How to Perfect Your Content Production Workflow

Your team has a solid strategy and is executing your content creation plan. Top-quality content is your brand’s hallmark. But is your content production workflow a bit chaotic?

You’re not alone. With the insane amount of content larger content teams need to pump out, it’s easy to get a bit off track on the process it takes to get from ideation to publication. Let’s look at what it takes to grease the wheels and get your content production rolling at top speed.

Document Your Content Workflow

As Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Mills points out, you need to define your workflow “before any content creators’ pens touch paper or fingers hit keyboards.” He’s right. You can’t see where you’re getting off track if you don’t have a map in the first place.

Efficient content operations and governance doesn’t end there. You need to document your workflow so that everyone involved in the process can see it. Documenting your content workflow is especially important when you outsource at least part of your content production process to freelancers or content marketing agencies.

Your content calendar is a great place to park your content workflow document, as well as your policies and corporate style guide. There, creatives, editors, and others involved in content production can refer to it as needed. Having guideposts helps spur your teams on to the next step, especially when they feel stuck.

Include Every Step of the Process and the Roles that Perform Them

In your content production workflow, include every step in your process, along with the roles responsible for each step. Using a visual diagram can help illustrate how it works.

Image via Content Marketing Institute

Create a Template

Use a template that works for your brand – but include some details that can help newer or outsourced teams understand what each step entails. Feel free to use this template as a starting point that you can adjust to your own needs.

  • Request content: A client, another department, or marketing leadership requests a piece of content or a campaign centered around a specific topic. In the request – generally a detailed brief – the team requesting the content should specify the type of content, the market segment and customer persona, and the channels you want to publish the content on.
  • Ideate: Whether solo or with a group, brainstorm how to develop the topic into a fully fleshed piece of content with a specific purpose. Having a “content sandbox” where a creator can jot down ideas and ask others on the team to comment helps drive the creative process forward.
  • Research and collaborate: Find information that supports the direction you want to take the content. Original research, such as surveys and studies, can help strengthen your argument in formal white papers, while previously published articles on the topic from respected sources can provide other supportive evidence. Content collaboration with other teams in the company, such as engineering, product development, sales, and customer support, can provide valuable insights specific to their fields. Additionally, use this time to track down content assets already in your content repository that can support your idea. Infographics, images, videos, and other written materials can help you drive your points home.
  • Construct an outline: While some creatives prefer a mental outline, others need a formal outline or storyboard to guide the content creation process. Even if you’re one of those whose outline lives only inside your head, it’s a good idea to jot it down in case you lose your train of thought.
  • Create your first draft: Using the outline as your guide, create your first draft. Instead of focusing on making your first draft error-free, focus instead on making your point with a well-reasoned yet compelling story.
  • Refine and proofread your draft: Some creatives do both of these tasks in one fell swoop. Others prefer to refine their story, eliminating wordiness and adding additional proof in one step and then proofreading it before sending it to the editorial and compliance teams. At this step, creative teams can add any required metadata.
  • Send the finished draft to the editorial and compliance teams: Even if your writers rarely make grammatical or factual errors, it always helps to have a second pair of expert eyes look over their work. This step is especially critical if your company deals with sensitive legal issues, confidential data, or regulatory requirements. On your content workflow, note which teams need to sign off on the content before releasing it for publication.
  • Approve or send it back to the creative teams: If everything passes muster, your editorial and compliance teams can approve the content for publication. If not, they need to include detailed notes about what the creative teams need to change before resubmitting it.
  • Publish the content: Once it clears all the hurdles, publish your content on all the channels where your target audience frequents.
  • Analyze the results: Use a robust content analytics solution to monitor how your content performs. Amplify the reach of your best performers – and revise the ones that don’t quite hit the mark to perform better.

Take Snafus Out of the Equation

Although you can’t achieve complete perfection in the real world, you can anticipate many of the bottlenecks that might occur during the process. Here are some snafu workarounds we’ve found valuable over the years.

Pad Your Workflow with Dynamic Due Dates

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to adjust to unexpected curveballs. Whether it’s an urgent project that the sales department needed yesterday that throws your team off their schedule or a baby that arrives a little early, you need to build some flexibility into your content workflow.

So, why not save yourself the stress and pad your workflow with dynamic due dates, as a Claravine post suggests. When you make your deadlines relative rather than static, you give your teams the wiggle room they need to ensure that each piece of content never gets the short shrift. For example, instead of saying that your teams need to complete their research on April 20, set the deadline to “2 days after the ideation process is complete.”

Designate a Point Person for Each Project

With all the levels of collaboration involved in content production, you need someone to ensure that all the steps fall into place. Assigning a senior creative to manage each project gives inexperienced team members someone to consult if they have questions.

And, if one team member seems to struggle with meeting deadlines or something else, the point person can intervene, helping them solve any issues that stand in their way – or reassign the task to a person better equipped to handle it.

Use Your Content Dashboard to Communicate

One of the most common snafus larger content teams face is missed notifications. Emails and text messages are fine, but if your inbox is like mine, a few might slip through the cracks on busy days.

Instead, as Jonathan Hill advises, use your content dashboard itself to communicate. It’s hard to ignore – or miss – a message that pops up right on the project you’re working on.

Give Compliance and Legal Teams Access to the Content Platform

Your company’s compliance division and legal staff have a full plate of work outside their roles in approving content. Simplify and streamline the approval process by giving them access to the content they need to review.

That way, your creative teams can message them right on the content dashboard that a project is ready for their review. Instead of shuffling between platforms, they need only scroll over to the dashboard tab, review the content, and send it on to whoever is responsible for publication.

Finally, Update Often

As I’ve said in the past, your content planning and workflow need to complement each other. So, as your needs change, update your workflow template to work with your new strategy.

The best way to keep your workflow current is to have a central hub where the entire content production process occurs. That way, your teams can see every update you make to your workflow and adjust it in real-time.

With DivvyHQ’s comprehensive content marketing platform, you have one digital home for everything content – a home where you can automate routine processes – like workflows – and concentrate on the creative process itself.

Simplify and automate your content workflow. Start your 14-day free trial today!