Tips from the most productive content teams
If we could give you a key to greater productivity, a key that could by magic give you back some of your nights and weekends, what do think that would look like? We are guessing you would not expect it to resemble a workflow.
However, your workflow if it is not efficient may be stealing your nights and weekends.
The content marketing workflow
The content marketing workflow stages look something like this:
Developing content ideas
Prioritizing content development
Organizing and storing
Publishing and promoting
As a content team moves through each of these stages, data often moves from spreadsheets to emails to Word documents back and forth. It is full of inefficiencies, and content producers find themselves feeling overworked, frustrated, and unproductive.
By adopting these 25 habits, you can make improvements to your workflow for getting results like these:
- Spending fewer nights and weekends on work
- Making more fruitful budget requests
- Coordinating efforts across platforms
- Increasing appreciation and visibility for your team
- Simplifying approval processes
- Search everywhere for ideas for content
Offer encouragement to everyone in your organization – including those who are not involved in creating content – to submit their ideas.
Search for ideas from the following areas:
- Customer feedback
- Material you read
- People you are in disagreement with
- Customer-oriented teams (sales and customer service)
- Industry press
- Conferences, webinars and panels
- Hashtags used in Twitter
- LinkedIn questions and answers
- Things you find stupid
- Establish a content production process
Create a process to enable people to suggest, request or share content and ideas. This can be internally with your business or you can call on suggestions from outside with a request process. For example, you might use a web form, dedicated email address, or work-management tool. Keeping a running document of your processes, ensure everyone understands it, and make it a requirement for everyone to follow the same system.
- Select an owner of the process
Designate a person managing the processes of requested content. This may turn a complex and inefficient process into an easy one. This person does not necessarily have to do a lot of work they act as a coordinator sorting and organizing ideas as they come in, simplifying work of the editorial team.
- Include creative briefs with each request
Make it a requirement every content request should include a creative brief for the producers to have all background information they need to create content that meets the brief and has impact. The creative brief should assist everyone involved understand what the ultimate goals are for all content. Create a template for content briefs that applies to all kinds of content. Keeping the creative brief as simple as possible but communicate enough information to ensure the criteria is met.
- Identify the business goals of each request
Ask requesters to link every content idea to a clear business goal. Is the content likely to drive income? If not, how is the content useful? What is its effect likely to be, and how is this effect going to be measurable? For example, you expect a quality blog post will get people to visit your blog more frequently. Perhaps you expect a single piece of content will generate more leads or sales? The people who will create the content need to understand its purpose and business value as intended.
- Know the context of each request
Ask content requesters questions such as how the content should be targeted; what context would this content have an impact in; how it fits with existing content; how it supports a wider strategy.
- Set up a content-distribution strategy
Understand early how you will distribute each piece of content. Do not assume how that content is going to get out there. Ensure whoever is responsible for distribution knows why they are doing it. Before you create any content, think about the costs and the resources related to distributing it effectively. Then ensure your strategy for distribution fits with your budget and your target.
- Identify all content formats and types you need
Think about all formats and types of content you need to back up your content goals. Are you going to need images for social media? Infographics? Blog posts? Videos? Landing pages? Work out all the types and formats of content you need to be effective.
- Prioritize all requests for content
Do not consider all content requests as equal. Establishing a system for prioritizing is important, especially when it is a small team or the resources you have are limited. Check your priority list regularly. Do not undertake a project just because it lands in your lap. Consider what the impact of the will be and factor in what effect timing could have on that impact.
- Know the amount of work you can commit to
Identify which parts of your business you support. Decide who you are answerable to within your business and who you are not.
Then decide how to allocate time across the parts of the business you have identified.
- Handle random requests consistently
Expect the unexpected. Requests ad-hoc will happen and it can detract from a content team’s prioritized work. Think about setting rules for how you will deal with random requests. Some content teams allow for only one of these requests to be worked on at any time.
Having a plan in place will reduce the number of these requests and help you keep your strategy on schedule. It will also help avoid burnout in your content team.
- Consistently respond to requesters
Keep requesters informed of the process. After a content request has been submitted to you, do not let that request disappear into the ether. People want to be updated every step of the way. Establish a communication process with requesters. Inform them if you reject their ideas, accept their ideas, and if more information is needed. Communicate with them about the production timeline.
- Know when to say no
It is as simple as that know when to say no. The more you are communicating your priorities and the outcomes you are working toward, the more saying no becomes easier. Every time you say no you make it easier for your management to understand you need more resources.
- Create templates for content
Templates assist authors to consistently and efficiently create content. Make a template for all types of content you produce: press releases, e-books, brochures, etc. If you set out the structure of each type of content, how much time it takes, your team sees what they should be doing.
- Design a reminder system
Create a reminder system to help you stay on track with your content milestones. They do not have to be automated alerts or emails. A simple to-do list in a pad on your desk can be just as efficient.
- Identify your producers, reviewers and approvers
Understand who produces, reviews and approves content at every stage of your process. When expectations are not clear inefficiencies can arise. For example if you send draft examples of content to people who do not need to see it you are wasting their time and your own.
- Create an accountability environment
People will not always follow even the smoothest review process, they are busy, get distracted or they procrastinate. With each producer, reviewer and approver make it clear what you expect and when you expect it. Ask each party to try to commit to delivering what is needed on time.
All links in the chain need to know where a piece of content stands in the process. Stakeholders need to know what is planned for the future. Things as simple as someone taking a vacation needs to be known about by all. Content production never has a true endpoint – the work is ongoing. Seek feedback at every stage of the process so you know where things are working and where improvements could be made.
- Know what "completed" looks like
For content to move forward smoothly the whole team should understand when a piece of content is completed.
- Make a decision on where to store files
When content is completed, where do you put the files? How can others access the files? Store your files of content in a place that is accessible to anybody who needs it.
- Make file names consistent
Set up file-naming conventions. When you name files in a consistent way, you can sort them easily. For example starting each file name with the date.
- Publish at the right time
Just because content is completed does not mean it is time to publish it. Be flexible in selecting when completed content is published then you can be strategic in publication and promotion. For example a package of content rolled out over a few days may have more impact.
- Integrate your promotion with your content
Whoever is promoting your content keep those people informed so they have resources and plans in place for when the content is ready.
- Develop promotional best practices
Find the best content-promoting practices for your organization. Work out which hashtags work best in your social media posts. Recycle your best older blog posts. Whatever works best, do it and do it regularly.
The better you and all of those you work with understand how your content workflow should operate, the more productive.