At its heart, content marketing is not rocket science. Compared to PPC, buying ads, and other types of traditional and digital marketing, a typical content workflow is pretty simple… Come up with an idea, create a piece of content, publish it, promote it, and review your data to see how it performed.
However, as the size and scope of an organization grows, this process can quickly turn into complete chaos. The increase in people and teams means more cooks in the kitchen. Each of those stakeholders has specific agendas, needs, and expectations.
Let’s not forget the technology required to manage, publish, and promote content in all its forms. When you add these factors together, it’s clear content marketing is harder than it seems on the surface.
Research finds that 85% of CEOs blame internal complexity for failing to grow and deliver sustainable performance. The most commonly cited problem is too much focus on internal metrics rather than the customer.
If you feel like your content workflows involve too many steps and take too long, it might be time to rethink your process. Streamlining and simplifying your process improves efficiency and productivity, generating higher returns for your content marketing efforts. Your team will probably be happier, too.
Let’s dive into everything you need to know to create a simplified workflow that will keep everyone on the same page and on track.
Familiarize Yourself With Production Workflows
Production workflows are the process steps that content marketing and content operations platforms help you manage. They often include some form of the following:
- Ideation (ex: a campaign planning meeting/exercise) or intake (ex: internal stakeholders requesting content assets)
- Review and approval of ideas
- Scheduling campaigns and content projects with a content calendar
- Content production (see content workflow below)
- Content optimization
- Performance analysis
- Rinse and repeat
Most content marketing platforms are built with this process in mind and provide various workflow features, from simple and manual to fully automated. Imagine how much time your team would save if you automated even part of the process.
Get To Know the Content Workflow
Content workflows are linear checklists of the individual tasks that take a project from ideation to publication. An effective structure is repeatable and scalable. However, it can vary widely based on content type, quality requirements, and production team makeup.
Digital Content Workflow
While it’s possible to document your workflow in a physical space — such as a whiteboard in the marketing team’s meeting room — it’s less effective to do so. This haphazard approach is often how task assignments occur and one of the reasons why chaos follows. There is no centralized location where all team members can track production progress.
Creating a digital content workflow makes your team more likely to consult it regularly. If you create and store the workflow in a centralized digital location, you create an accountability structure, as everyone has access to the big-picture process and can see where a project is, who is responsible for tasks at any given stage, and what the deadlines are at each point.
Creating a content workflow typically involves hammering out the following details:
- The content the team will create
- A content brief and the style guide the team will use
- SEO strategies and keywords to include
- The team members involved (content manager, copywriter, editor, UX designer, and reviewers)
- Team member tasks and responsibilities
- Content review and approval process
- Deadlines for every task
A workflow builder template speeds up the processes. Once you know the tasks, you can configure a workflow or project management platform to automate workflow creation.
If your content operations produce a high volume of content and involve multiple teams, you should consider a content management platform that provides a structure for and can automate complex content initiatives.
The Benefits of a Process and Content Workflow
Why do both production and content workflows matter? Having both offers many benefits:
- Everyone is on the same page about the tasks involved.
- You create a visual map of the process.
- Team members know their responsibilities.
- Deadlines are clear, making it easier for everyone to meet them.
- Everyone sees the project’s progress.
- You can gauge work efficiency.
Without these workflows, you’re limiting your team’s potential. Projects may run in circles. Bottlenecks can occur at any point. Nobody knows what they are supposed to do next. It becomes almost impossible to stay organized and hit deadlines.
Identify Current Barriers and Sticking Points
Until fairly recently, email was the primary way many companies communicated and collaborated on their content. However, email was not designed for this purpose. Several problems can occur when using email as your primary method of managing your content workflow:
- Missing or late messages
- Direction slipping through the cracks
- Version control problems
- Lack of clarity on edits
- Data security issues
- Inefficient search
- No file centralization or management system.
A workflow using email as the primary communication method might go something like this:
- The team researches topics and schedules content.
- Content manager emails writers their list of topics and article due dates.
- The writer emails the first draft of content to the content manager.
- The content manager forwards that email content to the editor.
- The editor sends an email back to the content manager or writer with revisions.
- The content manager creates a new email to send content to stakeholders for approval.
- Stakeholders reply individually with comments and revisions.
- The content manager forwards each stakeholder email with revised content drafts to the writer.
- The writer aggregates stakeholder drafts and revisions, edits content, and returns it to the content manager.
- The previous six steps are repeated until the final content is approved
As you can clearly see, there are a lot of inefficiencies in this content workflow and potential bottlenecks that will add extra time to content publication. For example, waiting for approval from stakeholders often holds up content significantly.
With this way of working, everyone gets a lot of messages and may have to review a single piece of content multiple times. The writer may end up with numerous revisions requested by different people, and confusion between different drafts and versions can easily occur.
Other common issues in content marketing workflows include:
- Lack of data-driven strategy
- Lack of analysis and optimization
- Inflexible workflow if something in the organization changes
- Too many people involved in the content workflow
- Too many content silos
- Bouncing back and forth between workflow and content management platforms
In a 2023 Content Marketing Institute survey, only 38% of enterprise marketing teams felt they had an effective technology system for content management across the organization.
Businesses can overcome content management issues by using a content platform specifically designed to make content management and collaboration smoother and more efficient.
Spell It Out with Documentation
For large marketing teams, chaos often reigns when deadlines loom. To counter this, as Workfront’s Heather Hurst points out, documenting your content planning and production workflow gives your teams a frame of reference where they can refocus and get back on track.
Documenting your content workflow gives everyone on your team a roadmap they can follow every step of the way, from ideation to publication and beyond.
The secret to successful documentation is to post your workflow where everyone involved can see it. Too many teams keep these instructions in some dusty binder on the top shelf — or in a digital facsimile. A separate document saved in a random folder is easy to skip during a time crunch.
Instead, we advise our clients to keep their workflows close at hand — on their content calendar. Look at your content calendar as “a central hub that documents all the processes, roles, and workflows” for content creation and analysis. When your content workflow is at your team’s fingertips, they won’t have to waste any time searching for it.
Choose the Right Content Tools
Once you have a better idea of where you’re going wrong with your current content workflow and management process, you can take advantage of tools designed specifically to make the process smoother and more manageable.
Content Collaboration Tools
If you’re still using email to collaborate or conduct the editing and approval process, consider moving that process to a collaboration tool. People hard at work producing content aren’t likely to check their email inbox often, so timely communication often gets lost in the backlog — or doesn’t get into the receiver’s hands until it’s too late.
Collaboration tools provide real-time messages right on the screen your teams are working on. If an editor or subject matter expert wants a change or has updated information, your creative staff can update the work immediately.
Content Calendar and Scheduling Tools
Your content calendar may be one of the most important components of the digital content workflow process. It’s the hub that communicates what needs to happen and when.
A content calendar that provides a top-down view of all your content projects and that everyone has access to is a must for making sure that your content marketing campaigns stay on track. Planning out your content in advance and assigning clearly visible responsibilities will ensure everyone knows what to do and when to do it.
Calendar technology can manage the grunt work of production scheduling, deadline calculations, and resource shortages with a simple drag/drop from one day to another. Say farewell to manually updating spreadsheets! Your team can instantly make changes to the calendar should deadlines change or insert new ideas that come along because of a timely event.
Additionally, when team members get things done or add something new, automated notifications go out to those who need to know. These automation features can significantly improve communication, streamline production, and minimize wasted time in status update meetings.
A content calendar also makes it easier for you to plan different activities across a single content campaign and integrate your campaigns across several channels.
Content Workflow Tools
Your carefully thought-out content management processes will only work if everyone has a clear idea of the tasks involved.
Content workflow tools outline every step you need to take to get the most out of your content, from idea generation to publication and promotion.
Content Storage and Management Tools
How do you keep track of your content once it’s published? It’s common to store content assets in many different places, but this introduces inefficiency and can make it difficult to find what you need later.
An efficient content management tool will enable you to tag and categorize your content, making it easy to search later. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to repurpose content and monitor and analyze published content at a later date.
Automate Repetitive Tasks
Once you’ve decided on a robust content workflow and management process, you can streamline it by identifying tasks primed for automation.
Marketing teams waste hours every week manually performing tasks, such as replying to emails, updating spreadsheets, and posting on social media. Automated content marketing technology handles these mundane and repetitive actions effectively.
Another place where the machinery of enterprise content production jams up is content distribution. Instead of manually posting content to social media and email campaigns, an efficient content automation tool can handle those tasks for your teams. You can automatically publish notifications to social media and email lists when a particular piece of content goes live.
Automating Social Media Posts
For many enterprise content operations, their audience spans a wide range of time zones. Keeping your staff posting manually round the clock isn’t practical, even when you want to reach your customers half a world away with your messages.
When you house your content workflow on a platform with an automation solution that allows you to segment your audience, you can post at high noon to your Facebook followers in the U.S. so that they’ll see your post when they check their feed as they get ready for their lunch. Later in the day, you can publish your post to reach your Aussie followers when they arrive at the office (it’s the next day for them!)
Automating Email Messages
You can also segment and automate your email content distribution to arrive at the ideal time and place to reach your target audience. This segmentation and automation helps you deliver more relevant content to audiences worldwide.
For instance, a post about your brand’s new hot cocoa beverage would trigger all sorts of feel-good emotions for Americans just before the winter holidays. However, one that points out the refreshing taste of your all-natural lemonade would be a better choice for your Southern Hemisphere customers during the same time of year. Automation and segmentation allow you to deliver on both at scale.
Automating the Approval Process
When your content workflow includes a timed automated approval process, it ensures no individual holds up the content publication process. When everyone has a clear picture of the content workflow and understands their responsibilities and the timeframe involved, the whole process will run smoother and more efficiently.
Use a Single Platform for Everything Content Related
The ideal way to ensure that your teams go with the flow is to have a comprehensive content operations platform to coordinate every step in your workflow:
- Receiving content requests from management
- Planning customer-focused content that meets those needs
- Approving the plans
- Scheduling publication dates
- Producing, optimizing, editing, and publishing content
- Amplifying the reach of your content — on autopilot
- Analyzing your content’s performance
When you have a single location in which all stakeholders can see where each piece of content is along its journey to publication, your teams can save time. If that platform allows you to keep a record of ideas for future content and store your past content, it can add even more efficiency to your digital content workflow.
Keeping a record of your creatives’ ideas in a single repository sure beats jotting them down on a napkin while sitting in a coffee shop. Having those flashes of insight in digital form serves as a memory jog so that when the team needs content along those lines, the germinal form of that content is right at their fingertips.
Storing your past content assets on a single platform also allows your teams to find and repurpose older content for new audiences. If they don’t have to start their research from scratch, they can build on the previous content’s insights to introduce new concepts.
Chances are, once you and your teams see how easily this approach makes your content workflow truly flow — for once — you’ll wonder how you ever produced content without it.
No matter your use case, check out Divvy’s platform when you’re ready to simplify your content workflow. Request a demo to see how we make creating and implementing your workflows a breeze.