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COVID-19 help: 7 tools to get the most out of your remote team

Publishing a magazine is a team effort. Editorial, sales, design and subscription teams need to collaborate to create the final product. But lucky for the magazine industry, the work required by each team can be completed remotely and there are a number of tools that can be used to keep the collaborative workflow going.

Here, we look at seven types of tools that drive efficiency, productivity and keep teams motivated while working from home: 

  1. CRM systems 
  2. Collaborative production tools 
  3. Project management tools 
  4. Video conferencing 
  5. Meeting schedulers 
  6. Company messaging 
  7. Mental health tools. 

All the tools that we cover aim to increase the efficiency of publishing team workflows, especially while working remotely. Greater efficiency means greater return on investment. But the impact of COVID-19 is still unknown, and there is a significant level of financial uncertainty that comes with that. 

Many of the tools listed below have free and paid options – some only paid options. While it’s important to look for improvements in efficiency, it’s also wise to be careful with your overall spend. So we’ve only included tools that we feel will make a difference to your business. 

First, ask: are your CRM processes working for you? 

A good CRM is essential to make sure all team members are on the same page when contacting clients, whether its for sales, editorial, updating contact details, or invoicing. It’s your central repository for all your key client information, and this is particularly important when team members are working remotely. 

A client’s CRM record should give near real-time information on their last interaction with your company, meaning the whole team can stay up-to-date while working from home. 

If you already have a CRM in place, now is a good time to make sure that all staff are using it appropriately. Review your sales pipeline and workflow processes to make sure that they’re allowing your team to work as efficiently as possible. Create a ‘CRM manual of procedures’ as a reference point of how to use the system. 

Don’t have a CRM? Get one. 

If you don’t already have a CRM system in place, there are plenty to choose from in varying price ranges, and most can be customised to suit different needs. 

Salesforce is the most widely used CRM across most industries because it can be customised to suit most businesses,  but it can be an expensive option for teams and is difficult to set-up properly without the help of a Salesforce developer, which can be a substantial additional spend. 

Dedicated magazine publisher CRM systems are available. The most popular international tools being The Magazine Manager and RunMags. Both these systems include fulfillment tools, including magazine pagination, advertising management and invoicing. CRM Subscribe is an Australian-based tool for magazine publishers focusing on subscription revenue and reader paywalls. 

A free trial or demo can be requested for both RunMags and The Magazine Manager, and RunMags is currently waiving onboarding and a consecutive six months of fees to help publishers build effective processes to reduce the impact of COVID-19. 

Other popular CRM tools include HubSpot and PipeDrive, however these don’t have magazine production capabilities. 

Collaborate in real-time 

Google and Microsoft both offer cloud-based products that allow teams to collaborate. GSuite refers to Google’s products: GMail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive, Google Calendar. Microsoft Office 365 refers to Microsoft’s: Outlook, Microsoft Word, Excel, OneDrive. 

Both systems allow documents to be accessed and shared easily. Google Docs/Microsoft Word and Google Sheets/Microsoft Excel allow teams to edit documents together and see changes being made by team members in real-time. 

If you’re also using GMail, edits or comments on a doc you’ve created will be emailed to you, and you’ll have the option of addressing any comments straight from your Inbox. This article explains how GSuite products link up to drive collaboration and efficiency. 

There are die-hard GSuite fans, and die-hard Microsoft Office 365 fans. If you’re unsure which is best for you, this article from Computer World offers a thorough comparison between the products and who they suit best. 

At the pointy end of magazine production, Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite is essential for design and editorial staff to work on finalising the magazine for print. Using Creative Cloud, design files can be exported as PDFs to be shared for review. Then, comments can be imported from a PDF review into InDesign so that feedback can be easily managed. 

Adobe has useful information about collaborating with Creative Cloud remotely. 

Track magazine production and other tasks using project management tools 

Some staff members respond better to working remotely than others. If an employee isn’t used to working at home, it’s easy to get distracted or lose motivation. It’s also common for managers or colleagues to stress about the productivity of others: if you can’t see the work being completed, is it really getting done? 

According to B2B HR publication Human Resources Director, 76 per cent of HR leaders have reported the top employee complaint during the COVID-19 pandemic being managers concerned about the productivity or engagement of their teams while working remotely. 

The urge to micromanage in this situation can be high, but it’s important to let go and trust your team members to get the job done. Undermining ownership of a staff member’s work can lead to a decrease in motivation, whereas trust improves confidence and accountability. 

Brand strategist Boldy employs an entirely remote workforce. Founder and CEO Sandra Lewis says that it’s important to communicate with team members often, and foster an ‘open door’ policy, to build trust and motivation in your team. She says that it also important to be very clear about expectations and deadlines. 

Using a project management tool across your team can help by clearly defining your projects and the action that needs to be taken, and by providing transparency around the completion of tasks by each staff member. 

There are a lot of online project management tools available, with most offering free and paid options. Asana, Trello, Monday and ClickUp are all powerful project management tools that let teams create projects, assign tasks, track goals, and adhere to timelines. All offer a ‘board view’ for projects, which is often the preferred view for editorial and design team members when producing magazine editions. 

In fact, most all have editorial calendar templates that can be adapted to suit your magazine or digital content production: 

ClickUp is relatively new and includes more features and flexibility in setting up and changing tasks than the other tools. 

Schedule regular check-ins

Checking in with your team regularly makes sure that everyone is on the same page. And when everyone is suffering from a little COVID-19 isolation fatigue, its really nice to see the friendly faces of your work colleagues, clients or suppliers by using video conferencing tools. 

You can use tools like Skype and Google Hangouts, but Zoom is the market leader. You’ll get better connectivity and features via free and paid options. It’s been so popular over the last few months that there is a meme going around that highlights Zoom as the clear winner of COVID-19. 

Popular Zoom meme. Source: unknown.

Zoom has published helpful resources for new users to their service since the COVID-19 outbreak here. 

Easily schedule client calls

Your sales teams are likely already using Calendly to schedule calls with clients, but it’s also a great tool for the rest of a magazine publishing team. 

Calendly lets you schedule meetings quickly and easily, without a lengthy email chain. The tool lets your contacts select the time of your call based on your availability, and you can build in buffer time in between meetings to catch up on meeting notes. 

It integrates with HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoom, Mailchimp, and Google, Outlook and iCloud calendars. You can even include a link to your Calendly profile in your email signature so it is always part of your communication with others. 

Continue to foster your company culture with Slack 

Slack is a business messaging tool that can be used for important work messages as well as a bit of fun with colleagues. It’s a great tool for fostering constant communication with your team – and an open door policy –  without clogging up everyone’s inbox. 

Colleagues can use Slack to contact each other individually or within group chats (channels) that can be set up for specific departments or project teams. 

It integrates with Salesforce, Trello, Google Drive, Zoom and other services, so you can link it directly to your other productivity tools. 

You can also use Slack to build camaraderie in remote teams. It’s easy to make announcements on key business goals met, sales wins, or celebrate staff birthdays, with all staff able to join in without over-doing the ‘reply all’ function of email…

These tips outline how to get the most out of Slack when working remotely. 

Think about the mental health of remote staff 

Without the distractions of an office, working from home can be very productive. But it’s important for staff to give some structure to their day so that they don’t work around the clock and burn out. 

There are apps to download that remind team members to take a break from their computer. Take a Break Please and Stretchly are two apps that pause your work and ask you to stretch or walk around. 

Using work timers that promote the Pomodoro Technique can also be a great way to make sure you take a break while still remaining productive. 

The Pomodoro Technique refers to breaking projects into tasks that can be completed in shorter timeframes (usually 25 minutes) with scheduled breaks (usually 5 minutes) in between. After a cycle of four ‘Pomodoros’, it’s suggested that a longer break is taken. 

Lifehacker says that it’s a great method to work to deadlines. Apps like Tomato Timer can help you get started. 

Balancing the need for efficiency with streamlined costs 

It’s a challenging time. The isolation measures required to beat COVID-19 mean that teams have to look for ways to collaborate remotely, and the financial uncertainty of the outbreak means that processes need to be as efficient as possible – but costs need to be carefully considered. 

Most of the tools in this article have free and paid options, and all can be used to drive efficiency and motivation in remote workers. If you had to choose only three paid tools? The necessities are a CRM system, Google Docs, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

The others are a bonus. But we may have left some out.

What’s the tool that you can’t live without when working from home? 

Written by Lyndsie Clark

Niche Publishing Network Founder and Editor Lyndsie Clark has over 10 years of niche publishing experience, working in a variety of roles spanning B2B editorial, sales, operations, events, BD, and management.

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