Content Strategy

Smooth Out Your Content Workflow with These Six Strategies

By Liz Alton on July 22, 2020

Your content workflow and operations can make or break the success of your larger content marketing efforts. Without a carefully designed workflow, you're destined to hit roadblocks and pitfalls that can slow progress, hurt your content's quality, and ultimately set your team up to fail. Nevertheless, few brand marketing teams consider their game plans to be home runs.

Although 80 percent of today's leading marketers rate their content marketing efforts as at least moderately successful, according to research by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only around 5 percent call their efforts very successful. In order to elevate your endeavors from good to great, you'll need a smooth content workflow.

Use these six strategies to establish an efficient workflow that sets your brand apart in the highly competitive world of content marketing.

1. Focus on Your Audience

Effective content resonates with your audience. And while much of the alignment needed for audience-centric content happens during the strategy stage, it's important that your assets align with the larger customer journey.

Consider, for instance, a B2B buyer who's beginning to research a large software purchase online; they're likely to start by reading about the technology before they narrow in on specific brands, look at their offerings, and eventually land on the solution that best meets their needs. An effective content operations plan moves customers along these sorts of journeys.

Simple ways to keep your audience top of mind during content creation include:

  • Starting with audience personas. Whether they're producing new content or creating distribution plans, your team will want to reference the same audience profiles at every stage for deeper alignment.
  • Mapping content to customer journey stages. From discovery to post-sale, customer journey stages should be tied to content so assets are more relevant and positioned for better search success.

2. Limit Input

As the saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen can quickly spell disaster. The same is true for content development. When you try to incorporate too many ideas and opinions, you risk creating off-brand content that doesn't accomplish its intended purpose.

There are a few ways you can streamline operations in the interest of better content quality, including:

  • Assigning a purpose to each piece of content. This allows everyone weighing in on the process to have the same guiding principles in mind.
  • Limiting who's involved in planning. Whenever possible, keep guest lists small for brainstorming sessions and campaign planning meetings. Ideally, you'll want to only invite essential stakeholders and those who can make distinct contributions so these conversations are as productive as possible.
  • Simplifying the content review process. Reduce the number of people involved in reviews and designate one individual, such as a content manager, as the key point of contact. Integrate feedback from these key players, but try to keep revisions to a minimum so content doesn't grow stagnant.

3. Have Go-To Guidelines

Often, organizations will have binders of rules dictating the use of their logo but precious few pages to guide content creation. Yet having clear content guidelines is crucial to keep brand tone consistent, guarantee your program goals are being considered, and ultimately ensure internal staffers and freelancers are on the same page.

When creating how-to guidelines, you'll want to include the purpose of your content, who your audience is, as well as specific notes on style and brand voice. In doing so, it helps to:

  • Choose a style guide. Whether you select the Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press Stylebook, or something else, an established stylebook helps you keep the editorial aspects of your workflow consistent.
  • Set reminders to update your guidelines. Periodically reviewing these documents lets you keep pace with current language preferences and properly relay strategy shifts. Just make sure to always share changes with your team.

content operations

Photo attribution: Christina @ on Unsplash.

4. Know Who Does What

When your content workflow is complex, project management and execution become all the more challenging. Without clearly defined roles and project timelines, you run the risk of seeing team squabbles, a lack of ownership, and the addition of unnecessary workflow layers.

To create a culture of accountability and ensure everyone knows where their role begins and ends in the content creation process, consider:

  • Using a centralized calendar. Having a system to keep track of publication dates and workback dates for deliverables, such as creative briefs, drafts, and reviews, makes organizing and scheduling content much easier.
  • Identifying key stakeholders on projects. For example, if an SME has final approval over blog posts being published with their byline, that's something your team should know. By outlining authority and tying it to specific steps in the editorial process, you'll have clear follow-up paths so everyone can get more done.
  • Creating a simple, standardized process. Whether it's holding regular team meetings or relying on easy-to-reference project management solutions, having a system in place for reviewing work in progress and charting next steps promotes collaboration and efficiency.

5. Define Stages of Production

Keeping content on track relies on knowing where it is and what it needs to keep moving. From developing initial concepts and writing creative briefs to crafting first drafts and scheduling distribution, the stages of production should be outlined for each asset to promote a better workflow and consistent content success.

For example, consider what happens when social content is developed: Your team might have to conduct or oversee campaign tie-ins, platform suggestions, copywriting, image selection, copy editing, legal review, and more. Following these steps can help you smooth out each stage of production:

  1. Define a clear content operations workflow for each type of asset.
  2. Document those steps in a project management system that prompts stakeholders at each stage.
  3. Assign a manager or project lead to follow the progress of content, drive the content development process, and manage timely completion of assets.

6. Evolve, Evolve, Evolve

Just like content marketing as a whole, your business is constantly evolving. As brand goals shift and human and financial resources change, you'll need to be light on your feet to strategically switch up processes and implement new solutions. It's crucial to keep communication flowing so you can address bottlenecks and effectively problem-solve on the fly.

To ensure your operation is always evolving in the right direction, consider strategies such as:

  • Regularly auditing your processes. Perhaps you're not allocating enough time for busy SMEs to fit in a content review, or you're allowing two days for scheduling content when the task can be handled in minutes. Assessing processes allows you to update your workflow for better performance.
  • Asking team members for feedback. Individuals involved in different parts of the process have unique levels of visibility, so they might be able to bring forth challenges or opportunities for improvement that you've missed.
  • Outsourcing duties: If your content operations are scaling faster than your growth can support, it may be worth bringing in outside partners, freelance SMEs or creatives, or other individuals to help smooth out the workflow.

Achieving content marketing excellence requires an efficient content workflow. When your workflow centers on your audience's journey, leans into best practices and repeatable processes, and focuses on building lean and effective blocks at each stage of the game, you'll be well on your way to creating assets that satisfy your audience, support your larger marketing goals, and help expand your brand's reach. By identifying where wrinkles in your operations are slowing you down and applying the insights shared above, you can begin to lay the foundation for long-term content marketing success.

Ready to learn more about powering effective content operations? Download Skyword's Content Marketing Excellence white paper.

Featured image attribution: Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash.


Liz Alton

Liz Alton is a technology and marketing writer, and content strategist, for Fortune 500 brands and creative agencies. Her specialties include marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She's worked with clients including Adobe, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, ADP, and Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University.