3 tips for overcoming content production obstacles
The biggest roadblocks in the way of content marketing success are process-related, says contributor Rachel Lindteigen. In this column, she explains how to break through.
We all know content marketing is important to our businesses. We know we need to blog. We’ve heard video is “the next big thing.” We know we need to be emailing our lists, sharing on social media, commenting and responding on social and nurturing those relationships.
And it all sounds great, but, the reality is that it’s hard to keep up with content production, distribution and everything else on your to-do list.
Most companies decide they want to focus on content marketing because they see the opportunity to grow their SEO footprint, drive more traffic to their websites and eventually generate more business. A solid content marketing program can deliver great rewards
We’re all aware of that. So, why aren’t we doing it? The number one challenge I see most companies face is related to content production.
Why do companies struggle with content production?
Sometimes they start strong but don’t have a long-term plan. Maybe they commit to creating a blog and even partner with an agency or consultant to develop the blog design or set the content strategy.
They launch, and it looks great, but they quickly fall behind. Think of how many blogs you’ve seen with only a handful of blog posts or huge spans between posts.
This is a very common problem, and the cause is often one of a few issues:
They haven’t assigned roles for the blog
When no single person is responsible for the blog and everyone is trying to add the work into their already full schedule, things can quickly go amiss.
This leads to blog content (or social or email or whatever content channel isn’t owned by someone) falling to the bottom of the priority list because it’s not technically someone’s personal responsibility.
Bottlenecks within the content production process
I have seen clients struggle with this over the years, and it’s one of the most challenging issues, because it seems like it should be easy to fix, but it’s not. Bottlenecks can happen at any step in the process.
I’ve had clients who hired us to create their content strategy and give them topic ideas and keywords with the intention of writing the posts themselves to ensure they were in their brand voice.
But they quickly fall behind because it takes longer to write copy than to generate ideas and do keyword research. We’d deliver 10 topics each month and, because they didn’t have someone assigned to write the copy on their end, they’d maybe get one or two posts back from the team as a whole.
I had another client who struggled with the approval process. We did all the content strategy, writing and optimization for them. Their team needed to approve all blog posts before they were pushed live, but they had multiple rounds of internal review, and that held them up.
They had internal reviews from marketing, brand and legal, and by the time a post got through all three rounds of review and was approved, it was easily months after it had originally been written.
The challenge was that the review was extra work for someone at each step. We batched content to help the process run more smoothly, but in the end, it always came to a standstill during review. At one point, the client was over a year behind on content approval and publication.
How do you avoid these and other common content production-related issues?
1. Be very strategic about your content production process
If you want to avoid the common challenges outlined above or if you’re dealing with something similar, the best solution I’ve found is to assign tasks and create a timeline so everyone on the team knows what to expect, when to expect it, and most importantly, who’s responsible for each step.
I realize it sounds really easy but this step is missed in many organizations. Because content marketing is a relatively new addition to most marketing teams, the tasks associated with content production are often shared among multiple team members. And it’s those without much experience often dramatically underestimate the amount of time and effort these tasks will require.
List all of the elements you’ll need
Make sure you’ve thought about all of the pieces of content you’re creating. If you’re following a hub and spoke model where your blog is your content hub and you’re sharing or supplementing content on other channels like YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Medium or email, be sure to account for every piece of content you need.
Create a master list of what you need for each blog post and walk through that list as you create your process. Meet with people from each team to ensure every element is represented on the master project timeline.
Document your process and get buy-in
As a team, identify your content production process from beginning to end. Assign a time estimate to each task. Assign a responsible party for each step. Identify contingencies for each step of the process. Most importantly, make sure everyone on the team is in agreement about the steps, assignments, time estimates and contingencies. Without agreement and buy-in, you’ll continue to struggle.
Choose a single way to track your program. Agree to use either a project management program or something as simple as a Google spreadsheet that’s shared amongst the team members. Make sure the team is trained on whatever format you choose and establish rules for version control.
If your company requires legal review before publication, be sure you meet with the legal team to have a reviewer identified and a timeline established and agreed upon. If you’re partnering with an agency or consultant for any step of the process, make sure they’re in agreement with your timeline. Everyone has to agree about the process and timeline for this to work smoothly.
2. Batch your content
As a team, determine how many pieces of content can be researched, written, optimized, reviewed, implemented and shared at a time. I recommend batching at least one month’s worth of posts at a time.
If your team can work farther ahead than that, great. But a month at a time is a good cadence for most teams. If your strategist comes up with 50 great ideas and you only need 10, don’t throw away those 40 — use them for future batches.
I currently have enough blog topic ideas on a spreadsheet to get me through 2018 and into 2019. I may not use them all, but they’re there and ready for content development when it’s time for the next batch.
If you’re sharing on social, creating videos for YouTube, adding to Pinterest, scheduling Facebook Lives or sending an email, you need to include all of the related content in your batching process. This includes text and graphics for the email, video scripts, social media posts and every other element you’ll require.
Create everything you need for the batch, and have it ready ahead of time.
3. Create both content production and content publication calendars for the team
Keep your production schedule separate from your publication schedule. If you’ve completed step 1 above, then you already have the production schedule. All you need to do is create the monthly content distribution calendar using the information from step 1. Make sure every content distribution channel is on the calendar.
By identifying everything you need to produce, determining who’s responsible for each step of the process and planning ahead, you can batch your content and free up a lot of time for other projects.
With these systems in place, you can avoid the dreaded “what should I write about this week?” or “hey sorry, I haven’t been able to get to that blog post yet, too swamped” situations.
It’s easier to stay on top of content production when you batch content. It saves time and builds efficiencies. Having someone assigned to the task and an agreed upon time frame for completion helps keep people on track and deadlines met.
I’ve been doing this for many years now and have encountered lots of delays, bottlenecks and production challenges.
These are the top three things I’ve found that help clients big and small solve their content production challenges. Give them a try if you’re facing one of these common issues, and let me know if it helps your team, too.