In April of 2007, Arianna Huffington collapsed. Two years earlier, she had started the Huffington Post—now, she was lying on the floor bleeding. And while, yes, that statement alone is shocking, it’s what she said next that’s the real eye-opener.
She had just been picked as one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People,” and as she came to on her floor with a broken cheekbone, lying in the pool of blood—the first thing she thought to herself was, “Oh, so this is what success looks like.”
While this may seem dramatic, it’s a true story and, though, we may never (hopefully) have to experience something like this, content marketers often feel the same type of pressure for success on a daily basis. With the rise of workaholism, or simply the constant demand for rapidly churning out high-quality content, content marketing is an industry that can quickly become overwhelming.
Huffington’s doctor told her there was nothing medically that could be done, and it was true. But, if you’ve ever felt the exhaustion that comes with content creation, there is one thing that can be done to dramatically decrease your stress. The prescription? Fix. Your. Workflow.
With so many daily demands and moving parts, it’s easy to forget that simply working smarter rather than harder can solve a lot of the stress our jobs can create. By simply improving your content marketing workflow, you can save yourself more time, more money and probably even a few Advil, too.
If you’re ready to stop feeling taxed by your content process and get back to enjoying your job, it’s time to take a step back, evaluate what you need to fix and find a way to improve your content marketing workflow and processes.
What is workflow?
According to Content Marketing Institute, content workflow is a set of tasks that a team needs to complete for a given client or content type—a web page, a blog post, a white paper, an email, or any other kind of content that the group needs to deliver.
Every team has one (or more), depending on the number and types of projects they are involved in. But, it’s not enough just to have one in place. A truly productive workflow needs to be presented so that your team can understand the stages and responsibilities.
For example, your team’s workflow for digital content production might look something like this:
- Outline of the content / Plan
While that looks fairly simple, think about how long it actually takes to create that piece of content. For an average blogger, it takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes to create a blog post— but writing is only one step of a much larger process.
Think about it. In reality, the writing process actually involves:
- Picking the blog post topic
- Planning the phases of development
- Assigning the post
- Editing the blog
- Re-editing the blog
- Designing the blog
- Laying out the blog
- Getting the blog approved
- Publishing the blog
- Promoting the blog
Getting all those steps done takes time, and for larger teams, this process can take even longer—and that’s just assuming everything will run smoothly. In order to ensure it does, there are a few things you’ll need to do to make sure things are done right the first time.
Defining Your Workflow
While 56 percent of the most successful B2C marketers rated “project management flow during content-creation process as excellent/very good,” one-third of B2B companies admitted that content creation is a challenge. So, what sets these self-attributed “extremely” or “very successful” content marketers apart from those who struggle?
The first element of a successful workflow is ensuring your content marketing strategy is documented.
The Content Marketing Institute’s annual report shows less than half of marketers currently have a documented content marketing strategy—37 percent of B2B and 40 percent of B2C. Lots of content marketers do have a verbal strategy, but it’s most effective when the strategy is both documented and communicated.
On paper, certain roles might be clear—but in practice, brand publishers are often expected to wear many hats. Without specific guidelines where one responsibility begins and another ends, your team’s efforts may overlap, duplicating work and creating confusion.
Whether you’re working to fix your content marketing workflow or proactively trying to prevent any pitfalls that come with the content process, you’ll need to follow these next few steps to ensure your workflow (and your team) works smarter rather than harder.
Step 1: Develop a Plan
If you had a fairy godmother, would one of your wishes be for more time? Assuming you follow all the steps we mentioned above while creating your piece of content, then doing that over again and again can be extremely taxing. While it seems like all you need are a few more hours in the day, this content fatigue can actually be solved by one simple thing: planning.
While a fairy godmother would be a LOT cooler, planning your content workflow ahead of time is a lot easier (and more realistic). It allows you to take a comprehensive view of the upcoming editorial calendar and ensures you don’t miss anything important along the way.
“The biggest problem when it comes to publishing content is ‘buy-in.’ You have a lot of situations where you have a lot of smart marketers that could do something amazing, but when they go to management they get a thumbs down. Or when they try to leverage their team to help produce the content they get to responses like, ‘We don’t have time’ or ‘That’s not my job.’ That’s a big problem.” — Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion
Before bursting into hyper-tactical mode, you will need to plot a publishing course. And, of course, documenting your plan will make all the difference as you execute.
The plan you put in place might mean you have to:
- Set goals and establish key performance indicators
- Identify personas and match content to their profiles
- Launch content campaigns around product lines, holidays and more
- Plan a mix of topics and themes: informational, awe-inspiring, entertaining and more
- Match content to the stage of the buyer’s journey
- Plan for consistent channel scheduling and release of content
“If your goal is to deliver an experience better than one size fits all—or worse, all sizes fit none—you need to treat your content strategy as more than a hand wave. You need an architectural approach to your content supply chain.” — Jake Sorofman, Gartner
While this may seem counterproductive (after all, we are trying to make less work), taking these steps will ensure you don’t have to circle back later on in the game. But, if you’re still wary, you can always take it back to the basics with a content planning worksheet. With the various clients content marketers have to juggle, filling out one for each can ensure that the whole team is clear on which direction to go and what is expected from each particular client.
Step 2: Content Creation
Did you know that only 30 percent of B2B content actually gets used? That means that 70 percent of B2B content on the internet is wasted…Let that sink in.
This pitfall can also be attributed to content marketing teams working harder rather than smarter. To keep your workflow going and keep your audience happy, you need a steady stream of content—but you also need to make sure that content actually reaches people.
When it comes to creating content, the more you can automate, the better. There’s a vast amount of tools available that can help you and your team create and deliver high-quality content.
At PowerPost, we realized that consistently creating new content takes time. That’s why our tool allows us to not only create and publish high-quality content but to collaborate with the rest of our team throughout the entire process.
Through a panel of marketing experts at Content Marketing World 2017, the Content Marketing Institute found that no process, or too much process, can also bog down content creation.“People get confused, and they don’t know when the handoff should occur, to who, and who’s responsible for what,” says B2B marketing strategist, Ardath Albee.
“Five years ago at FedEx, the C-suite put all the go-to market teams responsible for marketing to U.S. customers under one director to implement a new “go” process. That was a good first step. We didn’t have a process. Then we kind of over-processed. About two years in, it was like, ‘Wait a minute. It’s too many processes.’ ” — Drew Bailey, manager of content strategy and curation at FedEx
To review the situation they posed the following questions:
- How can we empower the team responsible for creating content?
- How can the team get more time back?
As part of their solution, FedEx now has a monthly meeting where all are welcome. “As the content leads are drafting content, we share that…As we’re discussing as a team, we send an invitation to all channels: ‘Come and listen to this conversation. Provide input. Provide suggestions,’” explains Bailey. As a result, they found it gave their content team more time to spend on actually creating content.
With so many hands in a project, not having a good workflow in place can throw a wrench in the entire process. For some, as teams work through their content stages, content often moves from spreadsheet to email to word doc and back again, which can quickly lead to inefficiency and frustration. PowerPost is only one of many tools that can help simplify these processes, but it’s in your best interest to utilize any and all of the platforms and technology available to help prevent any common pitfalls many teams run into.
Step 3: Publishing
After you’ve created your content, designed corresponding images and formatted your piece, you’ve finished a lot of the heavy lifting, but there are still a few more things to do. After all, you want people to actually see all of your hard work, right?
The most effective brand publishers spend as much, or more, time and money on content distribution and promotion as they do creation. Before publishing, you’ll need to determine the right platforms and channels to target your content and amplify your message to the right audience(s).
Most likely, this will include evaluating and incorporating a mix of your paid, owned, earned and shared media. Knowing where and how you should share your content will come from your content strategy, but there are other ways to maximize your reach, too. For example, content atomization.
“Content Atomization means taking a strong content marketing platform or theme, and executing it in many, strategically sound ways.” — Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications
Once you’ve created a substantial piece, you can then publish the content with a “campaign mentality” by creating citations and links to where the “big content” is housed on your website. In most cases, you’ll gate the content for the purpose of collecting leads.
After you determine what types of atomized content will work best for your content (and your audience), the final and arguably most important step is to measure its performance to find out what worked or didn’t work well and apply those findings to your next piece of content.
“It’s still somewhat normal to see teams execute 50 percent, 60 percent and even 70 percent of their marketing activities without measuring results. We need to hold ourselves totally accountable for delivering results that businesses can value. And there’s a path to getting there.” — Michael Brenner, Marketing Insider Group
Effective brand publishing is data-driven, and the best way to save yourself time during the workflow process will come from learning what works and applying those insights to your future publishing efforts.
The key to building a successful workflow is to ensure that the process you set in place is not only documented but makes your work and your team more efficient and is flexible enough to fit the variety of different projects that your agency takes on.
With tons of different projects and demands rolling through daily, there may not be one single solution to completely fix your content-creation workflow problems, but there are definitely steps you can take to mitigate them.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to find a process that makes the work easier for you. We only get to do this thing once, and finding a workflow that works for you will make your life in and out of the office a whole lot easier.
If you’re looking to streamline your content marketing workflow, check out our digital publishing tool, PowerPost. Our platform makes content publishing simple and can help solve all of those content marketing workflow problems that cause other marketers time, money and stress.