7 tips to ensure your content process is productive

7 tips to ensure your content process is productive

5 minute read

7 tips to ensure your content process is productive

5 minute read

7 tips to ensure your content process is productive

Paige Toomes

Copywriter and Digital Marketer

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Creating content and managing content production is a fundamentally difficult task — if you want to do it well.

Sometimes writers put content off, particularly if morale is low and they haven't got a clear process to follow, or there's confusion coming from management. Other times, it's bottlenecks, edits and sign-offs that take too long, getting stuck in perpetual feedback loops or struggling to get hold of the right person.

Having a productive content creation and management process is about looking at it holistically with the people and tools involved. This is the whole of your content operations.

Improved communication and collaboration through the right technology could raise the productivity of workers by 20 to 25 percent, according to research by McKinsey. That said, the research also found that without the right tools, people were spending:

  • 28% of their week reading and answering emails
  • 19% tracking down colleagues and searching for the information they need
  • 14% communicating and collaborating internally
  • The remaining 39% on role-specific tasks

Some of these percentages look far too high. It's common for email threads and meetings to go on for longer than they need to, and for employees to be hindered and restricted by processes and tools.

Many of us are wasting valuable time and energy that we could be using for more meaningful and value-packed areas of our jobs. Both for our own morale and our productivity.

Here are some tips for ensuring a smooth, productive content process, so you can take control and make sure projects stay on-time and in-budget:

Get stakeholders on board and aligned

Identify stakeholders early on in a project to ensure you can get everyone aligned and motivated from the start. This will boost morale. As this article by Brain Traffic points out,

"Alignment is not about telling people what you think and then asking them to agree. It's about getting stakeholders to participate in the project, so they feel invested in and committed to the strategy.”

Once you’ve identified who’s involved, organise stakeholders by support level, team and decision-making power and anticipate their needs, pain points and motivations.

Use our stakeholder interview matrix stakeholder interview template to help with this part.

Make sure you have a content brief

A brief not only gets a project off to a good start, but also gives you something to refer back to along the way, so it’s important to get right. To keep people accountable and on track, you need to create a good brief. And that is something of an art.

So what goes into a good content project brief? Here I’m going to use the—hopefully more simple than clichéd⁠— list of who, what, where, when, why, how to give an overview:

  • Who. Who is the audience? Who does the project involve?
  • What. What are the deliverables? Messaging? Budgets? Risks?
  • Where. Channels? Locations, sections on your website for example?
  • When. Timelines? Deadlines? Milestones?
  • Why. Goals? Metrics? KPIs?
  • How. What methods will be used? Tools? Documents like style guides and processes?

Lauren Pope has written a great article on the art of the content project brief. Documenting the goals and scope of a content project before you start is the only way to start. It will help you visualise and understand the project better, and keep everyone on the same page.

Have a clear workflow

You need a content workflow to keep things ticking along smoothly when people get started creating content. Assign roles, responsibilities and tasks to people at each stage in the workflow. Every organisation is different, but here’s what a typical workflow for online content production might look like:

Keep communication lines open

Here’s a fun question: How many content projects have been derailed because of poor communication? Don’t answer that. All content creators have come across jobs where there’s an executive who needs to sign off, but it is notoriously difficult to get hold of. Equally, most businesses have probably come across freelancers who are late delivering projects or won’t answer emails.

But accountability shouldn’t be a blame game. Instead, focus on empowering people to review content. When communicating about a project, it’s best to use a tool that centralises content production and allows stakeholders to contribute, tag others and comment around projects directly.

You could also use a project sign-off form which includes key areas to check off and send this to reviewers in the approval process.

Reuse and rework content

Despite what it might feel like, this is not cheating! Although content creation shouldn’t take that long (check out our content cost calculator to estimate how long), a good piece of well-thought-out, well-researched, ‘evergreen’ content does take time and effort.

Make the most of this content once it’s published. You might just find some gems that end up being brand mantras and key messaging points.

That’s not to say you should copy or literally reuse work. This is bad for your readers, reputation and SEO. But it’s important to keep in mind that high-value content can, and should, be updated, refreshed and reworked into different formats.

It’s also important to govern and maintain content effectively, particularly content that could be subject to ROT (Redundancy, Outdated, Trivial). It might not be useless, just in need of a refresh. Save your writers time and recycle!

Use the right tools for your team

Many organisations can’t quite seem to find the best tool for their team. So they end up using a hodge-podge of multiple tools for content creation which is often a source of chaos. Think about it. You might have a Google Doc, Microsoft Teams or other instant messaging platform, email strings and more.

If we go back to the McKinsey study at the start of this article, it’s easy to see where the lost time goes searching for documents in threads!

Also, multiple tools lead to version control and visibility problems. There’s nothing worse than somebody getting confused and the wrong or an old version of content being sent out.

To keep tight version control and visibility, it’s best to limit channels, particularly in large organisations where you have lots of internal and external content contributors.

How GatherContent can help with productivity

GatherContent is a content operations platform that centralises content production and saves you time, money and stress. It can help you create high quality-content, at scale, optimising your workflow and increasing productivity with:

  • Templates and style guides embedded in the editing environment - speeding up content creation and keeping everyone on-task.
  • Assign items to people within projects with deadlines - maintain accountability throughout the entire process, no more chasing for content via email
  • Communicate easily about projects - content is centralised and you can add comments within documents and projects directly.
  • Automatic status updates - no more email threads or meetings to check or feedback on project progress!
  • Structured CMS-ready content - no more copy and pasting into different apps and fiddling with the formatting.

Need to make the case for a content operations platform?

You might already be sold on the idea of needing a content operations platform like GatherContent. But how do you convince other people in your organisation? Check out our article on making the case for investment in a content operations platform. Or try a free demo or trial and invite users in so they can understand the value by seeing it in action.

Creating content and managing content production is a fundamentally difficult task — if you want to do it well.

Sometimes writers put content off, particularly if morale is low and they haven't got a clear process to follow, or there's confusion coming from management. Other times, it's bottlenecks, edits and sign-offs that take too long, getting stuck in perpetual feedback loops or struggling to get hold of the right person.

Having a productive content creation and management process is about looking at it holistically with the people and tools involved. This is the whole of your content operations.

Improved communication and collaboration through the right technology could raise the productivity of workers by 20 to 25 percent, according to research by McKinsey. That said, the research also found that without the right tools, people were spending:

  • 28% of their week reading and answering emails
  • 19% tracking down colleagues and searching for the information they need
  • 14% communicating and collaborating internally
  • The remaining 39% on role-specific tasks

Some of these percentages look far too high. It's common for email threads and meetings to go on for longer than they need to, and for employees to be hindered and restricted by processes and tools.

Many of us are wasting valuable time and energy that we could be using for more meaningful and value-packed areas of our jobs. Both for our own morale and our productivity.

Here are some tips for ensuring a smooth, productive content process, so you can take control and make sure projects stay on-time and in-budget:

Get stakeholders on board and aligned

Identify stakeholders early on in a project to ensure you can get everyone aligned and motivated from the start. This will boost morale. As this article by Brain Traffic points out,

"Alignment is not about telling people what you think and then asking them to agree. It's about getting stakeholders to participate in the project, so they feel invested in and committed to the strategy.”

Once you’ve identified who’s involved, organise stakeholders by support level, team and decision-making power and anticipate their needs, pain points and motivations.

Use our stakeholder interview matrix stakeholder interview template to help with this part.

Make sure you have a content brief

A brief not only gets a project off to a good start, but also gives you something to refer back to along the way, so it’s important to get right. To keep people accountable and on track, you need to create a good brief. And that is something of an art.

So what goes into a good content project brief? Here I’m going to use the—hopefully more simple than clichéd⁠— list of who, what, where, when, why, how to give an overview:

  • Who. Who is the audience? Who does the project involve?
  • What. What are the deliverables? Messaging? Budgets? Risks?
  • Where. Channels? Locations, sections on your website for example?
  • When. Timelines? Deadlines? Milestones?
  • Why. Goals? Metrics? KPIs?
  • How. What methods will be used? Tools? Documents like style guides and processes?

Lauren Pope has written a great article on the art of the content project brief. Documenting the goals and scope of a content project before you start is the only way to start. It will help you visualise and understand the project better, and keep everyone on the same page.

Have a clear workflow

You need a content workflow to keep things ticking along smoothly when people get started creating content. Assign roles, responsibilities and tasks to people at each stage in the workflow. Every organisation is different, but here’s what a typical workflow for online content production might look like:

Keep communication lines open

Here’s a fun question: How many content projects have been derailed because of poor communication? Don’t answer that. All content creators have come across jobs where there’s an executive who needs to sign off, but it is notoriously difficult to get hold of. Equally, most businesses have probably come across freelancers who are late delivering projects or won’t answer emails.

But accountability shouldn’t be a blame game. Instead, focus on empowering people to review content. When communicating about a project, it’s best to use a tool that centralises content production and allows stakeholders to contribute, tag others and comment around projects directly.

You could also use a project sign-off form which includes key areas to check off and send this to reviewers in the approval process.

Reuse and rework content

Despite what it might feel like, this is not cheating! Although content creation shouldn’t take that long (check out our content cost calculator to estimate how long), a good piece of well-thought-out, well-researched, ‘evergreen’ content does take time and effort.

Make the most of this content once it’s published. You might just find some gems that end up being brand mantras and key messaging points.

That’s not to say you should copy or literally reuse work. This is bad for your readers, reputation and SEO. But it’s important to keep in mind that high-value content can, and should, be updated, refreshed and reworked into different formats.

It’s also important to govern and maintain content effectively, particularly content that could be subject to ROT (Redundancy, Outdated, Trivial). It might not be useless, just in need of a refresh. Save your writers time and recycle!

Use the right tools for your team

Many organisations can’t quite seem to find the best tool for their team. So they end up using a hodge-podge of multiple tools for content creation which is often a source of chaos. Think about it. You might have a Google Doc, Microsoft Teams or other instant messaging platform, email strings and more.

If we go back to the McKinsey study at the start of this article, it’s easy to see where the lost time goes searching for documents in threads!

Also, multiple tools lead to version control and visibility problems. There’s nothing worse than somebody getting confused and the wrong or an old version of content being sent out.

To keep tight version control and visibility, it’s best to limit channels, particularly in large organisations where you have lots of internal and external content contributors.

How GatherContent can help with productivity

GatherContent is a content operations platform that centralises content production and saves you time, money and stress. It can help you create high quality-content, at scale, optimising your workflow and increasing productivity with:

  • Templates and style guides embedded in the editing environment - speeding up content creation and keeping everyone on-task.
  • Assign items to people within projects with deadlines - maintain accountability throughout the entire process, no more chasing for content via email
  • Communicate easily about projects - content is centralised and you can add comments within documents and projects directly.
  • Automatic status updates - no more email threads or meetings to check or feedback on project progress!
  • Structured CMS-ready content - no more copy and pasting into different apps and fiddling with the formatting.

Need to make the case for a content operations platform?

You might already be sold on the idea of needing a content operations platform like GatherContent. But how do you convince other people in your organisation? Check out our article on making the case for investment in a content operations platform. Or try a free demo or trial and invite users in so they can understand the value by seeing it in action.

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About the author

Paige Toomes

Paige is an English Literature and Media graduate from Newcastle University, and over the last three years has built up a career in SEO-driven copywriting for tech companies. She has written for Microsoft, Symantec and LinkedIn, as well as other SaaS companies and IT consulting firms. With an audience-focused approach to content, Paige handles the lifecycle from creation through to measurement, supporting businesses with their content operations.

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