You have your documented content marketing strategy. You know your tactics. It’s working. Content marketing is working for you. What do you do now? Sit back, relax, and watch your strategic content pull in lead after glorious lead? Well, yes … but no too. It’s time to get more strategic about how you’re working. As in, actually doing the work. Let me explain.
For the last few years, CMI has hit content marketers hard with the message that they must have a documented content marketing strategy to be more successful. The research shows that 53% of the most effective B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. In contrast, 40% of the least effective marketers have no strategy at all.
A documented content marketing strategy, CMI reports, makes marketers more likely to consider their content marketing efforts, tactics, and channels as effective and helps them to justify higher content marketing budgets to the CMO.
Enter workflow documentation
Similar in importance to a documented content marketing strategy is a documented workflow. A written content marketing workflow provides structure to your processes and increases your execution efficiency. With a documented workflow, you will empower your team with:
A written #contentmarketing workflow provides structure to your processes & increases execution efficiency.
- Clear visibility of the proper processes for producing content
- Better understanding of how dependencies affect processes
- More efficiency to deliver content on time
- Increased clarity into when and how to push work forward
- More structure and speed around approvals and less rework
In turn, all of this documentation will save you time – sweet, sweet, precious time. You can focus that newly found time on being creative and developing more engaging content.
OK, get a paper and pen (or pencil if you don’t like commitment). Or get a white board and some markers. Then get your content team together and consider the following five stages of your workflow. Together, diagram the content development process – how it is or should be working. Make it visual.
Review the diagram to identify any fat you can cut from the way you’ve been doing things. Star those areas and make a note about what you want to change. Then, elect someone on your team to document your refined process. Whether writing the steps in a Word document, drawing it by hand, or diagramming it in flowchart form using free software like Lucidchart, the important thing is that you create something that can be seen and referenced by your team whenever they need it.
Stage 1: Requests and strategic ideation
Your team gets tons of requests for content and is always coming up with new ideas. But where are you capturing all of these requests and ideas? You need a process for how to do it and one place to collect them. It’s the only way you won’t lose track. To document this aspect of your workflow:
- Identify who needs to be involved in content requests and ideation. Consider where requests and ideas are coming from. Include the key members of your team, as well as relevant stakeholders and subject-matter experts in other departments.
- Create a central location or repository for requests and idea submissions. Require that all content requests and ideas be submitted in a standardized fashion to one place. You could create an email alias that goes to your team lead (e.g., email@example.com), an online form that auto-populates a shared spreadsheet, or a cloud-based solution. The repository also should serve as the place where you prioritize, and select content for production.
- Detail who needs to approve or review ideas. Make sure to include who needs to approve topics before work is begun, such as the sales team, internal subject-matter experts, or executives.
- Determine the sequence of work. Map out what has to happen in the ideation stage and in what order – brainstorm ideas, cull ideas, submit ideas, fill out a content brief, etc.
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Stage 2: Prioritization
The next step is to figure out how to prioritize and schedule content projects (whether large or small). If done correctly, this workflow stage will ensure that the content you produce is aligned with the strategic goals and initiatives of your company. To document this stage of your workflow:
- Choose a prioritizer. It’s best to have one person who is in charge of your request/idea repository and manages prioritizing. This could be a content marketing manager, managing editor, or someone with similar responsibilities.
- Map how and when to communicate priorities to your team/stakeholders. List content projects by priority and provide visibility to all team members and stakeholders.
- Add work to your editorial calendar. In your workflow documentation, draw a place for how, when, and by whom content should be added to your editorial calendar.
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Stage 3: Creation
Once it’s time to dive into content creation, your team needs to know what the execution process looks like. This stage likely contains a lot of moving parts. To document this stage:
- Identify milestones in your content process. Milestones are big chunks or accomplishments during execution such as writing, approvals, and design.
- Split milestones into smaller tasks. For the writing phase of execution, map out things like outlines, drafts, and approvals. Detail when content should go to design and who approves the final design. Make sure to include revisions and all rounds of approvals.
- List who is involved at each step. Many projects require more than one resource. Map generally (job roles) or specifically (team names) who should be involved in each step of the process you just documented.
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Stage 4: Publication and promotion
Now it’s time to map how you will publish and share your content with the world (ahem, I mean, your target audiences). To document this stage:
- Identify all relevant distribution channels. Social media? Paid advertising? Media pitching? Email nurturing? Map all the options you use (or might use). Make sure you align the right content with the most appropriate channel.
- Determine who is responsible for content distribution. You may have several teams or vendors who handle different distribution channels. Involve those teams to identify the point person(s) who should receive the approved content for distribution.
Stage 5: Content organization and storage
Depending on your team’s unique workflow, this stage may come before the publication and promotion stage. That’s OK. No matter which stage it is, having a documented workflow and processes for content organization and storage is a huge help because it helps you stay organized – easily tracking where documents live and at what stage in the process they are. To document this stage, answer these questions:
- Where will you store final files? Will you use a digital asset management system? A shared drive? Cloud-based storage? Whichever you choose, ensure that you have a single central location. Scattered documents can easily become a huge mess.
- How will you name your files? How will everyone know which file is really the final file? Create naming conventions as part of this process so everything is standardized.
- How will you organize your files? Which files should go to which folders in which places? Who is in charge of organizing and filing the final files in your storage system?
With your workflow mapped, refined, and documented, share it with everyone and anyone who may be involved so they see the processes and know how to work with your team better.
Documenting and sharing your content marketing workflow will save significant hours in the long run – hours you and your team once wasted by searching for files, letting content sit because there was uncertainty about where it should go next, passing files back and forth because there are misunderstandings about who owns what, and reworking content because an important stakeholder wasn’t included in approvals at the right time.
Another benefit of this documentation process is that it will make it easier for you to see how to become even more efficient with a few tweaks or changes as time passes and things change within your organization – making content marketing a better experience for everyone.
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Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute