you, and even your clients.

Look for tools that offer better visibility and improve your efficiency. One of the biggest things to consider when you’re looking at the right tech is a digital asset management system (DAM).

This can help you keep track of versions, and also give you a clearinghouse, a location to keep all those drafts out of your inbox and into somewhere where all team members can have real-time access to which drafts they’re working on and also past files and new files coming in.

One other consideration that has totally changed how we work here at Convince & Convert is a digital grouping tool. This becomes so much more clear when you’re looking at really a creative asset where your stakeholders, your team, can say, "This part is what I don't like."

How many times have you been in a situation where you’ve received an email back and the stakeholder says the upper corner looks funny. What does that mean? Is it the left corner or the right corner? You think it’s right, but they meant left.

Now you’re in a circle of misunderstanding each other, just from not having a visual to really complement your comments.

A proofing tool solves that. We have been able to work so much more clearly with our clients, particularly on visual assets where they can click onscreen, make us a comment, and we know exactly the piece they’re talking about.

Huge benefit, again, to showing your professionalism, even if you’re a solopreneur or a freelancer with your client.

Stay organized.

So simple, yet so hard. A couple of things here that might seem obvious, but if you think about it ahead of time can save you so much time again on the back side. 

Think about how you name files. If you’re using that digital asset management system, put a very simple file naming rule in place for your team.

It doesn’t matter; put a stake in the ground and keep working towards it. Whether that be version one, version two, version three; you use initials plus date range. Whatever works for your organization, make it clear, stick to it, and keep moving forward.

Forty-seven percent of companies have more than four people involved. Isn’t that the truth?

The illustration we looked at early on had four people, the four core people that you would think of in an agency or marketing team environment. But, that doesn’t include legal, or C-suite, or client input coming in from other sources.

So sometimes, that’s just how it goes and you might have to walk a proof and put it on the chair of a C-suite team member like Ashley did early on in her career.

But, let’s talk about a few other things to make your life easier.

Ashley Spurlock: Thank you, Kelly.

Back to your point number two with finding the right tech, we also use an online proofing tool. We use, of course, our in-house version, Workfront's digital proofing feature, and oh man, if I could have had that at any other job that I had, it would have changed my life.

Getting that real-time feedback in the same place, not having to sift through other emails or comments, or hallway conversations, man, that is a game changer. I’m glad to hear that you feel the same way.

To watch "Project Manage Like a Pro: 3 Expert Tips to Streamline Reviews & Approvals" with Kelly Santina and Ashley Spurlock, click here.

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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