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5 Steps to Get Your “Off the Rails” Project Back on Track

We all dream of the perfect project. It kicks off with excitement. The creative is flawless. And it’s miraculously produced on time and under budget. (By the way, that image is as dreamy to me as pizza without the carbs.)

But then you find yourself with a hurdle: Uh-oh, the stakeholder isn’t responding. Oh gosh, the client took a leave of absence. Shoot, there’s a wild strategic shift in direction.

Don’t panic! This is the very best part of being a project or account manager — because you get to be creative and shine! If project management is in your blood, this is your Superbowl. YOU’VE. GOT. THIS.

Below are 5 steps to managing a content marketing project with ease.

Step #1: Manage up

The biggest question for every derailment is, “How much of a predicament is this crisis?” Take a moment to determine if you should escalate the issue or problem solve on your own.

If time is of the essence, it’s probably best to manage up and loop in the decision-makers. Don’t spin your wheels for weeks trying to DIY if you can solve the issue in one conversation. Come with solutions, but act early in the process. A day could make a huge difference.

Step #2: Create a decision matrix

You probably already guessed that I’m type A. So charts and homework make me happy. Time to go back to high school and remember the simple reasoning exercise: If this, then that.

Start writing down the compromises and their consequences. Just going through the options can help you naturally find the solution. (Even include the it’s-never-going-to-happen-because-there’s-never-extra-budget option.)

It looks something like this:

Issue Fix Consequence Recommendation
Timeline moved in Staff up, hire more writers Need more budget
Combine review rounds (marketing + SME) Onus on client, rushed review period **Best option
Skip QA Could lead to issues in the future
Skip content outline Going straight to writing means more in-depth review during content development

 

Present your matrix to your team to guide the conversation. Make sure you have a recommendation and that you are poised to go in any of the directions. The worst thing you could do is offer to staff up and then realize there’s no one available.

Step #3: Resource as if your life depends on it

You may need all hands on deck to get the project back on track. Send a note to your team asking who has the most bandwidth to pitch in. People may be transitioning off large projects, or they may be in between projects. If you don’t ask, then you don’t know.survey for writing physician bios

Even if you need something as minor as a person to take notes while you brainstorm or someone to QA with you on the weekend, everyone knows this is a priority. Chances are, someone owes you a favor!

Step #4: Be the “check-in” chick

Immediately put a 15-minute meeting on everyone’s calendar for 10 a.m. every other day until the project is back in motion. This provides a set time to check in and discuss any questions or progress with your team. Even if you show up and say there’s no update, it eliminates the email back-and-forth and puts everyone on the same page.

Tip #5: Be one step ahead for infinity

At the beginning of your future projects, ask those specific questions at the kickoff that may have prevented this upset from happening. Being ahead of the game can’t help unforeseen setbacks, but learning from previous projects helps you know how to react when it happens again.

Your must-have snafu-prevention questions:

  • Is the strategy locked in?
  • Is this a busy time of year for stakeholders?
  • Are there any barriers you foresee?
  • How long do your review periods need to be? Should we plan for 10 days this time, not 5?
  • Will there be a legal or compliance review?

When your project goes off the rails, it doesn’t mean everything is ruined forever. In fact, if you can display a decent amount of composure and strategic thinking, it will solidify trust in you and your organization for many projects to come.

For more steps to managing a content marketing project, keep on reading:

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About Kate Schmieding

Kate Schmieding

Kate is a lifetime project manager and copywriter with a decade of experience in technology marketing and entertainment communications. She spent 11 years in California at high profile companies like Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Records and just relocated back to Upstate New York to enjoy the country life. Kate is an award-winning writer with 4... More >