How to Create a Lean, Mean Content Creation Machine
Have you ever thought your content initiatives needed more pizzazz? How about just ‘more’?
Many organizations have an insatiable appetite for content because the ability to offer interesting, relevant, and useful content is one of the only ways left to truly break through and engage your audience in an environment that’s considered ‘noisy’ on a good day and downright frenetic on an average one. But ‘more’ content creation can be a challenge in the face of scarce resources. One question I hear often is “How do you create content at scale?”
Of course, this question resonates most with smaller organizations; however, even larger organizations run their content marketing with lean teams (including us). So no matter your size, let’s take a look at some steps you can implement today to create valuable content more efficiently and effectively:
1. Create An Editorial Process
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’ve heard Joe Pulizzi say “You don’t have a content strategy until you write it down” in some form or another at least 10 times. But you know what? He’s right. There is something to writing down your intentions, creating a plan, and sharing it that makes you much more likely to actually follow through. So let’s walk through how to map out your editorial process (and write it down!):
Who’s writing for you?
Start by understanding who will contribute content—whether that means writing for your blog, recording videos, or writing ebooks. In some cases, your content may come from your content team, freelancers, your PR agency, internal writers, partners, customers, or guest contributors.
Who’s editing for you?
You know that saying, “Everyone needs an editor?”—well, it’s true. Creating content is just the start; you need some checks and balances in place to ensure it’s error-free and on brand. So, who are the editors in your organization? Often, these responsibilities lie within your content team. If you’re on a small team, you may spread the responsibility across a couple of team members who are not only close readers and grammar whizzes, but also understand your brand voice, products, and promise, and can ensure that it shines through your content. A good way to make sure your content (regardless of the writer) is consistently in line with your brand voice and tone is to write out (yes I know, ‘document another process’) your brand guidelines and share them with your writers and editors.
How often will you publish?
From a blog perspective where your goals may include driving inbound, SEO, and subscribers, it’s critical that you publish consistently and set expectations. Based on how much content you have coming in from your various writers and how quickly your editors can review that content, you should be able to get a sense of how often you can publish. What’s the best practice? It really depends on your audience and your industry. In my opinion, it’s best to define your publishing cadence based on what you can actually maintain. If that’s only one blog per week, that’s still good—you have to start somewhere, and you can offer a weekly digest to your subscribed audience to make sure that your new content is highlighted for them.
For longer form assets or more resource-intensive assets, like an ebook, infographic, or whitepaper, it’s important that you set a calendar and cadence that fits both your resources to create the content and your organization’s needs. At Marketo, we go through a content request process every quarter, which we use to populate an editorial calendar that balances the assets requested with the content team resources and maps to our company goals.
Who’s approving your content?
Once your piece has been edited, is it ready to go? Define the approval process that you need to actually publish content—from a blog to an ebook. A couple of things to think about: Do you have different levels of review based on the type of asset? (For example, at Marketo we have more internal reviewers and editors for a Definitive Guide than a blog.) Do you have a design review process in addition to copyediting process? It’s important to define these different elements, as they will affect your content creation process.
2. I’ll Have My Content Strategy Supersized, Please
Obviously, you can’t wave a wand and wish three more content team members into existence (really, I’ve tried!), but after you define your editorial process, you should have an intimate idea of how things work in your organization. Now, you need to think about how you can use your process as a foundation for creating and fostering more content. Here are two easy ways to do that:
Repurposing is wonderful when it’s done with intention (meaning don’t just slice and dice content for the sake of repurposing). Take a look at the content that you have and how it has or hasn’t resonated with its target audience, and see if you can distribute it in different ways to capture some more of the success or turn a ‘blah’ asset into a success by offering it in a more consumable format.
Not sure where to start? Do you have three kick-a#$ blogs on the same topic that performed really well? You can combine them into a larger asset. Do you have a larger asset that you can break apart into 10+ visuals and micro-copy? A workbook that you can turn the content into a BuzzFeed-style quiz? The options are endless.
Now that you understand how you’ll churn out content for your organization, you’ll be able to easily identify new opportunities. If your strategy revolves around content that your content team creates, consider branching out by collaborating with internal and external contributors. For example, if you’re looking for more content for your blog, create guidelines, offer blog swaps with your peers at other companies and your partners, and get the word out about your program.
Consider these strategies for developing more content:
- Internal: Reward internal employees for their contributions to content
- Partner: Do you have a group of partners or collaborative products/services? Do a blog swap or invite them to blog for you, or team up for a joint ebook.
- External: Publicly invite people to submit their content. Offer clear guidelines that lay out your requirements and approval process to set expectations upfront.
- Freelancers: Have great ideas but can’t implement them with your current resources? There are tons of awesome freelance writers available on LinkedIn or through a variety of other platforms.
- Curation: See amazing content that you wish you could have? Often, you can! Curated content gives your audience value and the creator credit.
3. Get Buy-In
This is a pretty critical piece of anything you want to be successful. So, you’ve written your plan down—you know your writers, your editors, your reviewers, and how often you want to/can publish, now go identify who in your organization cares deeply about content and who it impacts, and share this plan with them to get their feedback and buy-in. You may find that you need to adjust your plan a bit, but that feedback will make your plan better and your initiatives more beneficial across the organization.
Looking for more tips to get started? Join me for a webinar that will take a deep-dive into this topic on July 7th. Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.