It would be amazing if content just fell out of the sky, but that seems unlikely unless Buzzfeed finds a way to control the weather. Many components go into creating a single piece of content, but the process becomes more complicated when you factor in the multiple pieces of content needed each week, month and year.
That process, from inception to publication, can be an obstacle for many organizations. A study conducted by Gleanster and Kapost pointed to managing the overall content creation process as the No. 1 issue for mid-to-large sized businesses.
The same report notes:
“Indeed, further probing revealed that 52 percent of firms frequently miss deadlines from approval delays, collaboration, and ‘general chaos’ in content production processes; all areas of significant concern for senior marketing leaders given the fact that 55 percent of annual budget and over a third of internal resource’s time is committed to content marketing.”
As you can see, the content creation process isn’t as easy as it seems. That’s why managing it effectively is so critical to your content marketing efforts. Let us show you how to take control of your content!
Put a Team Together
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work” at some point. It might be the origin for many a meme, but it’s also true, especially in the workplace. Creating content requires people with different skills and jobs to work together to achieve a common goal.
As Andy Crestodina says when it comes to building high performing teams around content creation, “[I]t’s both creative and technical. It’s qualitative and quantitative. There are both opinions and numbers, and these people should compliment each other on their skills.”
Let’s cover who might be necessary to your team:
- Copywriters: Someone has to come up with all those witty turns of phrase. Copywriters are responsible for anything written from social media posts to blogs to ebooks.
- Graphic designers: Designers drive your visuals. They produce things like custom images and infographics for social media posts and blogs. Chances are, they also have a hand in your website design.
- Project managers: While they might not write or design anything, project managers are responsible for dealing with individual members of the team and overseeing the progress of a particular project.
- Social media managers: Once content is created, it needs to be posted on a regular schedule and monitored. That’s where social media managers come in. Often, they’re also account managers, writers or managing editors.
- Managing editor: Managing editors typically schedule the editorial calendars, track progress on assignments and generally guide and edit content. They’re regularly directing traffic and preventing mishaps.
- Researcher: Data is crucial for marketers, especially in an era of fake news and deep fakes. Researchers seek out and put together pertinent information for the rest of the team. It’s an important step in creating effective, factual content.
Need more tips for putting the right team together? We cover this topic in our FREE eBook, The Brand Publishing Roadmap!
Now that you have a team assembled, it’s time to start working, right? Well, yes and no. Before anything’s drafted you need an editorial process and guidelines.
Write It Down
Do you really have an editorial process if it’s not written down? The answer to that is no. Whatever your process might be, it needs to be concrete, unambiguous and documented someplace accessible to all team members.
Write a step-by-step account of the workflow. For instance, here’s a process you might follow:
- Research: Again, data is crucial. Before you even begin to think about drafting anything, take a look at where you were and where you’re going. Gather information on the key performance indicators (KPIs) and other measures for your published content and compile it into a report. Write out explicitly what data should be included to help your team gather further insight.
- Prepare: Take a look at the coming month or quarter, keeping in mind the data you’ve just collected, and create a playbook. It should include your content needs (number and type of content), any relevant events, and mandatory deliverables and themes.
- Brainstorm: Draft some ideas (remember this is brainstorming, they don’t all have to be perfect), considering the available information and gradually start culling the best ones until you have something to run with.
- Assign: Write your editorial calendars (keep reading further for more information on calendars). It should include assignments and due dates for copy, graphics and edits. It must also include dates for review, approval and publication.
- Create: Let your creatives do what they do and start writing, designing and photographing!
- Review: Everyone needs an editor. After you’ve created your content, at least one, but ideally, more than one person should review the content for grammar, style, tone and creativity.
- Edit: Once you have feedback, make changes as necessary. Keep refining each piece until it’s the best it can be!
- Approve: You’re almost home free! The penultimate step is to get internal or external approval, depending on your workflow. If there are any final changes, make them as quickly as possible.
- Publish: Hit post!
While you’re at it, go ahead and decide where you’ll keep files, how to name those files and how they’ll be organized. If all of this is easier to visualize, turn it into a flow chart with a free program like Lucidchart!
For the sake of consistency, follow these tips for taking your voice out of your brand and creating structured guidelines.
Create Editorial Calendars
We alluded to it earlier, but these tasks and deadlines should be recorded in an editorial calendar. Planning your posts in advance allows you time to workshop them to achieve the best possible result and eliminates last-minute scrambling. As the Content Marketing Institute notes, calendars ensure a consistent flow of content and keep everyone on the same page.
It’s also highly recommended to keep multiple calendars—one for each project and a master calendar that keeps track of everything. The master calendar breaks down all key dates and assignments day-by-day each week. It can also be used to track and assign deadlines for edits, graphics and approval. This provides an overview of the whole operation at glance and creates a system of accountability.
To learn more about editorial planning and the necessary questions to ask during your process, learn more in our eBook, The Brand Publishing Roadmap.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Utilize Tech to Save Time
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s a lot to keep track of!” And you’re right, but there are plenty of simple tools out there that marketers can employ. A Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel document is probably the most common way to write a master editorial calendar. You can find numerous templates with a simple Google search. For individual brand initiatives, something with calendar and workflow functions, like PowerPost, may be more appropriate. Some marketers also utilize tools such as Trello and Basecamp in addition to editorial calendars. They allow you to tag individuals, assign tasks, set to-do lists and make content requests.
Writing this out serves another purpose, too. By definition, you’re defining your resources. You can rather easily see what needs to be done in the short term and the long term and who is available to accomplish your goals. This way, you’re able to use your assets effectively and efficiently.
It might seem like a lot of work, but it will be worth it. The study from Gleanster and Kapost also found that marketers that invested in optimizing their content marketing processes created twice as much content as their peers and did it 163 percent faster.
Still, there’s something else to consider unless you want to waste time editing the same mistakes over and over again each content cycle…
Write with Style
In addition to an editorial process, you’ll require standard editorial guidelines much like a news organization. Kate Abrosimova, co-founder and CEO of Kaiiax, a copywriting agency, has this to say about it:
“Creating content without a style guide is like baking a pie without a recipe — especially true if you have a large team of writers and you need their collective work to look and sound like it comes from the same company.
A style guide is the bedrock of marketing communications for any brand that does marketing. It lays out a set of rules and writing standards that ensure your audience recognizes your brand in various formats across all channels.”
She suggests several steps to develop your own style guide:
- Start with an existing style manual like the AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style and go from there.
- Create a list of confusing or problematic words that people can’t seem to agree on and make a decision. For instance, e-commerce vs. e-commerce or Internet vs. internet.
- Include a section with the most common grammar and punctuation questions. They’ll most likely be addressed in other areas of the style guide, but it’s a helpful shortcut.
- Define your tone and style as a marketing firm for owned content, but also define buyer personas.
- Illustrate what images should be used and what they should look like.
- Find out what types of visual content creation other brand’s are experience high-success within our blog, “Top Articles on Visual Content Creation.”
- Be very specific about how your content should be formatted. Lay out what headers should be used, how to list items and what kind of paragraphs you’re looking for.
- Create a list of trusted, quality sources for any content that requires research.
These guidelines do more than keep content uniform, though. They also aid the content creation process by saving valuable time on writing and editing.
The Long Game
By managing your content creation process with documented roles, processes and guidelines, you’ll save time in the long run. Everyone will be apprised of what they need to do, where to find the necessary assets and who to pass the project on to next.
After a month or two, you might start to spot inefficiencies and chokepoints and become even more efficient. As you continue to fine-tune your content creation process, the whole experience will improve and lead to even more content that converts for brand success.