Collaborating with others to deliver on your content marketing strategy is without a doubt one of the greatest ways to scale your efforts and maintain consistency.
It takes the pressure off one person doing all the legwork or being responsible for every step of the process.
For example, you can get a project manager to do the briefing, a freelance copywriter to do the writing, a graphic designer to create the visuals, and a social media guru to do the promotion. Et voilà! You now have a premium resource that outperforms anything created by just one person.
But, as you probably already know, once you start a collaboration, your inbox can get overrun with emails.
Every person’s need to stay in the loop may lead to tens (or *gasp* even hundreds) of threaded emails all relating to a single piece of content.
Suddenly, you have no idea what’s going on, who’s finished with what, or when the content will ever see the light of day – worse yet, you have to go back through all those emails to figure it out. It sounds like drowning in a teaspoon, but this is a real problem for content marketers.
According to research from McKinsey Global Institute, people spend 28% of their work week on emails. And apparently, the more you collaborate with remote teams (a common occurrence in the digital marketing sphere), the higher that percentage can get.
So if I was to sum up my point into one single sentence, it would be: content marketing collaboration is a great idea, but only if you keep your email communications in check.
These five tips will help you do that.
1. Create ground rules for communication
The first thing you can do to keep your inbox in check is to lay down some ground rules. If you’re the leader of your content marketing team, it’s your job to come up with these rules and make sure they’re abided by.
Here are some examples of rules you can set that will help simplify email communication and minimize your inbox load:
- No ‘reply all’ allowed
Really, the only person whose cursor needs to go anywhere near the ‘reply all’ button is the project manager. Everyone else can communicate with you (and each other) one-on-one.
In order to adhere to this rule, some of your team members may need to change their automatic settings. For example, in Gmail, if you go to settings, you can change the default reply behavior from ‘reply all’ to ‘reply’:
Obviously, sometimes people really do need to ‘reply all’ with an update – but not that often Also, don’t be *that* manager who sends out one email asking three different team members three different questions. Just email them all separately to keep your communication individualised. You’ll be happier when you look back at the email threads in the long run.
- No unneccessarily chatty emails
Make sure everyone understands that you only want to see email communication coming through about projects. Not about what people are up to on the weekend or sharing a tongue-in-cheek meme.
A great tactic is to tell people to treat emails like they cost money to send. That encourages them to think long and hard about the content of their emails before hitting send. No more ‘oh yeah, and just one more little thing…’
While shooting a quick email is a quick way to get an answer, encourage your team to try to find it themselves. There are usually resources available that answer people’s questions, as well as the worldwide web at their fingertips. Encourage a ‘search before you ask’ approach.
- Embrace daily progress reports
Possibly the best way to minimize inbox clutter is by limiting your team’s email communication to daily progress reports. Tell everyone to send precisely one email at the end of the day explaining what they have accomplished, and asking any questions if necessary.
The purpose of this setup is to keep your inbox clean and your productivity high throughout the day by limiting unnecessary email clutter. However, you may need to use another collaboration tool so team members can chat with each other throughout the day when required (more on that later!).
2. Create a shared online environment
Instead of using email as your homebase for discussing content collaboration, content updates, file uploads etc, use a third party tool that’s specifically designed to streamline remote collaboration.
Google Docs is a life-saver in this regard. On that platform, all your team members can collectively edit one document that’s continuously updated for everyone.
Because Google Docs constantly save and update changes to documents, no one can accidentally add their comments or edits to an older version, which often happens when people are working offline in Word. People can also leave comments right in the centre of the content that otherwise they might have sent in an email.
For an alternative to Google Docs, FlypChart can help you keep your inbox uncluttered when it comes to collaborating on blog posts, marketing emails, or social media messages. It allows users to assign tasks to individual team members, track group progress, and post content to external applications all from one easy-to-use platform.
3. Create a clear content workflow
The better your team understands their specific role and responsibilities in content creation, the less need there will be for bulk emails. Create a clear content workflow and guidelines for content marketing collaboration that people can refer to when they have questions about deadlines, deliverables and budget instead of sending out emails.
Often, content marketers turn their project workflow into a visual map, like this one created by Rick Allen:
Obviously, the processes you define for your team can be much more detailed than that. An effective content workflow which minimizes confusion and the need to consult with other team members via email will typically include details of all the processes involved in content creation as well as who’s responsible for each task, and how managers will monitor progress.
You can include your ground rules for communication as part of your content workflow, too. Outline step-by-step processes: for example, ‘Create a shared Google Doc link for your first draft then submit it for review in FlypChart’.
Once you’ve created a clear outline of what needs to be done and by whom, team members can refer back to it again and again when they have questions about what’s happening and what they need to do next. Creating distinct rules for communication can go a long way in minimizing email clutter when collaborating on content.
4. Create regular meeting times
Meetings involving your whole team are often a struggle to set up, especially if some of them work remotely or in different time zones. But meetings are an undeniably useful way to check in, keep projects on track, minimize questions via email, and keep your inbox clean.
You don’t have to hold a meeting every single week, but you should schedule group meetings at a regular cadence, such as monthly. Knowing a meeting is coming up will encourage your team members to save a lot of their questions as ‘material’ for that meeting.
Of course, the last thing you want to do to set up these meetings is send out a group email asking when everyone’s available, or you’ll receive 20+ extra emails! Instead, use a scheduling tool. There are lots of free ones out there, such as Doodle. Use it to compare people’s availability and find the best time for everyone to meet without starting an unnecessary email thread:
5. Make the most of technology
I’ve already mentioned several web tools in this post that can help keep communications about content marketing collaboration out of your inbox. But really, finding a web tool or shared online environment to manage all communication is the smartest thing you can do.
FlypChart is designed to solve this very problem. With it, you can create, assign, approve, and publish your content all from one interface. Pair it with Slack for ongoing communication and Doodle to schedule your meetings, and you’ve already done wonders to remove the clutter from your inbox.
The benefits go way beyond just having a less emails. Today’s technology can help you be more productive and create better content, quicker.
In the early days of email, everyone wanted to receive more of them – now, almost everyone wants to receive less. Inbox clutter is a real struggle for anyone who works in the digital marketing sphere. Whether you’re a freelancer or a content producer, you’re probably used to your email inbox exploding with messages every time you start a new project.
Lay down some ground rules for yourself and for others by following the simple tips listed above. Reducing email clutter not only saves you time every morning as you sift through your inbox, it prevents stress and improves the efficiency and quality of your work as a result.
Put these five tips into action, and let me know how you go.