Fast Company Redefines Deadline Management and Accountability
When you think of Fast Company you might think of superlatives like the Most Creative People in Business or the Most Innovative Companies, or the tips on how to evolve your career.
That range of content is what made April Mokwa want to work there in the first place. “We are a business publication so we get to have a pulse on everything from finance to tech, retail, and fashion,” she says. “At its core Fast Company looks to uncover the companies that are making the world a better place.”
April is the Executive Managing Editor at Fast Company which means she’s responsible for keeping the magazine running on time. As digital newsrooms face constant pressure to do more with less and feed the 24 hour news cycle, Fast Company has to find a way to break through the noise. While Fast Company’s team of reporters is out finding the latest innovator to profile, she makes sure they don’t miss any deadlines and that the teams that support the newsroom know what’s being published by who, when.
In this fast paced environment Fast Company needed a tool that would help the team work smarter. She knew a more connected workflow would enable them to maximize every piece of content when every second counts. A few years ago she noticed the digital team ditched traditional project management tools for planning purposes and started using Airtable instead. It worked so well for them, she decided to try it out across other areas of the newsroom.
Back then April ran their weekly editorial planning meetings by printing out a spreadsheet with the upcoming publication plan. Everyone had a physical copy and jotted down their notes on it during the meeting. “It's wild to think that's how we used to function – it sounds completely archaic,” April said. As information solidified, like who was writing which story and when it would publish, she updated the sheet manually.
Teammates would often ask April for information about things like who was writing which article, or if there was art chosen for a specific piece. She used to have to search for the information and respond, but now everything lives in one place.
“Airtable offers more clarity and transparency into what's happening at a moment’s notice.”
As Fast Company takes on larger projects this transparency becomes even more important to the pace of publication. For example the Most Creative People in Business list compiles nearly 60 individual profiles. Each story has to be fact checked, assigned art, considered for posting on social media, assigned a writer and editor. “Airtable helps make sure all of those things happen in the order they need to,” April said.
Filtered views enable different teams to see the information that is important to them. She created views for what is being published today or tomorrow on the website and for the year ahead in the magazine. The team uses the collaborator field to tag individual writers, and the notes feature to add information from meetings. April says, “At least two or three times a day I find myself using Airtable to get information I previously would have had to ask someone for. That would force them to stop what they were doing to answer me. Now we all have access to the same information.”
“Airtable saves us a lot of back and forth, we think of it as a fail-safe to make sure things aren't falling through the cracks.”
This increased transparency makes Fast Company more connected and better prepared to amplify work within the newsroom. The video and newsletter teams are informed by shared data in Airtable. When the social media team is planning posts for social channels they no longer have to go to ask around to see which stories are being planned.
“There’s a whole accountability part that comes into play too where there’s no way to miss a deadline because it’s been there the whole time.”
For the Fast Company team, a more efficient workflow means they can spend more time telling stories about innovators who are changing their industries and the world for the better. They can pull away from the sprawling digital landscape and differentiate Fast Company as the place to find stories about innovators across industries.“I don't want writers and editors spending their time tracking down information. I want them to be thinking about how we tell stories that bring to light which companies are truly innovative and moving the whole industry forward.”
The editorial planning process is only the beginning for Fast Company. Now April is looking at ways to use Airtable for awards programs, and expanded coverage. She says, “I'm excited for us to start thinking about how to use Airtable to cover more stories. There are so many opportunities we’re now seeing to do things more effectively.”