This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.
Nic Evans of GatherContent once said: “Great content isn’t stumbled upon, it’s carefully designed for a specific goal.” His words couldn’t be more true. Your brand has the ability to craft exceptional content, but you’ll need to adhere to a disciplined strategy in order to do so.
Good content doesn’t create itself. But do you know what separates the content of brand authorities from the rest of the pack?
Obviously, an in-depth knowledge of your industry is a prerequisite. However, even industry leaders often fail to create excellent content for one main reason: they don’t have a good production workflow in place. Neil Patel featured a detailed infographic on the importance of a well-thought-out content generation strategy.
Creating content requires a significant investment. According to Hubspot, it takes the average writer about 1-2 hours to write a single, 500-word article. Of course, you also have editors and other team members involved in the process, which can get overwhelming if you don’t have a good system in place.
You need to invest time, money, and precious human labor to create content. All of these resources are limited, so you need a strategy in place to deliver it efficiently and consistently.
Why Is it Necessary to Have an Organized Content Production Process?
The content generation process has become extremely regimented over the years and brands are scaling content production at a record pace. In October, the Content Marketing Institute conducted a survey that found that 76% of brands intend to produce even more content in 2016.
Meanwhile, as brands are continuing to increase the quantity of content, the quality standards are escalating even further, too. New versions of Google Panda are slowly wiping out businesses that rely on low-quality content and cutthroat competition for attention on social media channels has raised the bar for all content produced.
But although the demand for quality content is on the rise, brands’ resources are not. Most have constrained budgets and a limited workforce, so they need to utilize them as effectively as possible. The only way a business can consistently deliver troves of quality content is by establishing a properly functioning content production system. It’s a huge task to set up a good system, but well worth the effort.
The Anatomy of a Great Production Workflow
Setting up a strong production workflow can save endless headaches down the road, so make sure you set up a solid foundation right from the start and use it consistently going forward. Here are the core elements of an effective content production process.
Streamline Every Step Possible
There are multiple stages in the content generation process. Here’s an example of a content generation process for a company that has an in-house system:
- The content strategist comes up with ideas for new content pieces.
- The content strategist seeks approval from their senior editor or the marketing director.
- The strategist develops an outline for the writers, or provides notes for them to follow.
- The strategist assigns the task to the project editor.
- The editor provides directions to the writers.
- Writers ask questions as needed.
- Editor provides answers and seeks additional clarification as necessary.
- Editor reviews drafts of content.
- Editor submits content to legal team for approval.
- Editor provides feedback and asks for revisions.
- Editor polishes final draft.
- Editor publishes content.
Each of these steps takes a significant amount of time. You and your team may spend a couple of weeks creating a piece of content from start to finish.
If you don’t have a way to expedite this, you’ll quickly generate a huge backlog. If this is the case, your writers and editors may feel pressured and start cutting corners and sacrificing quality in order to meet deadlines.
How do you avoid this catastrophe? You should streamline the process by handling these tasks in bulk by following these tips:
- Come up with enough content ideas for at least a month.
- Assign them to their respective writers all at once.
- Have a copy editor focus all her energy on content as the writers deliver it.
You will significantly improve the efficiency of your content production process by handling each of these stages in bulk.
Use a Centralized Editorial System
Too many brands manage their entire production process via e-mail. But there are a number of problems with this approach:
- It’s difficult to keep track of the most recent draft of any piece of content.
- Important stakeholders may not have access to the content.
- Writers can easily lose track of deadlines.
Make sure that your editors, writers, and clients all have access to the system. Encourage them to use it to track each and every project, and to communicate through the platform as much as possible.
Keep Your Legal Team in the Loop
Twenty years ago, Internet content was a novelty that attracted little scrutiny from regulators. Government agencies are far more involved today, and marketers are required to ensure that their content abides by all relevant laws. The FTC and industry regulators will provide guidance, but many brands need direction from lawyers.
Run your entire content strategy by your legal department. You should also check in with them periodically and ask for feedback on specific types of content. Make a habit of reaching out to your lawyers:
- when writing unflattering content about another brand or individual, which could be viewed as libel
- to check that your content doesn’t make any misleading endorsements of any product or service
- when providing actionable advice or circumstances where the readers’ safety is a cause for concern
The Content Marketing Institute recommends consulting with your lawyers on a regular basis if you’re writing content for a tightly-regulated industry.
Conduct Regular Audits
No matter how carefully you plan your content delivery system, you’re going to run into problems over time. The success of your process doesn’t depend on the number of problems that you prevent—it depends on how well you address the problems as they arise.
Conduct regular content audits to identify any problems that are occurring. Some things to look out for include the following.
1) Missed Deadlines
Take your deadlines seriously, monitor due dates carefully, and stick to an editorial schedule. Frequently missed deadlines can be a symptom of a couple of problems:
- You may be assigning too much work, or you may need to expand your team if almost every member of your team is missing deadlines.
- If a single team member is missing deadlines, you need to address expectations and consider retraining or replacing them.
2) Failure to Follow Quality Guidelines
Quality guidelines provide the necessary structure to guarantee that your content lives up to professional standards. Make sure that every member of your team is abiding by them.
Everyone is going to have an off day once in awhile. However, you clearly have a problem if your team members are consistently failing to meet your requirements. In this case, here are some things to consider:
- One or more members of your team may lack the ability to perform their jobs efficiently.
- You may not have provided clear guidelines to your team.
- There is a problem with the flow of communication between one or more members of your team.
Keep your communication direct without dancing around the issue. The important thing is to identify the source of the problem and take the necessary steps to address it.
The Need for Additional Team Members
As you scale your content production, you may reach a point where your existing team can no longer handle the workload. As a business owner, you should regularly interview and recruit to keep a list of top talent on hand.
Always Optimize Your Model
Your content production system needs to constantly evolve. Even if you set it up well in the beginning, you’re going to identify areas for improvement over time. Here are some ways that your system can be fine-tuned:
- You may notice that some of the steps in the model are unnecessary, which means that you could save a lot of time by eliminating them.
- You may also discover new tools to improve the quality of your content and produce it more efficiently.
- You can assign certain content to team members who have an affinity for it, or expertise in a certain area.
Over time, you will develop a highly-effective content production workflow that you can easily scale.
What type of content production system do you have in place? Please share your comments below:
Disclaimer: As with any digital marketing campaign, your individual results may vary.