May 03, 2018

5 Keys To Designing The Right Content Process

By: Josh Dougherty

Inbound Marketing

Process. The word makes people shudder.

At least, it used to make me shudder. I thought that it could be eliminated by having good people on your team. I was wrong for one simple reason: even the best people have bad days.

If you're executing an inbound marketing program, creating content on a consistent basis, or communicating with the outside world at all as an organization, you need a content process that's flexible enough to allow for creativity in your team, but that also serves as a safety net when things go wrong.

We've worked on content creation processes for numerous clients over the years, and here are 5 keys to designing a content creation process that works.

1) Be Responsive To The Unique Needs Of Your Team

Let's smash a couple myths. First, there is no perfect content creation process. Second, it's probably not going to work to just copy the process that another team or business uses to get their content out the door. Your team has unique needs. You need to design your process around them.

As you sit down and start formalizing a content creation process, we recommend evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your team in order to identify where the process should focus. You could even use a SWOT analysis. Once you're done, it's time to design a process that builds on those strengths and safeguards against those weaknesses.

2) Don't Give Into "We Don't Need That" Syndrome

If I had a nickel for every time someone said "this process step isn't relevant to us," I'd be a millionaire. Most people usually say this when we're talking about a creative brief or a review checklist or worksheet. They're typically objecting because it seems difficult or constraining to follow a specific format when they provide input. These same people are often the ones that are the worst about providing helpful guidance on a project.

If you find yourself objecting to either the creative brief or review worksheet portions of a process, don't get rid of them. Beginning a project with a thorough and strategic creative brief is the key to smooth content creation process. A review worksheet is essential to gathering feedback that is relevant and appropriate. Without these two pieces it will be difficult to create amazing content on a consistent basis.

3) Checklists Are Your Friend

It's usually necessary to outline your entire process in a flow chart to make sure you're comprehending all the details. You may stick it into a PowerPoint when you ask your executive team to buy in. Both of these tools serve a purpose, but if you stop there you'll struggle to get your new process off the ground.

We've found that creating a couple simple checklists can make a world of difference in the ongoing effectiveness to your content creation. You might consider one or all of these three:

  1. Process overview checklist
  2. Content creation checklist
  3. Content review checklist

By giving your team a cheat sheet for each step, you're empowering them to follow it for the long term.

4) Keep It Simple

The first agency I worked at had a 90-step process for creating an email. This process lived on a physical piece of paper called a buckslip. This buckslip was carried from desk to desk as someone completed their task. The process was so complex that it required a traffic manager to help keep the jobs going despite the fact that there were numerous project managers at the agency who could have easily kept things moving . It also took three months.


The three outcomes of this process should come as no surprise to you:

  1. Everyone loathed the overall process
  2. No one owned their individual steps
  3. It was nearly impossible to create relevant and fresh content

This agency's process should be a cautionary tale about over-complication. It never ends well. It's much better to focus on keeping things simple by providing guardrails that will keep your content creation on track without discouraging individual initiative or ownership.

5) Create Opportunities To Get Out Of The Weeds

When we focus in on deadlines and deliverables, we often lose sight of both the overall strategy and past performance data that can help inform what content we create and when. When we lose sight of the overall strategy, our content becomes ineffective.

Your process should include key moments that force the team to refer back to past performance data and remind people of the strategy. We've found that a monthly editorial planning meeting is a great place to do that. These built-in reminders are hardly difficult, and they keep the entire team on track.

What have you found important in your team's content creation process? We'd love to hear.


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