There’s been a lot written about the content production process and managing the lifecycle of your content (including this excellent Wikipedia entry). In our 22 years as a content marketing agency, we’ve been putting our content lifecycle into practice at scale. And as we’ve honed our own processes, we’ve found the best method for managing and organizing content.
Our obsession about process generally can be distilled into this: “We simply do not have the time nor resources to produce and manage poor-quality content for ourselves, and especially for our clients. Bad content is too expensive!”
Quality content lasts a lifetime
We’ve found the average lifespan of a high-quality piece of evergreen content can be measured in YEARS! We have posts going back to 2013 and earlier that still generate solid traffic, each produced with a few hours of research and writing.
That is years’ worth of organic search results, traffic and leads captured by a single content item that cost relatively little to create. When you multiply that by your weekly publishing cadence, you can get a pretty good picture of the ROI on good content.
Our content lifecycle process
Our process involves six steps: Plan, Create, Review, Publish, Promote and Measure. In this post, we’ll explain what each step of the process requires to achieve a final piece of content. Following this process will encourage a more organized way to think about content creation.
Planning is key to the likelihood that your content will generate a positive ROI for years to come. To produce content that does more than waste a few kilobytes on a server, you need to have a clear understanding of:
- Audience persona: Who is this content intended for? If your audience does not find use in the content, then it’s a swing and a miss.
- “Buyer” stage: What action do you expect the audience to take after they’ve interacted with the content? Ideally, you’ll have content that supports each of the stages in your conversion/purchase funnel, which will help propel the lead or client to the next stage.
- The big idea: What is the specific subject, theme or topic you will focus on? The idea should inspire the writers to say, “Hey, that’s a good idea!” If it doesn’t, you may want to check your assumptions.
- Clear tone and voice: As your audience internalizes different pieces of your brand’s content, will they begin to feel a familiarity with your brand? If your brand’s voice becomes disjointed, your audience will have a harder time getting to know you. Especially if there are multiple people involved in generating content, it’s important to establish brand guidelines.
- Keywords, of course: Yes, SEO is still important, and search engines are getting eerily smarter every day. Conducting keyword research will help your brand brainstorm and discover content opportunities for a better chance to rank in search.
- Your Research: Collect and prepare studies, interviews or reference materials that will form the backbone of the content.
Taking the time to do this work before writing or designing anything will keep your team focused so you can create content that will get results.
This is the obvious step in the process: Someone ultimately has to write or design something. The critical component is making sure the contributors and stakeholders are on the same page regarding the classic five W’s (and an H):
- Why are we creating this content?
- Who will benefit most from it?
- How is it supposed to help them?
- What results should it create for them?
- Where will they find this content?
- And most importantly, When does it need to be completed so it can go out the door on time?
Arming the team with this understanding frees them up to focus on getting the work done with as little distraction or interruptions as possible. It also generally helps produce a stronger first draft and reduces churn as reviews begin to roll in.
Content is not produced in a vacuum. There’s always a stakeholder that’s driving the work or accountable for the results it will generate. The challenge is in coordinating and consolidating all that feedback in a way that improves the end result.
Here are a few tips to create a more efficient review process:
- Identify everyone who needs to weigh in on the content, but be selective. Too many cooks in the kitchen could cause confusion and delay deadlines.
- Make clear at which point in the process these reviewers will be allowed to see the content and provide feedback (e.g., first draft, second draft, etc.).
- Make doubly clear how much time they have to provide the feedback.
- Multiple inputs can create a ton of confusion and weaken the end product. Decide who on the team will be the final arbiter of what feedback is followed, and what is disregarded.
- Determine the one person who will provide final approval.
Without approval, the content cannot be published and that deadline will likely be in jeopardy. When deadlines are missed, the work stacks up and the team has difficulty getting ahead.
With so many factors at play (see above!), it can be difficult to hit a publishing deadline. At this stage, everyone is eager to “just be done with it” and get it out the door so you can celebrate. By taking these steps, you won’t need to sweat a looming deadline.
1. Determine the priority of content publishing dates. If a piece of content is timely (a press release and social post announcing a new product feature, a blog post related to a holiday, etc.), make sure your team is aware that these posts should be written and reviewed first, so you won’t need to break a sweat.
2. Set a final approval and publish date for when the content will be complete and ready to publish. Then, create mini-deadlines for each person in the review process (and leave a window for each deadline in case someone misses it).
3. Define what “publish” means. Is that when it’s live on your website? Does an email need to be sent? Should something come back from the printer?
Nowadays, it’s not good enough to publish the content and call it a day. You need to get it directly in front of an audience by publishing your content to various social media channels.
- Pick the channel(s): Where does your audience like to hang out? Where are they the most receptive to clicking and accessing content?
- Optimal day and time: Each platform has a degree of time sensitivity. Knowing the best day and time windows will give you the best chance of generating a quick win for your fresh content.
- Set a cadence: An engaged audience will come to expect (and even demand) seeing your content in their news feeds. Mastering a regular, predictable cadence of delivering and promoting content will maximize the effect.
- Timeframe: Unless you have a secret superpower, you can’t promote all the content all the time. Defining how long you’ll promote a content item will put you in a great position to measure results and determine what to do next.
After lavishing all that love and attention on your content, it’s time to see its impact. After looking at the KPIs that are most valuable to your brand, comparing them to your other content and finding some insights, your content will fall into one of two categories:
1. Good-performing content
Go ahead, do your happy dance. But then it’s time to get back to work to transform your good-performing content into something GREAT.
- Increase visibility: Can you surface or highlight the content more on your own website or owned channels?
- Continue promotion: Yes, you can keep going back to the well on promoting quality content. You should continue it so long as the results keep coming. To widen your reach, try varying the days and times of the promotions, or putting some money behind the posts to reach a whole new audience.
- Repurpose the content: There may be an opportunity to leverage the interest by expanding it into a series or producing a follow-up piece. Perhaps there’s another take on the same topic from a different POV that would help to broaden the appeal.
2. Poor-performing content
It happens to the best of us. But it’s time to ask yourself the hard questions.
- Can it be refined? Does it follow best practices for quality content? Is it better than your competitor’s content? It may need more visuals, a stronger CTA or maybe it needs to answer your audience’s questions more clearly.
- Does it need a do-over? Take another crack at it from a different angle. Add some research or new sources.
- Should it just go away? No one ever wants to kill their darlings, but sometimes the best course of action is to trash the piece and move on.
Make content creation easier
We’ve been using the above method of publishing content for 20+ years — and we’ve helped our clients do the same. This experience inspired us to develop a content marketing platform that resolves common hiccups in the content marketing process.
BrandpointHUB helps clients spend less time producing content and more time driving results.
The HUB puts you in complete control with the help of a centralized calendar, team collaboration tools, and a super swift workflow and notification system. You’ll meet more deadlines and see better results once you’ve mastered a process. And BrandpointHUB will help you get there.