As a content strategist who is accountable for producing large amounts of content, you want to be able to quickly locate and access what you’re currently working on — or to be able to easily reference old content on a moment’s notice.
Invariably, all your content will end up somewhere. But at some point, these assets will need to move to a more permanent location, which is critical for protecting (and finding) these assets over the long-term.
If you’re producing content at scale, you need a filing system that makes sense for your team. Below are six common challenges that marketers face when organizing content, along with a proposed solution, so you can identify the organizational approach that’s right for your business.
1. Centralized: “Whose desktop is it stored on anyway?”
If your team’s content is stored on multiple machines and strewn across desktops and folders, then you have a serious issue. This siloing of content serves no one and can only bring heartache if a computer crashes or is stolen — primarily because it is very hard to keep a current backup of every single different locale.
Eliminate this problem ASAP by aggregating all of that content into one single, centralized location. Once everything is in one place, you can rest assured you know where everything is, and then it’s easier to lock it down and archive backups.
2. Accessible: “Can you find that file and email it to me?”
Ensure that your centralized location is accessible to the right people. It saves time if people can locate files themselves (and not have to ask and wait for a reply).
Be forewarned: Giving your team, stakeholders and contributors access to the centralized location is a double-edged sword. Yes, it enables them to “do” for themselves, yet it also opens you to the potential for accidents like files being moved or deleted through negligence, or (more often) someone trying to be helpful. Not everyone needs full read AND write access. Determining the ground rules of who can read and who can read AND write will save you headaches down the road.
3. Structured: “Are these filed alphabetically by name, date, category?”
Centralizing content storage doesn’t mean simply dumping everything into a single folder on the server. Segmenting content into folders can convey additional context as to what the contained content is about and why it’s located there. To make sure the structure makes sense, here are the eight most common types of folders we’ve tried out and their pros/cons:
- Owner or team: Providing each person (or team) a folder that they are responsible for maintaining works well at keeping content broadly organized. The downside is that as the staff changes, the folders may not convey much context to new team members.
- Time frame: It’s important to track what was published last month, last quarter, last year. Much like organizing by owner/team, however, sorting content by when it was produced doesn’t provide a lot of information about what the content is about.
- Category (or topic, or theme): Whatever you may call it, organizing by category is where sorting content into folders really starts to tell a story about what that content is about. And you can have as many folders for as many categories that you cover. This has the potential to be overdone, though, so take care not to delve into too much detail or you’ll risk category creep.
- Content type: It might make natural sense to sort content into folders for blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, video, etc. The downside is that as you produce content in one format, any subsequent supporting content (such as social posts) will end up in entirely different locations.
- Publishing channel: Focusing on where the final content ends up also makes a lot of natural sense. Was this content published on your website, Medium, Facebook, Twitter? This is only useful presuming you know where the content landed. Much like organizing by content type, it’s also harder to store related content in one place.
- Target audience: Ultimately, the content you produce is intended for a specific audience to consume. If you have different audiences, it could make sense to organize your content based on who you expect to interact with it.
- Buyer stage: If you use purchase or decision-making funnels, then each piece of content is designed to elicit a specific mental state or encourage a specific action. Like organizing by audience, you can segment content by each buyer stage for that audience.
- Area (or initiative, or campaign): This is the big one if you support different business units, clients or product lines. To be useful to stakeholders, you’ll want to place content into their respective corners by using access permissions. If this is not done, there is a higher risk that sensitive content will be available to the wrong people.
- Hybrid approach: Relying on just a single structure may not provide the organizational precision you’re looking for. For further organizational bliss, multiple methods can be combined into secondary layers that subgroup content in the way that makes sense to you. This is especially valuable if you produce so much content that one level of organization is not sufficient. Examples:
- By initiative and then by channel
- By category and then by content type
- Or by audience and then by buyer stage
4. Current: Is this the latest version? Are you sure?
Version control is the headache of many a content marketer. Even the most stringent of standards doesn’t always ensure each content iteration is based on the latest version. And making sure that different versions with stakeholder edits and feedback are successfully consolidated into a master doc can be incredibly tedious work. Nobody likes to find out they were working from an old draft.
Simply applying sequential numbering goes a long way toward helping track what the latest version is. For example: “Organizing Content_Draft1,” “Organizing Content_Draft2.” Or, you may want to add dates: “Organizing Content_4-9-18.” It’s also helpful to label drafts with who did the editing: “Organizing Content_BSedits.”
The trick is to make sure everyone who saves files does so in a consistent manner.
5. Status: Is this the content that was published?
Not all content is always at the same state of progress or completion. If you ever want to reference or update content, you’ll want to make sure it’s immediately clear if the content is still just an idea, what is active and in progress, and what is published and completed. Finding out you’re not updating the final, approved content is a bit frustrating.
6. Searchable: I know what I’m looking for, just not where to find it.
Most people are daunted by the task of staring at a bunch of folders (even the most lovingly organized ones) and figuring out where to look. This can be resolved by searching for specific terms or using filters to weed out irrelevant items and reveal the content gems.
Establishing a common naming convention enables you to run queries to cut down your search time. It may not always look pretty, but as long as you use it consistently, searching, sorting and scanning results becomes easy.
Naming Example: [Content Type] [Category] [Version] [Status] “[Title]”.[File Type]
- Blog_Best Practices_V5_Published_How to Organize Content.docx
7. Bonus Tip! Online: How do I get to it when I’m offsite?
Tucking all your content safely away in the depths of a localized server is only useful to people who are on the same network. Many remote workers still have access to a VPN server, but often, it runs much slower than it would in the office.
Instead, there are SaaS (Software as a Service) tools that allow you to access your content securely from anywhere and at any time. The content marketing platform BrandpointHUB supports all of these organizational best practices (and more). This makes it easier to collaborate with your team, other stakeholders and external contributors, no matter where they are.