Content is no cake walk. In fact, working in content today means you’re locked in a constant battle with what we at DivvyHQ call the Content Cookie Monster (known in other circles as the “internet”). No matter how much more content you feed him each week, he still screams for more.
Whether you’re an agency copywriter, B2B content specialist, entrepreneur, professional fiction writer, or social media pro, the challenges are largely the same. You need to write and ship the work faster than ever.
And while new technology promises greater collaboration through constant connectedness, it can also cripple teamwork when not used appropriately. As individuals race to keep up with the pace of change, they can often find themselves distracted, or isolated as a result of the many new tools at their disposal.
Which is exactly why in our recent research on content planning, we asked respondents about their biggest barriers to content collaboration. The largest group at 58% said they are simply “too busy” to collaborate.
Too busy to collaborate? To talk to each other? To make your work that much better by leveraging other people’s experience, feedback, and unique perspectives? In our opinion, this is a big problem.
We believe collaboration is a secret weapon in content planning, and imperative for improved content production.
In the following paragraphs, we reveal collaboration thought starters, activities, and methods for achieving greater success in content through collaboration.
Ideas For Getting More Collaborative
1. Ditch Brainstorming, Start Mind-mapping
Brainstorming was introduced by real life Mad Man Alex Osborn in the 1950s, and has since been the go-to method for group idea generation. But have you ever come out of a brainstorm feeling more stormy than when you entered? News flash, it doesn’t work so well.
Citing a meta-analytic study from the Basic and Applied Social Psychology Journal, Harvard Business Review recently reported that individuals are more likely to generate a much higher number of original ideas on their own, as opposed to in group settings.
Instead of brainstorming, try mind-mapping instead. The purpose of group mind-mapping is to get all relevant information out of everyone’s brains, categorize it appropriately, and distribute it in a relevant fashion.
Where brainstorming with a group solicits random ideas delivered in an unstructured fashion (e.g. “10 Cat Memes for Marketers”), mind-mapping is about a logical categorization, and subcategorization of ideas, channels, and content types (e.g. “Funny, but oh-so-true visual content targeted at marketers”).
After mind-mapping as a group, use what you have on paper to develop specific outlines as individuals. Finally, come back together and workshop your list of ideas.
2. Document a Realistic Process
In our research, we found that just 9% of marketers reported having an advanced documented process that they also regularly update. While the majority of marketers say they lean on some sort of content process, failing to get it down on paper means collaborating is nearly impossible, seeing as no one would be working from the same strategy. If your team is not aligned on the who, what, when, where, why of your content – you might as well be flying blind.
Documenting a realistic collaborative process is the first step towards long-term success. Start by answering some of the following questions:
- How often do you plan to publish?
- Who has the final say in what goes in your content calendar?
- How many editorial reviews are reasonable?
- Who performs a final spell check?
- Who is your audience?
- What questions, frustrations, or buying decisions does your audience have?
- Which types of content will you produce, and why?
Your process doesn’t have to be fancy, insanely detailed, or even very long. The point is you should have one down on paper that works for your whole team.
3. Embrace Failure
Arguably, your epic fails are more important than your big wins in content. As media frantically evolves, no one can be sure exactly what’s coming next, and few can predict how an audience will want to receive their desired content in the coming years. If your team is afraid of failure, they will also be afraid to share their failures (and success) with other team members.
In a world where more than 70% of B2B and B2C marketers report they’ll create more content in the coming years, testing new content types and channels is beyond important.
So should your brand be developing custom Snapchat filters? Do you double down on video? Start a podcast? Record an audiobook?
Keep asking yourself some of these tough questions, and challenge your biases. If you can embrace a healthy amount of failure, your team won’t be afraid to take the right chances, to challenge each other, and to work together towards developing the kind of content your audience will want in the coming years. Without collaborative failure, there will be no collaborative success.
4. Identify Strengths, Talents, Personalities
All too often, content professionals operate on their own. In fact, our research uncovered that the second most common team structure among marketers is “a single person team”. While going it solo might have worked in the past, the content landscape of the future will be far more collaborative.
Identifying strengths, talents, and personalities within your team is key to collaborating. Especially in an era where content professionals are required to create more content each year, across more mediums. But where to begin? Start by identifying the various talents on your team, and finding ways to pair them up for higher productivity.
Here are a few common categorizations; at least, for professionals with a writing background.
Technical writers usually have either an academic background, or have experience writing deeply about specific technical subject matter, like software or healthcare. The great thing about technical writers is you can usually throw them at a new topic for a few months and they’ll learn everything there is to know. Don’t expect technical writers to be particularly savvy with social content, or flashy short-form advertising content.
Creative writers usually have fiction writing experience, advertising backgrounds, or may have focused previous time and attention on conceptual work. They like to think big picture, and write persuasive copy, as opposed to highly technical stuff. They can be incredibly useful in writing headlines, advertising copy, short-form posts, and info-taining content. Don’t expect creative writers to get excited about legal jargon, intensely technical content, or even journalistic content.
Long-form content pros
Long-form writers could be creative, technical, and everything in between. The key with these writers is they like to go all in on a topic. These professionals can be immensely helpful in driving organic search engine rankings, seeing as longer-form content (that’s actually good) tends to be ranked as authoritative by search bots. Don’t expect long-form writers to be developing ad copy, or social media content.
Social media writers
Few writers have dedicated themselves solely to social media, but there are thousands of professionals with a hybrid skillset in this area. Social writers are adept at staying up-to-date on trends, curating newsworthy posts, and finding creative ways to repurpose content across up-and-coming mediums. Don’t expect social pros to get excited about long-form content.
Many companies are finding great success in hiring writing professionals with scriptwriting backgrounds. As video and visual content becomes more essential to marketing each year, screenwriters offer insights on how to best get content from script to screen. Visual writers will be best suited to video, but can also help translate content ideas into design-based assets. Don’t expect them to get excited about social content, or to have much knowledge of SEO principles.
With backgrounds that usually include investigative tactics and tight timelines, journalists tend to make great content planners and professionals. Writers with journalism experience work well on deadlines, can handle newsworthy industry content, and are usually adept at interviewing subject matter experts. While journalists may have some experience writing for visual mediums, they likely won’t get excited about social media, or the more colorful entertaining styles of content.
What’s Next: Pairing Up the Right Talent
After identifying the skills and various talents of your team, find ways to pair them up on content initiatives. Have your creative writer draft 10 headlines for a post your technical writer drafted. Have your technical writer quality check your journalist’s content before it goes out. Just food for thought…
Are you looking for more insights and content planning best practices? We just so happened to have recently released a study covering all that, and more. Click here for a full copy of our 2017 Research Report: Content Planning Challenges, Trends & Opportunities.