A full-blown content marketing strategy has a lot of different components.
You need to come up with content ideas, research them, create the content, publish it, then promote it relentlessly.
If you run a one-man marketing show, you probably already have a rhythm in place for the whole process. But if and when you start working with a team, it may get hard to maintain the same steady flow.
That’s where a content workflow comes in to help keep your editorial schedule on track.
Hang on, what *is* a content workflow?
A content workflow is essentially the series of tasks you need to run through in order to create content. If you work alone, your content workflow could exist nowhere but in your head. But if you work with other people, it’s a good idea to define processes officially to keep things running smoothly and articulate who is responsible for which tasks (and when).
An effective content workflow will outline:
- The steps you take to create content
- Who is accountable for various tasks
- How managers monitor content creation progress
Often, a manager or business owner will define workflows using a visual representation. Here’s an example of a content workflow diagram that Kate Abrosimova of Kaiiax put together:
Diagrams like this help managers know where to go to monitor the content creation process. A workflow diagram can also be supplemented with written definitions or instructions for team members to follow.
How do I design a content workflow that works for me?
Every business type has different needs when it comes to content creation. But if you focus on a few key points, you’ll be able to design a content workflow that works for you.
Here are some ideas of what to focus on:
Roles and Resources
First up, you need to identify who is involved in your content creation process. This goes beyond just your content writers. What other people serve as touchpoints? Who is involved and what responsibilities do they have?
For example, you may have an in-house content marketing manager or a third-party freelance agency that you go through. Maybe you have to liaise with the sales department to align your content with their campaigns. Those are resources you should count in the workflow.
You should also count individuals such as:
- Initiators – Who orders the content to be created? (Clients, managers, experts, business owners, etc)
- Strategists – Who decides the content type, topic and angle?
- Researchers – Who does the initial content research? Perhaps a manager provides an outline for creators before they begin?
- Experts – Possibly your content is ghostwritten for an expert – or content creators need to interview/refer to an expert before they create it.
- Creators – Depending on what kind of content you’re creating, this could be a writer, graphic designer or video editor.
- Editors – Who proofreads and edits the content? This could be your content creator or another person.
- Approvers – Who decides when the content is ready for publication? This could be a manager, client, or the business owner. Or, perhaps a series of people sign off on it: first the editor, then the manager, then the business owner.
- Owners – Who ultimately has rights to the content when it’s finished? Who does it legally belong to?
Those are just a few things to consider when delegating responsibilities in a team setting. You can, of course, define them differently. Chris Lake of Econsultancy created his own visual interpretation of these roles in his Content Marketing Team Matrix:
Depending on the size of your organization, you could have one person filling a few of these roles or several people assigned to each role. Just make sure you figure this out before you assign tasks.
Once you’ve identified everyone involved, you can outline what tasks you need to get done in the workflow. If you already have an undocumented process in place, it should be easy to identify the content creation tasks based on who performs them. For example, your tasks could be:
- Topic generation
- Content creation (writing, graphic design, video editing, etc)
- Proofreading, editing and sub-editing
Go into as much detail as possible about what each task entails. For example, what does it actually mean to ‘publish’ the content? Is it just uploading it to WordPress and hitting ‘publish’, or does it also involve optimizing relevant images and filling in technical SEO?
Who is best suited to doing certain tasks? Determine this based on people’s skills and strengths, and their general efficiency. For example, let’s say you have two in-house writers and outsource your editing, but the editor takes a week to turn around content. You could rearrange these responsibilities, so that your content creators edit each others’ work to save time.
Now that you have a solid overview of your tasks and the people responsible for them, you need to define when these tasks should be completed and in what order. This is what really creates the ‘flow’ of your workflow.
On the surface, it might seem like a simple task: Topic Generation > Structure and Research > Content Creation > Proofreading > Approval and Publishing. Done!
But you probably already know that the process is more complicated than that. Approvals and publishing, for example, could require several rounds of interaction between several different departments. It’s easy for completed content to get lost in email inboxes. So make sure everyone, even business leaders, have a deadline to stick to.
- Once content creators receive a topic and instructions, they have one week to complete a draft.
- Managers have three business days to request revisions.
- Once approved for publication, content must go live within 24 hours.
Of course, the deadlines you set should all depend on the volume of content requested. A 20,000 word report will obviously take longer to research, write, edit, and approve than a 500-word blog post.
Try to make your deadlines fit into your desired publishing schedule (e.g., two new blog posts every week, a new YouTube video every Tuesday or a monthly infographic). Just make sure you set realistic deadlines for each task or you’ll risk getting off-track from the beginning.
Identifying what tools you’ll use is also an important part of the process (which probably, at this point, seems neverending). If all of your team members are using different platforms to communicate and create content, it can slow down or derail your content workflow.
Using a content collaboration and publishing platform is a great way to automate some tasks and ensure your content workflow stays on schedule. FlypChart, for example, helps you plan, collaborate and then schedule your marketing content all in one place.
It also provides email alerts and reminders to keep you and your team on the same flow. That’s handy, given that the average digital marketer uses 12.4 different tools for their campaigns. 12.4 different tools is a lot to juggle by anyone’s standards!
Do your best to minimize the number of apps or interfaces your team uses when managing your content flow. The more tools people use, the more opportunity there is for a disconnect between team members that ultimately disrupts the whole process.
When working out your content workflow, remember to:
- Identify your tasks and resources
- Create a list of content creation tasks
- Assign tasks to the right team members
- Set strict deadlines
- Determine what tools you’ll use to create content and communicate
This will enable you to turn your content workflows into structured editorial guidelines for your team, and/or make a visual representation for everyone to follow.
Because the thing is, every marketing team has a content workflow, whether they realize it or not. When you decide to define it officially, it’s a great opportunity to streamline your processes and reduce expenses as well as increase your content creation efficiency.
That said, it can take some effort to get existing teams to adopt and stick to the new processes. But once you get everyone on the same page, using the same tools and adhering to the same deadlines, you’ll start to realize the benefits of having a well thought-out structure for content creation. Good luck, and let me know how you go in the comments.