At East River PR, we work with our clients to dream up magnificent marketing ideas and then we put the idea in motion, and make it a reality. Sometimes, I’m at the helm of these projects. Working with clients and managing big ideas often comes with big personalities and even bigger ambitions fueled by the great team I work with. Our job is to see the full picture and break it into bite-sized tasks. The project management part of our work is an art in and of itself.
As a growing business, we are often challenged with estimating how much time it will take us to project manage a design project or a website build. Being in control of all the moving parts is a job that requires plenty of time management and attention to detail. Our goal is to deliver on the proposal, meet the client’s deadline and produce amazing work that exceeds the client’s expectations. Making sure it all happens as planned requires putting together the best possible team.
At any given time, I may be working with the client, a graphic designer, a writer, a printer, and other staff members on my team to keep all the pieces moving in order to produce an outstanding final product. This takes lots of emails, phone calls and a detailed timeline.
Here’s some tricks I’ve learned on how best to keep your project on track:
Tip: It shouldn’t be herding cats
Make sure you know your staff members and subcontractors--how they work, how quickly they can turn things around and how much direction you need to give them. Some people need more managing while others like to be left alone to do their work. Working with multiple graphic designers, I’ve learned which one is the right fit for each project. If there’s not a lot of direction coming from the client and they seem unsure of what exactly they are looking for, you want a designer who can ask the right questions to bring out their vision and who can come up with different ideas to narrow in on what the client really wants.
Tip: Time to break it down
Keep a detailed timeline. We use Asana as a project management tool to keep us organized. You can create a project and then add multiple task deadlines to make sure you, and everyone else you are working with, are staying on track. Try to keep subtasks as simple and tactical as possible and organize them under larger tasks that roll up into the project. For example: A website is a project, content can be a task, and writing copy for a specific section is a subtask.
Tip: Constant contact
Stay in constant communication with everyone. Remind people when they have a deadline coming up, keep the printer informed on when you expect to have the product finalized and keep your client apprised of every step. It’s important to note what types of communication your client prefers (or is most responsive to) as well as the team members and vendors you are working with. Don’t keep sending emails if they always answer their phone.
Tip: Fresh perspective
Double and triple check everything. So many things can go wrong and I’ve learned to check the details multiple times. Since you’re the middle-person who’s managing all the details, you’re expected to get it right. And if anything goes wrong, it falls back on you. Make sure you double check the edits from the client to what the designer sent over, check the address that a print job is being shipped to, check links, photo credit, names and spelling and ALWAYS end with a fresh set of eyes. The last person to look at something should be someone on your team that hasn’t ever seen the material.
Tip: Leave a little wiggle room
Give yourself a cushion. I always tell the client that we need approval at least a day or two before the ‘drop-dead’ deadline to submit an approved design piece to the printer or to relay final edits to the designer. When you’re trying to get a large project finalized and you have multiple people editing and providing approval, you can count on a situation that is more likely than not to NOT go off as planned. Someone is likely to get back to you after the deadline you set. To help minimize your own personal stress, make sure you have allowed for some wiggle room.
Being a successful project manager takes a certain skill set to pull off projects that are no small feat. Being adaptable, flexible, patient yet goal-driven helps. Knowing how to motivate different personality types also helps. If you can know going in that you’ll have to adapt to each project based on the client and the people you are working with, you will feel a lot more sane at the end of every day. Being available at a moment’s notice and staying in constant communication with everyone is also another attribute that helps me. I’ve found that there is a solution to (just about) every possible issue, and keeping an open mind and a positive attitude helps when things get a bit off kilter. Finally, the reward at the finish line after all the hard work you’ve put in makes it all worthwhile, especially when our client is happy with what we’ve delivered. That’s when I can breathe a sigh of relief, and move on to the next project!
This post is part of an ongoing knowledge series from East River PR. Each of our team members have a unique skill-set and background that they bring each day to our work as we hone our craft. We’ve all gained from collaboration with our colleagues, our clients, and jobs we’ve had along the way, so we’d like to pay it forward here.
This week’s contributing team member is Lora Lashbrook. She is ERPR’s extremely well organized Senior Account Manager, overseeing our luxury lifestyle and pro bono accounts, and many of our print and digital marketing collateral projects. With a background in media buying and event planning, she’s adept at managing dozens of moving parts. The complicated timelines she creates stump the rest of us, while bringing her a certain amount of satisfaction and joy.