How can nonprofits and philanthropies keep their content production flying smoothly? How can organizations more effectively run their own communications channels and create amazing content?

At the recent 2013 NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), I spoke to attendees about ways they can help their organization’s content take flight.

Whether or not you’ve been able to formalize your organization’s content strategy (perhaps starting with these core elements of content strategy), having someone in your organization in the role of Air Traffic Control gives you a way to effectively manage your editorial process.

Your content creation dream — and reality

Imagine your content is a plane. This is what you might dream your content creation looks like:


You have one piece of content, one plane. The runway is clear, free of any obstacles. Takeoff will be easy. Piece of cake, right?

Unfortunately that’s just a dream. This is your content creation reality:


If each piece of content is a plane, the planes take off and land at different times, have different destinations, and take different routes to get there. Content strategy, creation, production, cross-platform distribution, and governance are not simple. They’re complex and take a lot of work.

So how do you plan and manage your content creation? How do you keep track of many pieces of content being written, edited, and undergoing approvals — all with different dependencies and complexity?

Start with a clear editorial process.

The editorial flight plan


Your editorial process is like a flight plan. Though it may look like a jumble, there are ways to make sense of and manage it.

Keep in mind that the editorial process is more than the end product, the content. It’s more than the words that will wind up on the screen. The editorial process is your workflow — even if it’s a complex one. It’s also a practice that is key to both better content and successful communications. The more clear your editorial process, the easier it will be to create content that will help your organization achieve its goals.

If your editorial process is a flight plan, you need someone to be Air Traffic Control.

The role of Air Traffic Control


If you are Air Traffic Control, your job is to:

  • Set the flight plan, and make sure that content — the planes — take off and land on time and hopefully in one piece! This can be efficiently managed using tools like LightBox Collaborative’s free nonprofit Editorial Calendar.
  • Track each piece of content as it’s in flight and the deadlines, owners, and approvals needed, and how the content is (or isn’t) progressing according to plan.
  • Bridge content strategy and tactics, that is, you’re the one that makes connections between the strategy that drives content choices and the tactics of the actual creation and publication of content.
  • Decide what gets published, when, the structure or format it takes, and on which channels it will be shared, with an eye always on your content strategy.
  • Repurpose and remix each piece of content to push out onto different channels.
  • And, just like with flight delays, if a piece of content isn’t ready on time, you may need to adjust the flight plan and adjust which content gets published and when.

As Air Traffic Control, you ideally will not create all the content yourself. Your colleagues, volunteers, or even program participants may pilot the different pieces of content along the creation path.

By applying the Air Traffic Control approach to your editorial process, you’ll be on your way to creating amazing content that can help your organization accomplish amazing things.

Images courtesy of Ho-Yeol Ryu, FSBUILD, FanPop

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Lauren Girardin
Lauren Girardin is a LightBox collaborator. She encourages you to check out all the slides from her 2013 NTC presentation, “Air Traffic Control: How to Guide Your Content from Ideation, to Creation, to Publication.”