By now, most marketers understand the massive impact content marketing can have for a business: 55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority, according to HubSpot.
But there's more to the content puzzle than just the writing—though no one is going to read a blog or other content that is boring, dry, or otherwise bad. The ability to write great content is a necessary skill, but it's very different from managing a content marketing strategy and program.
When leading the content charge, marketers have plenty to think about: The topics to cover, the keywords to include, the frequency of publishing, and the tone of voice for content all come to mind as obvious considerations.
But one massive part of content marketing that's often not given enough attention goes beyond basic campaigns. It digs into how the content machine runs: It's about the entire content marketing operation.
"Content operations" refers to everything that helps content marketing efforts run smoothly and drive impact for a business. That includes people, technology, and processes.
Marketers know that producing consistent, high-quality content is difficult: Writers may not be subject-matter experts; subject-matter experts might not be available; content must stay aligned with overall brand... And content marketing managers don't have time to do everything.
Clearly, the challenges for content managers are plenty.
A well-oiled content operations may not come quickly; and the people, processes, and technology may change over time; but having the following five foundational elements will help lay the groundwork for success and ensure companies set off on the right foot to creating consistent, compelling, impactful content at scale.
1. Develop a content marketing strategy
Fully 91% of B2B marketers are using content marketing, but only 37% have a documented content marketing strategy, according to research from MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute.
For small content marketing teams, having no documented strategy might fly: After all, many content marketing managers follow some sort of strategy; it's just not always documented. But for larger companies, that's a really inefficient approach.
The problem with having a strategy and failing to document it is that it's not scalable. If the only person who knows the strategy is the content manager, that person needs to communicate and talk with and align everyone else—continually.
But with a documented content strategy, marketers can efficiently educate stakeholders and individual contributors alike about whom they're targeting, what role content plays in the overall marketing strategy, which channels are priorities, and much more.
2. Create and share a style guide, contributor guidelines, and brand guidelines
Many people write in their own voice, with their own humor, verbiage, and sentence structure. As businesses increase content production and more people contribute to your blog, website, or other material, having a style guide and other guidelines to review in advance of writing will help authors stay on track in representing the brand.
Marketers will spend less time communicating back and forth over email; and, more important, the content being produced will be on target and will maintain the appropriate brand voice and identity.
Content style guides can include tons of information, but the basics to include are terminology preferences, tone, word count, topic ideas, and image requests. A content style guide will likely be informed by a company's brand guidelines, and it should include examples to help contributors better understand their task.
3. Lay out a production workflow
A content production workflow will crystallize your sense of what should happen and when in the content production process, helping save time and answer stakeholder or contributor questions quickly.
Nothing too in-depth is necessary, but it is nice to have a rundown of various steps and to-dos such as assigning a topic and keyword, writing first draft, having a subject matter expert review, content manager review, design/image sourcing, publishing, and distribution. You can list approximate lengths of time for each step and include information about where content drafts should be saved.
The other big part of a production workflow is file structure and asset storage. Many times, companies create content but don't keep an up-to-date content inventory or note where assets such as texts and images should be saved. By documenting where assets reside and can be accessed, marketers can save time when auditing, repurposing, or republishing content.
4. Outline technology needs
Depending on the size of a company and its content marketing needs, the technology required for content operations can vary widely.
A content marketing technology stack will likely include a content management system (CMS), marketing automation platform; file storage for assets; project management software; author tools; keyword, social media, and content marketing research tools; and design tools.
Keep account login information together (in a secure place, which is also another piece of technology), and make a note of when it's time to renew each technology so you don't unexpectedly end up without a key tool.
5. Get your people in place
Content operations could never take place without its core: people. Again, depending on the size of your organization, the number of people involved can vary widely, but you need writers, contributors, marketing managers, content marketing specialists, videographers, developers, designers, and, of course, subject-matter experts.
The key here for content marketing managers is to think like project managers and to consider capacity. If the goal is to publish three long-form blog posts a week, how much time will that take from a writer, designer, and subject-matter expert?
When marketers don't consider the amount of time and effort it takes to produce specific pieces of content, they usually end up with a subpar result—and a frustrated team. Ensure your content marketing goals align with the amount of resources you have available.
* * *
If you've ever led a content marketing program, you already know the challenges that go along with the job. It's not just about producing killer, compelling content (though, yes, that's key); it's also about keeping track of many moving—and sometimes changing—pieces.
Having a process in place is absolutely vital to success in a game that's largely about consistency. After all, compelling content isn't going to generate growth if it doesn't get published regularly and doesn't reach its audience.
By following these five outlined steps to harmonious content operations, content managers can feel prepared for the sometimes daunting task of being the point person for all things content.
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