Sign of the Times

imageI like to write about the things that we do in SharePoint that are the things we always wanted to do in SharePoint. Unfortunately, SharePoint is a double-edged sword and sometimes we put things in SharePoint because they work better there, but it wasn’t part of the plan. We have a training program at work and one component of the program is a newsletter. Lately, it’s been hard to get a newsletter published; not because there isn’t news or interest, but because it’s a production. Starting Monday, the newsletter is going digital in SharePoint.

This was a hard decision to make, and it’s not one that I really like. There is a big part of me that prefers writing, editing and laying out the 2-sided Tabloid production that was our newsletter. Then again, these days, by the time we get a full paper, the lead stories are old news. Information travels faster than the all-volunteer network designed to keep the newsletter afloat. Also, since the newsletter was produced in InDesign, only a few people could actually edit/produce the final copy, and most of them had to be in the office to do that work. The benefits of publishing a newsletter in SharePoint are too numerous to ignore.

Real-time Any Time – We don’t have to wait for the “next issue” to come out to help people learn new things. When someone says “I think I have an idea for the newsletter”, I can say: “that’s great, go here and write it!” News can be up-to-date, stories can have a temporal element without worrying about whether or not the deadline will be met. Articles can appear and disappear when it makes sense for them to do so. I don’t have to beg volunteers to meet a deadline. This last item was one of the tasks I hated; everybody writing an article has a day-job, bugging them to keep a promise on schedule was never fun.

Anyone Can Publish – Releasing ourselves from the bond of InDesign, opens the door for anyone to contribute. We are using Rich-Text part for the content, so people can format well enough and since we aren’t printing hard copies, a typo here and there won’t be a show-stopper (trust me, I’ll hear about them and they will get fixed). This also relieves me of an uncomfortable duty – editing. When editing, I was always faced with sets competing goals: A) the newsletter should have a consistent voice. B) Articles should be in the words of the authors. A) Articles should contain the content the author wanted to contribute. B) Only so much text fits on the page. B ½) We can only tolerate so much whitespace and or use so many graphics and callout boxes. Now, articles can be as long or as short as the author feels necessary.

Comfortable Process – SharePoint has the tools to make it easy for a group of people to publish a common document. To be honest, I’m not sure which of those many tools we are going to use. I do know that the authors will be able to go to the newsletter site, create their content and share it with their coworkers. Given our small size, I’m not sure we need to build out a publishing site. Right now, I am thinking along the lines of a single page with a few references / related stories – besides, this is SharePoint, we can grow as necessary. The important part of the process is the missing part. They won’t have to email a Word document to me or the woman who did the layout of the newsletter. We won’t have to discuss changes, or show them drafts before we print.

Hopefully, this change brings good things. If people get more comfortable using SharePoint as a content creation platform, I’ll be happy. If they share their insight and experience with the rest of us, it will make up for the loss of a paper newsletter. I know one person who will totally welcome this change, my wife. She proofreads most everything I write, and I usually dumped the “final” draft of the newsletter on her the day before it was to be printed. Hmm, maybe I’ll set up an approval workflow…

4 thoughts on “Sign of the Times

  1. It's a question of form vs function. Since the point of a newsletter really is the content, making it look like a traditional newsletter is at best a secondary concern. At my old job, every article we wrote went through InDesign, and honestly, it really slowed down the editorial process. Doing it in google docs (or sharepoint, had we had it) would've been quick, dirty and effective.

  2. Claire, I think you hit the nail on the head. A great looking newsletter that contains old news, isn't really providing much value.Thanks,Dan

  3. Hi Dan!I found this post while searching for 'how-tos' on developing a newsletter with Sharepoint. How is your's working out? I'd love to hear some tips!

  4. We are making small progress with this concept, but I don't think we have figured the process out well enough to be offering tips. This issue we struggle with is getting users engaged. We are working on an expanded service, one that involves feeds from social media and news relavant to our industry. I hope to follow this post up with an article on that. I also hope I'll have a success story to tell.Dan

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