Managing a successful series

There are two things a Creative Producer must do – optimise the production process and enhance storytelling. The recent Debt Machine series provided a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate both.

So how did optimisation and improvement contribute to the success of the FT’s Debt Machine series?


Illustration by Adam Simpson for the FT

Illustration by Adam Simpson for the FT

Optimise

We have talented, knowledgeable reporters at the FT. Optimising production is key to making sure their work gets noticed.


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  1. Fish for ideas for a series among reporters, suggest my own, see what comes out in the wash. Find agreement on a single, focused theme for the series (in our case, leveraged loans). Talk with reporters in a short meeting: What’s the scope of our series? What are the topics that surround this theme? Note down every story idea and find agreement among reporters for the final list of stories. Who is doing what? By when?

  2. Plan out the series and share the plan with everyone who needs to know – news editor, designers, social media desk… they all need to know somehow, whether it’s via email or by speaking up in planning meetings. Some desks have a preferred communication style, so use that. Check in with reporters to measure progress. Some things will be late. Don’t panic.

  3. Notify everyone as soon as the article is scheduled for publication. Overcommunicate – just make sure everyone who has to lift a single finger to push the damn thing in front of readers knows what they have to do and when they have to do it!

  4. Measure the reaction – reader comments, analytics, feedback from reporters’ sources. Note it down.

  5. Learn from the process and feedback. Make sure everyone involved learns too – otherwise, how else will you improve for next time?

Taking care of all of the above organisation and coordination lets reporters report and editors edit, yet pushing the desk forward with strategic story planning and coordination.

Enhance

To reach more readers, you have to enhance the storytelling to make the article as accessible as possible.

  • Focus on people and companies – tangible things every reader can relate to

  • Explain, explain, explain. Videos, graphics, text; readers need a ‘way in’. Some need a visual cue, others need the concept laid out in plain English. Doesn’t matter how, just ensure clarity

  • Clearly link to the rest of the series. It’s an understated, perhaps technical point – but if readers want more, give it to them! Keep them engaged.

  • Charts matter. In financial reporting, it’s often essential to have a chart or two. Keep them simple but make sure they tell a story – simply showing is not enough.

In the end, our series reached almost half a million page views, and attracted a vast amount of readers who don’t normally engage with Markets content. In short, Debt Machine was a success!