How to Collaborate on Content Projects

October 2017

Women collaborating in a meeting

Photograph: Tim Gouw

“We have an interesting cover story on cyber threats to critical infrastructure. Our writer interviewed multiple sources. We’ve covered this topic in the past, so let’s put a different spin on this article,” said the editor-in-chief of a popular magazine on information security.

Getting Started

To arrive at this point, the author of the article completed extensive research, interviewed industry experts, wrote the article and submitted it to the editor-in-chief. (At this juncture, sometimes articles are sent back to the author for clarification.) The draft is then passed along to a copy editor and reviewed by yet another team checking for adherence to a specific style.

Once the article passes this stage, the article lands in the hands of the art director who combs through the content searching for the best way to visually convey the crux of the content. Next, a small team convenes and they discuss concepts that will determine the visual direction for the article. All approaches are welcome and each idea sparks another until the group arrives at a consensus. What’s needed is a solution with wow factor—imagery and design that will align with the content, resonate with readers and pique their interest to read further.

Workflow Continues

The preliminary steps above describe a portion of a collaborative workflow that is integral for any content project to successfully come to fruition. Dozens of decisions will follow in order to strike the right balance between impeccable clarity and powerful style—a Twirling Tiger Media objective on every project.

Team Building

When collaborating on content projects, an idea takes form and is best propelled forward when working with a team you trust. Follow these tips to maintain good relationships with team members and secure excellent outcomes:

  • Keep your team size manageable and establish a leader.
  • Include stakeholders with skills and knowledge others may lack.
  • Set the expectation for the group.
  • Establish the goal of the project and share information.
  • Be prepared by reviewing materials and jotting down your ideas prior to meeting.
  • Respect everyone’s input.
  • Avoid allowing any one person to dominate the process.
  • Remain open-minded to suggestions.
  • Work on bridging differing ideas into workable solutions.

Follow a Workflow Process

Your content projects—big or small—will succeed when you establish and follow a step-by-step workflow … a proven process for success. For example, Twirling Tiger Media’s workflow begins with ongoing dialogue with key staff members in order to review and fully understand the goals of each project. Our six steps assume the formation of an established project objective and production schedule. Our content flows through an extensive process that includes editing and review by copy editors, fact-checkers, proofreaders and designers to ensure consistent quality.

The solution for the cover story on cyber threats to critical infrastructure easily fell into place once the direction was established. The article mentioned a number of quoted sources, so the team decided it was best to photograph one of the people mentioned. Given the essence of the article, the art director instructed her favorite Seattle-based photographer, Brian Smale, to convey the “taking a closer look” and “power” theme into the photographs. This type of directive takes great talent to successfully execute, and a willing subject, in order for the results to look natural. (I might add that Brian drove six hours roundtrip from Seattle to Portland to shoot these photos!) The art director sifted through the gallery of photographs and made her selections. She and the editor then adjusted the headline copy to create a perfect marriage of words and imagery.

Another successful collaboration!

—Maureen (the art director on the project)