This article is Part Three of a series on the needs of a content-centric marketing organization. Read the full series for more coverage.
You’re likely familiar with the legend of King Minos of Crete—the powerful ruler of Athens who built a giant, inescapable labyrinth in his palace to keep the monstrous Minotaur (and hundreds of unlucky citizens) ensnared forever within its walls.
But have you heard the story of King Marketer of Content? A noble content marketer, he worked tirelessly, building a prosperous production process to create and distribute consistent content to citizens far and wide across the kingdom. Unfortunately, despite his dream of running a content-centric empire, King Content and his team found themselves trapped in a labyrinth of inefficient content creation: unable to navigate past the obstacles of creative ideation, scheduling conflicts, endless edits, and tricky stakeholder approvals.
The people demanded case studies, infographics, articles, and podcasts! However, the King’s organization struggled to publish enough new material to satisfy such a high desire for storytelling. Without the right management system in place to guide the way—a true Theseus of martech—their content creation goals were always hitting a dead end . . . or being scrapped and replaced with entirely new concepts.
If you’re tired of letting your content get sacrificed to the Minotaur, you need powerful technology that aligns with your content strategy and ensures that your publishing processes are on a straightforward path from creation to final approval. Only then will you be able to break free from the content creation labyrinth.
If marketers can learn anything from myths, it’s that a thriving content marketing process must start with a dedicated, brave-hearted champion. In this case, that means building and maintaining a detailed editorial content calendar to manage your content creation workflow. An effective editorial calendar acts as the interactive map, allowing entire companies to understand the status of all their content by capturing both the big picture and the intricacies of day-to-day publishing.
If your organization’s content planning system currently consists of a couple of scattered spreadsheets and a handful of reminders to publish tie-in pieces for holidays, your workflow will eventually break down and get eaten alive. As your audience expands and you need more frequent content to meet demand, a cross-functional, scalable editorial calendar is necessary to organize and propel your publishing volume.
A major benefit of a content marketing platform is removing the burden of manually tracking and updating submission and publishing deadlines. You should never leave the timeline expectations for your content to divine intervention from the messenger gods (or an “urgent” Gmail alert.) Having an automatic messaging system to notify creators and editors of upcoming due dates and inform managers immediately of any missed deadlines allows you to guard against potential publishing gaps before it’s too late.
A high-performing content marketing program is never an army of one. You need to enlist a team of strong creators to build out an authoritative, robust content canon. While there’s no shortage of freelancers looking for work, experienced marketers recognize the need to find talent who can best speak to their brand’s needs. When evaluating which creators have the chops to communicate to your target audience, you want to be on the look out a few key qualities: expertise, experience, and availability.
Working with freelancers who are specialists in specific subject matter or who have strong, relevant experience in your industry will elevate the value of your content and save your team hours of time that would otherwise be spent revising and coaching. Search out those strong contenders who have built up a portfolio of relevant work so you can feel confident that they’ll be capable of meeting all of your assignment needs.
As you narrow down your creative pool to the most confident and courageous candidates, remember to consider how each person interacts with your marketing team. You never want to be out on the front lines, facing down an impending due date, only to find out a writer has disappeared before delivering. Finding and evaluating creators for your content efforts should be a careful process that you can trust will result in an impressive work force of brand advocates.
Even with all his bravery, training, and a fully filled-out content calendar, a content marketer still needs the right resources to make sure the content creation process is moving in the right direction. For Theseus, this was a ball of thread given to him by the lovely princess Ariadne to keep track of his journey. For content managers, your guiding threads are your brand and content strategy guidelines and powerful content evaluation tools.
Documentation of your content strategy is essential to maintaining a consistent message across all of your content distribution channels. By also setting out clear content standards, such as your company’s specific terminology, preferred style guide, and acceptable list of source publications, you’ll save yourself hours of frustrating revisions. Once you’ve got your content strategy and editorial approach written out, make sure all of this information is readily available to your creators as they work, and they’ll be able to follow a clear line from idea to finished content.
By giving creators access to the larger business objectives and organizational strategy in the form of distinct, fully-fleshed out personas and stages of the customer journey, you prevent your content from feeling aimless and misaligned with your brand mission. Having these grander content pillars integrated throughout each step in the creation process shows how each individual content piece fits into the bigger picture and gives them a deeper understanding of why this content is needed at this particular time. Without the strategic background, creators may produce something separate from the original end goal. And when you’re trying to make it to the end of the maze, the last thing you want is for someone to suddenly split off from the group.
Image attribution: Simon Migaj
When you’re managing content at scale across an enterprise, it’s unsustainable for your team to regularly remind creators of your quality standards and manually check that each piece is optimized for search, social, and anywhere else your readers might discover it. Content marketing software that evaluates the quality of content through automatic scorecards before it can even be submitted eliminates the risk of that content taking a wrong turn by checking for SEO standards, word count, duplicate content, and readability. Your content checklist and customizable scorecards will be the lifesaving threads that guide your creators down the right path so that all content that reaches your customers will be designed to meet all of your greater marketing initiatives.
As with all great kingdoms, running a truly powerful content marketing organization means establishing a company-wide content governance plan for handling revisions and approvals. To keep up with the momentum of your content production, you first need to define each stage and assign responsibilities for specific areas within your organization, making sure everyone involved in content review is making the best use of their time and resources. Let’s just say there’s a reason why no one asked King Minos to go slay the Minotaur himself, and it’s the same reason your CMO shouldn’t be tasked with searching every final draft for missing commas.
The most efficient management systems will allow organizations to set role-specific permissions, establishing a clear chain of command for each piece of content under review. For example, once a draft is submitted by a content writer, it may undergo a first round of review by a copy editor before being turned over to the content manager, who reviews for brand alignment.
From here, your marketing team can send off the draft for any necessary stakeholder or legal approvals. Pre-establishing each individual’s role in the review process allows your company to take advantage of every person’s specific skill set and eliminates issues of inconsistent feedback or redundant corrections that can otherwise threaten to bring the publishing schedule to a grinding halt.
For some marketing teams, getting trapped in a cycle of overly fussy email threads, debating whether a comma or a dash works better in that one article headline, can feel as painful as losing a limb to a ravenous bull.
Instead, marketers need to remove potential detours and guide content past those final internal walls so that it can deliver your brand’s messages to your target audience. With a reliable system at your disposal to streamline each step of production, you never have to fear your content creation process turning into a confusing, terrifying labyrinth.
You’ve entered the modern age of running a thriving, content-centric enterprise and with it built a sturdy, scalable content pipeline that will let each new piece content you create transition smoothly from ideation to distribution, even as your company’s publishing cadence continues to expand over time.
With the right resources in place, laying the path for your content creation workflow, you’ll be able to steadily grow your content in volume and quality, maintaining a steady publication pace and above all, telling incredible, high-quality brand stories that will engage audiences for centuries to come.
Read the full series for more on the needs of a content-centric marketing organization.
Featured image attribution: Burst