Don't Let Your Catalog Creative Schedule Drive You Crazy
It seems like catalog creative/production schedules, just like budgets, have gotten so tight they drive everyone crazy. Here are nine tips for bringing sanity to your schedule management.
1. Make a list of all the steps. Send a schedule with key dates/deadlines to all involved in the creative process. In addition, you should also make a checklist for yourself of all steps in between. There are often more steps than you remember. By listing all steps, you'll not only have a much better checklist for getting them done, you'll also be better able to move tasks around to get more done earlier.
2. Give one person the authority to manage. Don't just send the schedule and then hope all team members will manage their parts and hit their dates. Some will (treasure those few). Most won't on their own, but can if they're closely managed (true for both staff and vendors). Whomever is managing the schedule needs the authority to move Jane's task to Joe because Joe has time, and to make Pat stop working on X to work on Y.
3. Check in early and often. Most team members in a catalog project are consumed with something else. Don't expect them to check the schedule daily. Typically, they'll be clearing other tasks off their plate and responding to other squeaky wheels. Don't let your deadline sneak up, leaving employees too little time to execute. Be squeaky yourself.
4. Front load; don't be trapped in linear mode. If there's plenty of time before a task needs starting, don't wait and start early. Check your detailed task/steps list. Is Photoshop scheduled for after draft design, but photography is complete now? Photoshop your images now even if it wasn't on the schedule that way. Waiting for the product list before starting design even though you know a new look is wanted? Design new-look test pages now, using the prior catalog's products. You may get that new look approved even before products are finalized and regular design starts.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.