When you are planning a publication, you should always have a schedule or project plan in place.

The schedule needs to include time for:

  • preparing a brief
  • appointing external writers, designers, printers as necessary
  • copywriting, either externally or in-house
  • preparing illustrations/photography
  • design and approval of draft design
  • proofreading and final sign off of proofs for printing
  • printing
  • delivery
  • distribution.

Preparing a schedule

Draw up the schedule by working back from your absolute final deadline (for example a conference at which a report is due to be launched).

Build in enough contingency time to deal with problems. For example, don't plan your schedule so that a key report is delivered on the morning of the conference at which it is launched. This allows you no margin for error if the delivery fails to arrive or if the report has been printed incorrectly.

Be sure to allow adequate time for each stage of the process. External writers, designers and printers will tell you how much time they need to complete each stage. If time is tight, you can put them under pressure to work faster but make sure this doesn't compromise quality. This is particularly important where printing is concerned.

If you are writing the material in-house and are relying on people within your team to produce different sections, always give people deadlines some way ahead of when you actually need the material. This gives you contingency time to deal with people who don't deliver on time and to redraft material if necessary. This is particularly important for publications like annual reports.

Remember that someone within your organisation has to be available at key stages. For example, all designers and printers will require the commissioning organisation to sign off proofs before they can finish the job. If they are not available, this will hold up your schedule.