The Four Pillars of a Healthy Content Inventory
By Kyle Harper on September 13, 2018
It has been an interesting week for your brand. A recent blog post started making the rounds on social media, a local news station aired a spot last night that you could have sworn used clips from some of your video content, and your sales director keeps pestering you about getting a copy of a white paper your content team produced two years ago.
To check on the status of all these materials, you shoot a quick email to your content team asking for info on accessing your web content inventory-finding it in your shared server is proving a bit difficult. Half an hour later, you have two responses, telling you someone is looking into it, followed by a copy of a Word document that doesn't seem to have been updated for months, then a spreadsheet, and then a confusing back-and-forth as your specialists work out which of the two documents is more definitive. In the distance, your phone vibrates with yet another text from your persistent sales director . . .
Content management and organization is a struggle for many teams. In the past few years, the responsibilities and pace of the average content team has grown in a big way, which can result in a lot more content to keep track of. Constructed correctly, a content inventory can do more than facilitate your content team's production; it's also a great resource for your broader team to make use of all the material you've published.
The Four Pillars
What does it take to create a robust content inventory that can holistically support your brand?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for a great inventory setup. A great content management system will reflect the language, processes, and use cases that are unique to your business. But there are a number of high-level principles that can help guide the creation and management of any content system.
Image attribution: Max Langelott
Pillar One: Accessibility
A good content inventory is multi-purpose. It informs content creators and management how content production is going, while also providing historical info to broader marketing and sales teams who might need to reference or seek out your material. With this in mind, your ideal content management system should start from a place of accessibility: How will you build your inventory so that it can be referenced by not just your immediate team, but by your broader communications apparatus?
There are two ways to approach this. The first is a more locked-down approach, in which access to the inventory itself is restricted only to the content team, but a simple and formalized process is put in place for other departments to make reference requests.
An alternative approach is to use permissioning to make your inventory "open." With this approach, your inventory itself can be accessed and read by your broader team at will, but editing and viewing permissions are limited to guide users to the exact reference material they need. This is a useful approach for organizations where content searches happen frequently (for instance, if your sales team is trained to share content with prospects), or for teams that wouldn't otherwise be able to balance an information request workflow.
Pillar Two: Timeliness
Your content inventory should always be up-to-date.
While this point won't come as a surprise to anyone, it also tends to be one of the biggest struggles for content teams. With all of the information we expect from an inventory, creating entries can be a time-consuming affair that quickly gets lost in the shuffle of a busy production period.
There are two key ways to simplify the process of keeping your inventory timely. The first is to work your inventory into your content production workflow so that it serves as a utility for your team. For instance, a lower-production content team may start by collating pitches into a spreadsheet and then using that sheet as a point of presentation for editorial meetings.
However, for teams producing high volumes of content at a consistent publishing cadence, it is more practical to store and organize your content library within a more powerful organizational setup that's supported by your content marketing software. Technology like Skyword360's digital asset manager (DAM) allow you to gather all your assets-from photos, to videos, to e-books-so that they're easily viewable and revisable for whatever your brand's needs are in the present moment.
With the right organizational tools in place, you'll be able to keep track of reviewing your assets to make sure they all still align with your current brand standards and ensure that everything within your content library remains timely.
The second key element to timeliness is to make regular review and auditing an integral part of your content management process. Regular observation by management coupled with the occasional audit is typically more than enough to keep your current and historical data accurate.
Pillar Three: Workflow
Marketers like to think we're excellent multitaskers, and many of us are. But the reality of content publication is that most teams are at their best when they're able to partition their thinking for the various steps of the editorial process: Ideation and pitching benefit from wild creativity and collaboration, while editing and production often shine through meticulous, individual focus.
Your production serves each step in a unique way, and a viewer who comes to look at your inventory should be able to quickly assess what the state of your current production is. Furthermore, any member of your team should be able to isolate the information they're looking at to be specifically relevant to whatever stage of the content funnel they're working on-from a content specialist approving a pitch, to a sales team member referencing content that might be relevant to a potential lead.
Image attribution: Slava Bowman
Pillar Four: Life Cycle
In the same way that your inventory should match your workflow, a great content management system will gather and store information about each entry that matches the life cycle of your content. Ideas or pitches should have comparatively less information. Work that makes it to production might gain new pieces of information like target keywords, associated campaigns or topical segments, and statuses related to creation and revision. Once your content is published, information like location URL and publish date should all come into the fold.
The key here is that information updating should be systematic, matching the process of your content production to avoid gaps along the way that might impact the integrity of your inventory down the line. This step of management is what ties together all of the other pillars you've put in place and actually makes your content inventory a useful tool for every stage of your content life cycle.
Iteration Is a Way of Life
Getting organized in a rapidly moving content space can be difficult. Your first couple of passes at your content inventory won't be perfect, but that's okay. Just like every other process in content marketing, getting organized is an iterative endeavor. To get the most out of this pursuit, try to keep track of the sorts of questions you get related to your content backlog over time, and occasionally look for ways to incorporate the answers to your most frequent questions in your inventory.
But more than anything else, work to get your team and organization as a whole to realize the benefits that a well-sorted inventory has to offer. With planning and a little effort, this can become a low-lift, high-return resource that gets your brand excited about the content you create, and helps to ensure its continually put to good use.
To learn more about how Skyword360 can assist you with building and maintaining a content inventory and improve your creation process through a secure, scalable, DAM, schedule a demo.
Featured image attribution: Jordan Koons