Recreation Guide Workflow Suggestions

Hi everyone. I’m working on improving our current workflow for our seasonal recreation guide. At the moment, every program director sends their content on word documents that are styled as they please, and some just scan the previous guide and write their changes on it. I would like to streamline this process, what would be the best practices? how should they style their content for me to put in InDesign? Should I create a style guide for them to write their content? I have to reformat it anyways. Any ideas would be really helpful. Thanks!

There’s far too much uniqueness is most every situation of this sort to come up with a one-size-fits-all best practices set of guidelines. My experience in getting non-writers to write within style guidelines has never been good. I’ve always been lucky enough to work with good copy editors whose job is to fix other people’s less-than-perfect writing. You didn’t mention whether or not you were working with copy editors, but I’m assuming not.

Since you’ll be restyling everything anyway, I question the need to style things in Word beyond just making sure all the structural elements are there. Instead of requesting styled and formatted text, it might be best to give them a list of things that need to be in the copy they give you. For example, if all the articles in this recreation guide require a headline, a subhead, a byline, pull-out quotes, at least two photos with cutlines and body copy between 400 and 600 words, I’d give them a checklist spelling all that out for them.

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I’ve been dealing with the same issue when it comes to ad journals and event booklets for years.
Some people write what the need in the body of an e-mail, others attach troublesome word documents that never copy well to InDesign, others and their horrible scanning.

I’m sure you have a list of things that people are doing that set you back in your set-up.
Perhaps compile a list of those items and politely sent it out to those you’re expecting content from.
For me, having clients trying to format their own text in Word, usually by adding countless spaces and line breaks. I would request a simple block of left justified text.

Make sure everyone knows the orientation and size of the space they will be accommodating. There’s always someone that supplies a vertical graphic when their page space is landscape, or supplies a 3 page biography for what should be a single page.

Also on your end, try to organize all your files in the most logical way possible, this way when next year (or quarter, whatever the case) rolls around you can easily re-allocate repeated content and quickly update the content that requires changing.

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A lot of variables, so it’s difficult to suggest a definitive plan in a few sentences here. You’ve got pages that carry over from quarter to quarter, but also pages that only appear annually. And you’ve got classes that may be a complete rewrite every quarter? Are you importing classes from an online registration system? That would be another layer of complication.

In general terms… if I was in-house, I would be aggressive about getting everyone on the same page with electronic proofing (more difficult if you are a contractor). No more trying to read handwriting on scraps of paper. If money is no issue, subscribe to an online proofing system like GoProof. Upload PDFs of the relevant pages from the recent issue, as well as the issue from the same quarter one year ago and give everyone a login to add comments. That let’s you track who has checked their pages and who needs reminders. And no more trying to decipher handwriting.

The much cheaper alternative would be to put together a single PDF of all relevant pages, then email or Dropbox that to everyone in the group along with instructions on how to do markup and comment with Acrobat Reader. Then they email/Dropbox it back to you, and you merge all the comments into a single file. You use that as a guide to make changes in your ID file of the new issue. It will tell you who made each comment and give you a master checklist.