The first thing you’ll need to produce content that will help your organization is a strategy. Without it, your posts, guides or videos will have only a small chance to increase brand awareness and the number of leads.
A good content strategy defines who you are writing for and what needs your content satisfies. In most cases it also describes the style that your writers should use, as it helps create a consistent voice for your brand, that the users will recognize.
Besides the style guides, content strategies may include a list of your most important keywords, a detailed description of the buyer personas you are targeting, tips on distributing your content, and a short brand brief.
Once all is done, and you haven’t made serious mistakes in this phase like targeting the wrong keywords, there’s only one thing left before you can launch a successful content machine.
Someone’s got to do the job.
You’ll have to build a team and make each team member understand the goals of your strategy. You’ll have to specify the tasks that need to be completed before and after publishing. You’ll have to assign roles and define the responsibilities of your team members. And you’ll have to find the most effective way of communication between your co-workers.
This is what a good content workflow can help you achieve. Content workflow management is not about managing content. It’s about managing people.
What can you avoid with the content workflow?
If the roles and responsibilities are not defined clearly, your content creation could enter a spiral of approval chains. Especially at larger corporations with complex mechanisms for communication, it could take 15 to 20 emails to move a single blog post from concept to publishing.
This means that more time is spent on reviewing, changing, and approving content than it takes to create it. This can be extremely frustrating for writers; and if it happens regularly, it means that you’re on the wrong track.
In the end, your content will suffer. There is a limited number of changes that any piece of content can tolerate before becoming inconsistent or flawed
Roles and tasks
If you’d like to create an effective workflow, you should get started by identifying the tasks your team will have to complete in connection with a post before they could move on to another project. Then try to find the right person for each of these tasks.
The number of the needed steps can change from organization to organization, as the number of people firms can dedicate to each of the tasks. Only large companies are able to assign an individual team member for every task. With that said, even a smaller blog could benefit from defining them.
I created a short list of the steps I believe most content teams should go through. I also listed the various roles associated with them. In most cases, it makes sense to complete these tasks in the listed order.
- Find out what to write about. This task is rather self-explanatory, and any team member could take part in it. Among other sources, you can use your keyword research, competitor analysis, social media channels, and forums related to your industry to find stories that your audience might be interested in.
Feedback from your readers or colleagues working in other departments can also help you decide what to spend time on.
- Approve the idea. Based on your strategy, editors, content managers, or the team of writers could decide what to post about. Creating drafts from the ideas can make their job easier, but on the other hand, it could be time-consuming.
- Research your topic, and create a copyMost of the time posts are created by one writer, but in-depth articles are sometimes written by several authors. Collaboration could speed up the process if you need to ask experts or move out of the office to create the story. Try to find out which method is the most effective for your content team!
- Create images and graphics. This is the work of the graphic designer. If your team doesn’t have one, you can outsource this work, or use stock images for your posts. Stock images are not a really good solution, because they are rarely relevant, and can’t help you to create a distinctive style.
- Review the post. As the approval of the idea, this is the job of the editor or the content manager. He or she has to fact-check the post, look for copyright issues, and decide whether it’s up to your standards.
- Proofread it at least once. Ideally, this is done by a proofreader. If you can’t afford to hire one or outsource it, editors or writers can also look for grammatical errors or misspellings in the text. The authors of the posts shouldn’t be assigned with this task, as usually they’ve read it so many times that they are unable to find errors in it at this stage.
- Publish the post on your website. This is the job of a website administrator, but anyone else can do it too. If your website is not outdated, you won’t need programming skills just to publish a story.
Someone, who is good at SEO should write meta descriptions and titles for your posts at this stage if they are not created automatically.
- Promote it and measure the effects. Many people can work on these steps. Ideally a social media manager shares your posts on the suitable channels, email experts send it to your subscribers, and Google Analytics experts measure the impact.
If you have a smaller team you should find the suitable people for each of these tasks. If people in your industry could be interested in your new content, you can contact them and look for guest blogging opportunities after you’ve published a story.
- Update it after a while. Older posts, in many cases, generate more traffic and leads than new ones. This is why it’s a good idea to regularly review and update older posts that are still visible for searchers. The easiest way to keep your site up to date is to task the authors with rewriting their posts when needed.
I hope my list gives you an overview of the most important tasks and roles in content creation. After a while, you will need to refine your system and give more weight to certain elements, or change roles if something doesn’t work as intended.
But a content workflow is not only about dedicating tasks, it should also help team members communicate effectively and understand when they should start working on any given tasks without sending emails to each other.
Choosing the right tools can make this happen.
What tools should you use?
A large number of firms still manage their content marketing with a combination of Word, Excel, and email. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find companies that create fluid workflows by developing unique software solutions
In between them, there’s a large number of subscription-based and free tools that companies can use to simplify content creation and distribution.
Drive allows us to edit documents collectively and track changes without troubles. We use Trello to notify team members about the progress of our projects and the tasks they need to start working on. Slack is for internal communication and file sharing. Finally, our deadlines and the editorial calendar are stored in Asana.
This combination works well for us, but this doesn’t mean it’s a perfect solution for every other team. Cloud-based services and collaboration tools can make things easier, but they come with a learning curve. So if understanding how new tools work would take more time from your team than it could save, stick to what is working for you.
The point of creating, documenting, and explaining a content workflow is to make life easier for you and your team, and to eliminate the need of for a great deal of oversight by any one member during content creation.
Once you get there, you can get rid of many frustrations that come with this work, and spend more time on what is really important: to create great content.