So, you know your yearbook deadline dates, your ladder is set, and you’ve determined which pages can be submitted for each deadline. That’s GREAT! Your staff members should be able to look at the time allotted for each deadline and plan their work time to ensure that all required page elements are completed on or before the assigned deadline, right? In a perfect world, the answer is yes, of course! But, we all know that things are not always perfect here in Yearbook Land, and sometimes our staffers need a little guidance planning their page/spread production timeline. Here’s our plan for establishing mini-deadlines within your production schedule to help staffers complete their pages on time:
1. Determine the elements required for the spread to be considered complete.
This seems like it should be obvious, but each staff has different required page/spread elements in addition to photos. Do you require headlines and copy? captions? secondary coverage? tertiary coverage? graphics? infographics? bylines? photo credits? folio content? quotes? Is each staff member fully aware of the required elements necessary on each page/spread? The first step to creating mini-deadlines is determining which elements you want on each spread and then communicating the requirements to your staff.
2. Assign due dates within the deadline production cycle to each required element.
This is basically breaking the entire page/spread down into its various parts and having the individual parts due one at a time, thus creating mini-deadlines before the BIG deadline (which is the date the pages are due in the printing plant.) The timing of the mini-deadlines will depend on the length of your deadline production cycle, but for the purposes of illustrating how mini-deadlines work, here’s how they might be assigned in a 4-week production cycle:
Day 1: Work/planning day
- Assign or verify page/spread topics
- Brainstorm copy angle/secondary coverage ideas
Day 2: Work/planning day
- write interview questions
- identify story sources
- plan where/when to take photos (or make photo request)
Day 3: Work day/MINI-DEADLINE #1
- story angle/interview questions and source list due
- photo dates (or requests) due
Day 4: Work day
Day 5: Work day/MINI-DEADLINE #2
- layout design complete
- secondary coverage ideas/sources due
Day 7: MINI-DEADLINE #3
- interview write-up due
Day 10: MINI-DEADLINE #4
- main copy rough draft due
Day 12: MINI-DEADLINE #5
- secondary/tertiary copy due
- photo choices due
Day 14: MINI-DEADLINE #6
- photos and captions due on page/spread
Day 16: MINI-DEADLINE #7
- Headline and final copy due on page/spread
Day 18: COMPLETED PAGE/SPREAD DUE
The built-in work days with no deadlines allow for editors/advisers to review work, check in on progress and troubleshoot any discovered issues. By having the pages/spreads due completed on day 18, there are a couple of days for editorial review and return for corrections if necessary.
We want to say again that this is an EXAMPLE of how to build mini-deadlines into your production schedule. Your required elements will determine how many mini-deadlines you will need to assign, and where they need to fall in the cycle to keep production moving without overwhelming your staffers. Modify the example to best fit your particular situation and needs. To help staffers keep track of completed elements, consider handing out a calendar sheet with the mini-deadlines indicated on the appropriate days, or even a spread worksheet like this:
And to help you keep track of all the mini-deadlines, create a deadline checklist like the one below:
The more tools you provide for your staff members to stay on top of their assigned tasks, the more successful they will be, and the easier your deadlines will be to complete. A little planning and a little structure will make all the difference!
Let us know how you help your staff members meet deadlines. We’d love to learn from you and share with our fellow yerds.