Hello, I'm a producer

by Iain Broome
Posted on 1 April 2016
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I've been at Yoomee for just over a month. I'm a Senior Producer and I've been managing projects, creating content and making all things digital for more than 12 years. I could tell you about my favourite food (broad beans) or my brief time as a lorry driver (true story), but you might be more interested in what it means to be a producer. Like, what do we do? And how do we do it?

What is a producer?

There is no one answer to that question. A producer must wear many hats and have a broad set of skills.

At Yoomee, we design and run co-creation workshops, develop content strategies and manage the day-to-day running of projects. It's our job to listen carefully and make things happen. We keep things on track and make sure that the client's and end user's voices are heard in everything we do.

Producers at Yoomee work on multiple projects at once. We research, plan and help the team turn clients' briefs into living, breathing digital products.

But being a producer isn't just about what we do, it's how we do it. Enthusiasm and empathy go a long way, especially when the people who use what we create are marginalised, vulnerable or facing a specific challenge.

My background

Producers tend to have overlapping skills but specialise in one area. My own background is in writing for the web, creating and managing all kinds of content and, more recently, education.

My first job saw me immersed in the world of plain English. I spent hour after hour writing and editing content to make it as clear and concise as possible. If you want someone to turn 100 words into 50 without losing any meaning, I'm your man.

I then spent nearly seven years honing my craft and learning every day at my first design agency. It's where I developed one of the core skills of being a producer: listening.

I also wrote and produced learning materials, websites and communications campaigns for a wide range of organisations. From wireframes and site reviews to coming up with fancy straplines, you name it, I did it. Those seven years were a great grounding.

Before joining Yoomee, I worked for Cornerstones Education to produce a creative curriculum and other educational products for primary schools. I developed learning materials and resources that are used in thousands of classrooms across England and Wales.

If you're a producer or content creator, I can heartily recommend spending time working in an unfamiliar sector. I'd worked on educational projects for years, but now I do it with an intimate knowledge of the national curriculum and what both teachers and children really need.

Finally, while doing all of the above, I wrote my debut novel, A is for Angelica, which was published in 2012 by Legend Press.

My producer toolkit

Producers use a range of apps, tools and, most importantly, different-coloured Post-it notes. Producers just love Post-it notes.

Below is a short list of the things I use on a daily basis to get things done. I've picked examples that can be used by pretty much anyone, including our clients. You don't have to work in digital or even be at all technical to find them useful.

These tools are for getting things done and making things happen, whoever you are and whatever you do.

Trello

I used Trello before I joined Yoomee, so I was pleased to find the team here use it too. Trello is a collaboration tool that allows us to organise projects into boards. Each board contains cards that can be moved between columns, which means we can see what everyone is working on at any given time. We often share boards with clients too, so they can see a project's progress and watch our Agile process in action.

Trello has many other uses too. It's a pretty good place to dump information and get ideas out of your brainbox and into the open. I've also previously used Trello to manage content flow as part of a strict publishing schedule. It's so flexible and we use it every day at Yoomee.

Google Docs

Google Docs is more than an alternative to Microsoft Word. It allows two or more people to work inside a document at the same time, which can be incredibly useful. We use it to collaborate on documents and even share them with clients to collect feedback early and often.

One little trick with Google Docs is the ability to make a document public. If you want to quickly create a document that anyone can see and refer to, that feature is really handy. For example, you can publish a perfectly functional style guide via Google Docs and simply edit the document to keep it maintained.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a popular platform for starting and managing a mailing list. I've used it for years to run my own newsletter and it makes it very easy to build an audience. As a producer, I've previously used it to communicate with a customer base of nearly 20,000 people.

There are two Mailchimp features that make it especially useful for some clients. First, you can put subscribers in different groups to make sure they only receive emails that are relevant to them. Second, Mailchimp has fantastic automation workflows that make it easy to deliver staggered learning, campaign or sign-up content.

Free resources from the Plain English Campaign

Some people think plain English means dumbing down, but that's not true at all. It's about understanding your audience and communicating in the clearest, most appropriate way. It's taking complex information and making it easy for anyone to digest. For people who struggle to read, for whatever reason, content written in plain English is essential.

The Plain English Campaign is the place to go for all things plain English. The clue is in the name. Their site includes a series of free resources that I still refer to often. From basic plain English rules to a list of words to avoid, you'll find something that can help improve your writing quickly.

Appear.in and Skype

We like to speak to clients (and each other) face-to-face as much as we can. Sometimes that's just not possible so we use Skype for video conference calls. We also use Appear.in, which is completely free and doesn't require an account to use. Create a 'room', share the link and hey presto, video chat with multiple people.

Apart from the personal touch of being able to see each other from afar, both Skype and Appear.in allow us to share screens. This is particularly useful when we want to show and discuss what we're working on with clients. Again, we can collect feedback quickly and without needing to be in the same place.

Good old pen and Post-its

For many tasks, a fresh Sharpie and a pile of Post-it notes is all a producer really needs. If we want to collect ideas in a workshop or meeting, we use Post-it notes. If we want to group information or come up with a creative solution, we use Post-it notes. Need to start planning and scheduling a six-month website project? Post-it notes.

There's something about the analogue nature of Post-it notes that really helps get ideas down fast, especially at the start of a project. Sometimes, we'll transfer the Post-its to a Trello board to organise and share information. But to collaborate and get going quickly, we like to start away from our screens.

So here I am

That's a small insight into the world of a producer and a little bit about me. If you have any questions about the tools I've mentioned or the role of a producer, feel free to email [email protected] and I'm @iainbroome on Twitter. I also provide solid information on broad beans and lorry driving.

Posted on 1 April 2016 - By Iain Broome
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