Content marketing is one of the most cost-efficient marketing strategies in existence; it doesn’t have to cost you money directly, as long as you invest enough time and effort into it. But that time carries a cost, too, and if you invest too much time in the wrong areas, you could end up compromising the effectiveness or return on investment of your strategy.
If you’ve created a content marketing strategy already, you’re ahead of the game, but even with goals and a direction in place, the actual work of execution can interfere with your bottom-line productivity. The solution to this is to create a workflow for your content strategy, but how can you go about this?
Step 1: Identify Your Key Resources
Your first step is to take inventory of the key resources that will be responsible for the successful execution of your campaign. In most cases, these resources will be people and organizations. For example, do you have a director of content marketing? Do you have a handful of workers who will each be “pitching in” for the work? Are you enlisting the help of an agency or a freelancer? Make a list of these resources and how much time and effort each one is able to contribute to your campaign. You’ll also want to establish a loose hierarchy here; who is answering to whom? Who’s responsible for making sure the campaign stays on track?
Step 2: Establish Responsibilities
Next up, you’ll be assigning responsibilities to each of those key resources. For this, you’ll want to think about the key strengths and weaknesses of each player; for example, if you’ve hired a freelancer to edit your content, make sure he/she stays in the editing role as much as possible. Individual team members can handle different sets of responsibilities, but try to avoid ambiguity whenever possible. Ambiguous definitions, or overlapping roles, will lead to confusion down the line, as some work gets neglected and some work gets done twice. The more players you have here, the more complex this step will become.
Step 3: Create a Shared Calendar
Most of your content marketing work will operate on a timetable; you’ll need to produce a certain amount of posts per week, have your drafts done and submitted by a certain time, and you’ll need the members of your team to communicate regularly with one another about these dates and times. The best way to handle this is to create a shared editorial calendar, which every member of your team will have access to. Depending on the levels of responsibilities you’ve assigned, you may need to give each team member different visibility and editing permissions, but it’s important to have your team operating from one central location.
Step 4: Identify Key Phases of Development
Next, break your content process down into different “phases” of development. These may vary depending on your specific goals and ideal workflow, but as a general example, you may have a planning phase, a drafting phase, an editing phase, a publication phase, and a syndication phase. With these steps outlined, you can create a kind of scrum board, possibly even integrated into your shared calendar system. This will help your team members keep track of progress on individual items for your campaign.
Step 5: Institute Checks and Balances
Things are going to get lost, and you’re going to have communication hiccups. A good content execution workflow will account for these inevitabilities. Instill a system of checks and balances at different levels in your team, giving your leaders, team members, and other roles more transparency and more control over how your content actually develops. For example, you may require that multiple different parties sign off on the “final” draft of an article before it’s published to ensure it meets all your requirements.
Step 6: Solidify a Routine With Individuals
Routines are important to the human psyche; though dangerous if adhered to too strictly or without adaptation, creating a solid pattern of behavior will lead to more reliable execution within your team. Based on the responsibilities, workflows, checks, and balances you’ve already created, initiate a test run, working with individuals to create as many repeatable, predictable processes as possible. You may encounter hiccups here — such as finding the best way to research a topic, but this is precisely why it needs to be explored.
Step 7: Evaluate, Revise, and Repeat
Your first “draft” of your content workflow will probably be riddled with minor inefficiencies. Thankfully, this is to be expected, and it’s easily corrected. Evaluate what’s working and what’s not in your campaign execution, and work with your team to refine your approaches. You may need to reassign some responsibilities or change the progression of execution steps, but iteratively, you’ll eventually get to a state of efficiency. Never stop repeating this cycle of evaluation and revision; you can always be more efficient.
These seven steps aren’t intensive, but together they can help you form a solid workflow for your content strategy. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect, and it may never be perfect, but it will help you iron out the inefficiencies that may otherwise plague your campaign. Your return on investment is largely based on how much you invest in your campaign, so the more wisely you invest in it, the greater proportional rewards you’ll be able to reap.