Is your content marketing strategy plagued with glitches and slowdowns? Is there mutiny in the ranks that threatens to derail it altogether? Sometimes you have to re-think how your team works together to produce and distribute your content. This includes not just planning and production, but the way the entire process flows. Getting rid of communication bottlenecks and establishing a clearer workflow can increase the effectiveness (and shelf life) of your marketing pieces. Here are six tips for putting together a winning team that works cohesively to plan, create and share business content.
Get Your Players Together
Who in your organization is involved in content production? In today’s world, it’s no longer good enough to point to marketing and say “that’s their job.” Project coordinators, marketers, copywriters, SEO and social media strategists, designers, sales staff, your legal team, subject matter experts—a lot of players are on this team. So it’s important to involve all of them in the planning and execution of your content strategy.
Is Everyone on the Same Page?
Having an initial needs assessment meeting with all stakeholders present is a good way to develop a view of the big picture, so all the players can see where they will be fitting into the process. You might need a series of these, depending on your goals and availability of people involved. How much content is going to be created over what period? What kinds of pieces will be needed at what stages? How will it be shared? What will the timeline look like, and who are the team members involved at each stage?
Once your big picture is developed, the project can be mapped out, giving individual team members a better idea of where they fit in and what will be required of them.
Don’t Forget to Include Sales
Even though your sales team doesn’t produce content per se, they are your boots on the ground when it comes to communicating with customers, which is why they should be brought into the content conversation early. At NuSpark Marketing, when embarking on a content production job for a client, we talk to both sales staff and customers before creating our initial marketing personas—the starting point from which all marketing content is created.
However, coordination with sales shouldn’t stop at the initial planning stage. It helps to periodically brainstorm with sales staff to refine content down the line so that it continues to produce results. Whether you’re selling IT services or retail software, your end goal is the same—pleasing your customers. Your sales staff know the language of your customer, what their everyday issues are, and what kind of information they’re looking for in order to make a buying decision. This knowledge is invaluable to content creators, especially when selling complex products/services over long sales cycles! It helps tremendously when both sales and marketing speak to each other often, and in the same language.
Work with People’s Strengths
Every team has strengths and weaknesses, and content teams are no different. Who’s better at writing short versus long content? Who’s best suited for incorporating SEO? Whose role will it be to choose imagery? Content production is often part collaboration and part using people’s skills in the best way. Some things to consider:
- Will you hire out SEO or is there someone in-house who has expertise?
- What if the SEO person isn’t good at writing meta descriptions? Is that something one of your writers does well?
- Is your social media person good at writing video descriptions, or would that be better assigned to SEO or a copywriter?
- Who’s going to choose the images to use with each piece of content? Should it be the writer, because they’re more familiar with the topic, or a designer?
Not every role is as cut and dried as the title might suggest. Get a feel for your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, and have them collaborate to assume tasks that take their strengths into account.
Avoid the Silo—Keep Your Workflow Transparent
When you have different people working on content creation and publication, everyone has a role; however, it can be easy to erect walls between the different roles (especially in a virtual environment) which can lead to problems. Let’s say Jeff is the writer, who works with Susan (the SEO person) on blog posts, for example. Once the post is written, Jeff sends it to Joe, the web person, who publishes it on the website, and then shares that with Mary, the social media person to promote. If each person works in a vacuum, which can happen in a virtual environment, things can get dropped out of coordination. If one person fails to hand off a blog post to the next person in line, for instance, it can be lost in the shuffle. However, if Jeff, Susan, Joe and Mary knew in advance what content was to be produced (and when) in a given time period, greater efficiency can result.
Rather than using email, some teams work with tools like Dropbox or Slack to coordinate work flow. And depending on the complexity of the project, tools like these can be a helpful way of centralizing the work stream. For planning purposes, it can also be helpful to incorporate a timeline app such as edrawsoft or SmartDraw to lay down a visual timeline of blog posts, whitepapers, webinars, videos and social content and share it with everyone. That way all parties has access to a bird’s-eye view of the progression of content and knows where they fit in. Below is an example of a very basic timeline illustration without dates.
Can you see how having this bigger picture available could help each party manage their time better? It’s also more helpful for the social team to know what’s coming, so they can better plan updates for pre and post publication to give each piece the longest possible shelf life. Creating a shared timeline is one way to help everyone visualize their role as it applies to the whole project.
Loop in Design
One place where it’s easy for bottlenecks to occur is between content creators and designers, so it’s important to closely connect the two in the planning and production process. First, it’s important from a time-management perspective. Design work is time consuming and often complicated. and made even more difficult when factoring in coding that content across multiple devices. It can take longer to design a piece of content for the web than it does to write it! Secondly, the look and feel of a piece of content affects its flow and readability. Deciding which graphics to use within a piece, for example, should be coordinated between the creator and the designer. Perhaps the writer will choose the photos to use, since he/she is most familiar with the topic, and coordinate with designers to create relevant charts or other graphics to enhance the content. If the designer is to select images, he/she needs more time to read the posts and understand the aspects being discussed to choose the correct imagery.
When there’s a disconnect between writing and design, the result can be less than optimal for your timeline and for the audience. At the very least, the writer needs to understand the design limitations and how their content will look when it finally gets posted. Where will the page breaks occur? How will the graphics, bullets, call-outs and indents look once they’re coded? Each of these things influences the readers’ experience, so close coordination between writer and designer is must.
Design collaboration is also helpful to the social team. How will a blog post look when published on LinkedIn, for example? LinkedIn’s publishing platform has very limited formatting capabilities, so the post might not look the same as it does on the blog. Also, the photos and/or images used for the blog should be re-designed for social platforms. If the designer knows what sizes work best for each platform used, he/she can edit the post images to fit each platform and share those with the social team. This type of coordination makes everyone’s job easier and reduces holdups.
Streamline the Approval Process
Sometimes the most problematic coordination is the back-and-forth with the approval process. Slow approvals can throw a monkey wrench in your schedule, so it’s important to consider in the planning process. Does your content need to go through one or multiple layers of approvals prior to publication? How much time will each layer add? Sometimes it takes working together in the initial stages to nail down the timing for approvals, but you should work this through early on in your strategy and give it ample room in your content calendar. A lot depends on the complexity of the subject matter and any legal issues that must be taken into account. However, when approval timing is addressed early in the planning process, there are fewer hitches along the way.
Whether your team players are in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two, keeping these tips in mind can help you avoid bottlenecks and snags that can slow down or even derail your content marketing efforts. Transparency, cooperation and collaboration are critical components of successful content creation and sharing strategy. Getting rid of the old marketing/sales operating silos and making the entire process more visible to all team members helps keep idea flow, production and dissemination of your content running smoothly.
Find out how our team at NuSpark can help you with your demand generation and content marketing needs.