4 ways to streamline your content production

Nels Urtel March 1, 2017

We love content marketing enough to believe it shouldn’t be an unwieldy burden on your organization.

We also know it’s not easy. If you’re creating content, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re either working with an internal marketing team or an external content creation partner (or both), balancing other marketing initiatives while observing your team’s skills, your organization’s value and your audience’s needs.

Yikes.

But the content production process doesn’t need to be cause for headache. In fact, it could be a tremendous opportunity for savings (both time and money) if streamlined and managed appropriately. Here are four ways we do it that we know could work for you.

Map it out

Content success without a map is possible, but it’s extremely unlikely. Here are a few ways to effectively chart your course.

Strategy

Unless you’re sitting in the backseat, you can’t get anywhere without know how to get there.

Your content strategy is the ultimate roadmap to start your content production conversation. A comprehensive content strategy should include your best topics, your greatest SEO opportunities and exactly who you’re trying to talk to. It’s the lens through which all your content should be viewed and a vital asset if you’re creating content.

It can also take a lot of the guesswork and brainstorming ruts out of your content production process and save you a lot of time before you even start putting topics onto your editorial calendar.

Editorial Calendar

A great way to physically map out your production schedule is through use of an editorial calendar. A robust editorial calendar can be your central source of truth when it comes to content production. It helps you map out your production schedule, categories you plan to cover and many other details. Include things like a working title, the topic, the author, any keywords you’d like to focus on, a due date and any additional resources you can use in your research.

Download our free Editorial Calendar Template!

Outline

When it comes time to start typing, there are many tools you can use to go from blank page to finished draft in an efficient way. If you ask different writers, you’re likely to get different responses. But my favorite is the outline.

Outlines allow you to externalize and organize your thoughts while mapping out the structure and flow of the piece you’re about to dig into.

Separate research and writing

When you’re doing research for any piece of content, it’s tempting to write an entire paragraph around a really juicy stat once you find it. But resist. Without having anything else written out, it’s likely that impulsive paragraph won’t fit in and you or the editor will have to spend additional time reworking it.

As you find good research, organize it in one place. When you’re done researching (or have plenty to get rolling), then start writing.

Work your process

When content creation involves multiple steps over multiple people (which it almost always does), think of it like reading lines in a play: It’s crucial to know your cue and to understand how important your line is to the person who follows you.

Each piece of content should have a clear process going all the way from planning to publishing. Give each blog, e-book and infographic its own clearly defined workflow and assign each step within that workflow to a specific person. This will improve your process in three significant ways:

  1. It gives everyone a clear picture of what their role in the process is.
  2. It allows each person to worry about their contribution only when it’s their turn.
  3. It facilitates accountability throughout the entire content creation process.

By simplifying in this way, no one has to guess what their job is or when they’re supposed to do it.

When we developed the HUB, we doubled down on this concept and built robust and completely customizable workflows for any kind of content you wish to produce. Any piece of content from a white paper to a tweet can have as many or as few planning, creation, photo sourcing, editing and review steps as you see fit.

Keep feedback in one format

There’s no one right way to give feedback. But there are ways to make it easier.

When multiple people are involved in the content creation process (like 97% of our clients), lots of different creation and review signals are natural. However, like at a concert, once those signals start to loop and turn into feedback, you’re going to have a very unfortunate noise and an unhappy audience to deal with. Here’s why:

It slows down the process

Oftentimes content edits can be a quick rephrasing here or an additional paragraph there and don’t need to consume that much time. But when feedback is coming from multiple people in multiple places, it can be very difficult for the person in charge of collecting it to sift through duplicate feedback and get the most updated version of the content back through the cycle. Pick one person to serve as the “brand editor” to edit the content for style and voice and make sure all feedback goes through that person.

It’s incredibly stressful for the writer

Think of Peter Gibbons, the working-class hero of the 1999 cult classic, Office Space. The biggest gripe the computer programmer had was that he had eight bosses. “When I make a mistake,” Gibbons says in a meeting with the Bobs, “I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it.”

When you’ve got one writer and five different people giving feedback, you’re setting your writer up for a lot of unnecessary frustration. If feedback is coming from many different locations, assign one person to receive and organize that feedback for the writer. The changes will come much more quickly and everyone will be happier as a result.

If you can’t make feedback one person’s job, at the very least agree on a format. Make sure all email comes via email or HUB comment or carrier pigeon. Whatever it is, make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Use as few tools as possible

The best way to streamline your content production process is to keep it all housed in the same place.

Historically, content creation has had so many disparate parts. Planning, creation, feedback and review have all employed separate tools. You lay out the editorial calendar in a spreadsheet and write in a word doc while both are shot around to various people at the organization through different email chains. Then feedback is given through a separate email chain and different versions of the content is sent to different people at different times. By the time you publish, you’ll have spent half as much time tracking down the right piece of content as you did creating it.

Even if you’re creating a medium amount of content, investing in a content marketing platform (CMP) is worth it. A CMP is a tool that’s built to centralize the planning, creation, review and measurement of your content. All CMPs can connect to a number of different blogging and social media platforms, allowing you to map out your content, create it and publish it wherever you want it to go.

Though we’re quite partial to BrandpointHUB (try it free for 14 days!), there are a bunch out there for you to check out. In an infographic we recently put together about your ideal marketing technology stack, we outlined some worth looking at.

Take a look

If you’re using the wrong tools, your bottom line will likely be able to tell you. Content creation is incredibly important to your brand but, if managed improperly, can become a major thorn in your side.

Choosing the right tools and the right processes can greatly help you reduce inefficiency in your content creation process, give your content creators more time to be creative and allow you to see a better return on your content investment.

Nels Urtel March 1, 2017

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