Content and silos: How to identify silos and break them down for more effective content

Content and silos: How to identify silos and break them down for more effective content

8 minute read

Content and silos: How to identify silos and break them down for more effective content

8 minute read

Content and silos: How to identify silos and break them down for more effective content

Kym Ellis

SEO & Content, Jungle Scout
When you hear the word “silo,” you probably think of a physical silo, which is a tower that’s used to store grain. When we talk about organizational silos or silos in business, we aren’t talking about physical silos. However, the visual can help us better understand what a silo is.

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The Oxford Dictionary defines the word silo, in relation to business as “a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others.

A silo mentality can present issues within teams and businesses. As content professionals, it’s arguably more important than ever to understand where fantastic input, ideas and opportunities are hiding within isolated teams.

Let’s dive into silos and how they impact your content marketing team. But first, we need to define a few things.

What is a content silo? (And why do we use them?)

A content silo is a method used in search engine optimization (SEO) that involves structuring your website content around keyword-based themes. Basically, when you create a silo structure, you are grouping related and relevant content into distinct sections on your website.

Content silos use subtopics or subcategories as part of the website structure to group content together based on relevant keywords and topics. Silos also rely on a strong linking structure to help guide visitors to additional pieces of content that relate to the web page they’re currently viewing.

Content silos are important for SEO because they help search engines gain a better understanding of your website content. When a search engine crawls your site, it wants to understand what your content is about, how it’s structured, and where it’s located. Silo architecture provides a structure that makes it easy for search engines to do this.

SEO Silo Structure
This is an example of what a siloed website structure looks like with subcategory pages and posts that pertain to those topics. (Source)

This technique not only helps you improve SEO, but it also helps you improve usability. Some websites may seem like a disjointed group of unrelated information because there is no way to understand how web pages are related to each other.

However, siloing your content through taxonomy or subcategories can help improve the user experience as visitors can better understand how each piece of content relates to one another. It also makes it easier for users to find additional helpful information.

While content silos are a great tactic for improving SEO, organizational or business silos that separate your content team from other departments are not so helpful. Let’s take a look at what they are and why they happen.

Business silos and how they happen

In regards to silos in business, these can actually have a negative impact on your content team and your business as a whole. They keep your teams from connecting and sharing relevant information.

What is a business silo?

A business silo is when a team works in isolation or processes run in isolation. They occur when teams work in a vacuum without communicating or collaborating with other teams. For instance, marketers may be working together, but may not be talking to the sales team or the SEO strategy team.

When your teams work in silos, they often aren’t talking to one another, let alone working together. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, overlap in efforts, and missing out on opportunities.

Business silos
When your teams don’t talk to or work with one another, it can cause some major problems in your organization. (Source)

Examples of business silos

One example of a business silo is when your content marketing team doesn’t talk to your customer service team. In this case, they may be missing out on opportunities to create quality content around the most frequently asked questions. Your customer service team has a lot of great information and data that can inform better content creation.

Another example of a silo is when processes work independently of one another. Let’s say your marketing and sales teams work separately and don’t have processes that allow them to communicate important information. If your marketing team’s processes and systems don’t include your sales team, then sales may not be following up on important leads. Similarly, sales may feel like they don’t have leads to follow up on if there isn’t a process or system for them to get those leads.

There can also be silos within a team. For example, different members of your marketing team may not be communicating or working together as well as they could be. When your SEO team member doesn’t connect with your web developer, your website architecture may not be optimized for Google search. And when your SEO team member doesn’t connect with your copywriter or content strategist, your content team may not be creating the right content pages that will help you rank in SERPs.

Need to know: GatherContent makes collaboration easy,you can get everyone on the same page with cloud based, real-time content collaboration.

How silos happen

Silos happen when there is no documented process or expectations for communicating with team members or other teams within your organization. When you include expectations for communication across teams and business units, team members are more likely to communicate and collaborate with each other.


Silos often form over time without anyone really noticing. It’s only when an issue occurs (like dropping the ball on a client) that silos are recognized. That’s why it’s important for organizations and separate teams to periodically review how they are communicating and collaborating with each other.

The benefits of identifying silos in your content team

As a content strategist, copywriter or content expert in any role, the benefits of understanding where these silos exist are plenty. Identifying silos that hold back production could be the key to removing some of the bottlenecks. Most of all, identifying silos can help you improve your content.

Here are some reasons that identifying silos in your content team are so important:

  • You gain valuable insights that you may never have stumbled upon by yourself. For example, you may discover things about the content that is required, about your target audience and their needs or about the organisation’s needs.
  • The time spent collaborating will be worthwhile because you will reap the benefits of having a much stronger strategy that is holistic and works for everyone.
  • It enables you to get buy-in from stakeholders and wider teams. This can prove to be a valuable asset, especially when wider teams begin to understand what you do, what your goals are, and how they align with their own.
  • You will have more ways in which you can prove how your content strategy has helped the business, both in specific areas and the bigger picture.
  • You get to meet or speak with new people, which is good for you and good for business.
  • You will undoubtedly learn things that can be fed into future projects.
  • The content produced as an output of your collaborative efforts will be stronger, better informed, meeting business needs, and most of all, the user needs.

Overall, identifying and connecting the silos in your organization will help you create a more efficient process and create more effective content.

Business structure shouldn’t equal silo

Businesses need structure to function and that is probably why we develop silos in the first place. There are varying levels by which this can cause a silo mentality, but it’s often down to conflicting or isolated management and a poor flow of information.

Couple this with a lack of resources and the ‘not enough hours in the day’ feeling that most of us have, and it’s easy to see how it happens. Once this culture exists, it can become increasingly difficult to break down the barriers. Even if structure is vital to the business you are a part of, that does not mean you shouldn’t take steps to acknowledge and understand where a silo mentality is hindering productivity.

The structure may not be going anywhere, but structure shouldn’t equal silo. A positive view is that isolated teams will undoubtedly contain expertise and new opportunities that can really improve your content. You just have to find a way in!

Benefits of business silos for in-house, agency or freelance teams

Let’s start with the fact that it doesn’t matter where or how you work, you can stand to benefit from understanding and breaking down a silo mentality. In-house silos may be different to those experienced by people working with clients in agencies or freelancing.

Here are some examples:

  • A B2B retailer has an in-house marketing team and a separate digital marketing team. Digital and eCommerce has been a growing focus, but it has mostly been thought of in isolation rather than as part of the core marketing team. Online and offline activities are fraught with inconsistencies and both teams are battling against differing goals and poor flow of information.
  • An agency-based content team is tasked to work on a new website project alongside a web development agency and another marketing agency that is looking after SEO and paid advertising. Despite having a common goal, all three parties have different ideas, opinions, and methods of working, not to mention the fact they are all in different parts of the world. Without proper management of this collaboration, a lot of time is wasted and this impedes the final outcome.

These examples highlight that issues with communication underpin a lack of collaboration — how can we overcome these barriers? Obviously, if you are in-house, then getting up and speaking to a person face-to-face is a nice communication method to have. One which, by the way, can be drastically underused. Even if that is out of the question, communication can always be improved.

Here are some ideas to try out:

  • Use technology. — Whether it is Slack, Trello, GatherContent, Skype, Hangouts, Google Docs or conference calls, you need to have an easy way for your team to communicate. Find out what works and aim to keep most communication in places that are accountable and traceable.
  • Share information early. — Don’t save the important details until they are pertinent. Holding information back from others can have negative consequences.
  • Share your calendars. — Sharing your calendars allows everyone to see when they can schedule meetings or chats. It also allows others to be sympathetic when someone has a busy day or week.
  • Have a clear agenda. — Ensure meetings (in person or online) have a defined agenda by the project lead. This keeps everyone on track and on the same page.
  • Reassess meeting needs. — If you find you are having meetings for meeting's sake, review the effectiveness and push back on wasted time, even if that means getting clearance from management. Similarly, if you’re not having enough meetings, assess if you need to schedule some to ensure collaboration is happening.

Overcoming siloed barriers is not an overnight fix. It takes determination and buy-in across the company to begin to adopt a collaborative culture.

Take small steps and figure out your priorities and quick wins. Brushing up on your people skills and the art of persuasion will always help, too.

Silos within siloed teams

Within marketing teams alone, where content teams usually sit, there can be areas or individuals working in isolation. SEO, paid advertising, social media, print collateral and PR are some of the areas of marketing that should effectively collaborate with the content experts.

Let's look at some examples:

Example 1:

The content and SEO teams are working in isolation. The content team spends a month crafting a huge amount of content for a new website, half of which is already signed off on.

The SEO expert reviews this halfway through the project and has questions about the SEO keywords, improvements they want to suggest, and potential new landing pages.

Example 2:

The content and SEO teams work on new website content collaboratively. There are plans to run PPC campaigns and social advertising soon after launch but at this point, the paid search executive has not been involved in the website project.

With both situations many potential issues can arise:

  • There is a lack of time to fix the issue before the website is launched.
  • Collaborating at this stage causes friction as both parties are now already under stress.
  • There may be differences in opinion on how to approach optimising content.  Do we create content for content’s sake, content for SEO, or somewhere in the middle?
  • Landing pages required for PPC need may clash with the work the SEO executive has done, so ideally this needs to be planned out together.

By collaborating before this project began, any debates on the approach or execution of the work could be discussed with a unified goal in place. Processes could be signed off ahead of production and tasks could be assigned to the appropriate people.

These examples could go on. Website content not marrying up with offline marketing collateral is another common one. Any of these examples could become a breeding ground for negativity and dispassion for the project.

💡 See Also: Collaborate: How to bring people together around digital projects

How to break content silos and take small steps towards collaborating

Starting within your own umbrella of discipline can be the first stepping stone in collaborating more laterally, eventually. It is more likely that you will already know the people who you need to encourage to give up some valuable time a few months earlier than expected, with the view of saving time in the long run.

Go ahead and audit the project in hand. Be ambitious in your plan to collaborate with more people, but also be realistic and prioritise who needs to be involved. One thing that you can do is invite everyone to a pre-project workshop. (But more on that later.)

How collaborating with different teams helps content

Let’s take a look at the following common areas where collaboration could be key to your content successes:

Design and Development

This is an obvious one, and you would think that these areas would be synonymous with marketing in general, but that is not always the case. There are issues with communication and collaboration that can stem from limited preconceived ideas about what design is and what marketing is. Sometimes, it can even be negativity about the other from either side.

Even with an increasing amount of content-first website builds, are you still collaborating first, as well as you could be? The people designing or building a website, app, or product are working on functionality and usability. The people doing the marketing are working on the content, structure, and ever-changing nature of the search engines.

These things are all so closely linked these days that to build a new website without involving teams from both silos seems absurd. Yet we still see it all the time. Both sides will suffer because design and development may struggle to build a website that is fit-for-purpose, or should I say, fit-for-content. This in turn affects content production and delivery.

All of these things will always be a moving feast and there will always be work to do post-launch. But if we work together we can iron many things out from the start and avoid a lot of common inconsistencies.

Customer Service

You may very well spend time doing user research to inform your projects, but how many times have you spent time with the customer service department as a content strategist?

This has probably been one of the lightbulb moments in my marketing career and we’re all guilty of letting it be one of those tasks at the bottom of the list, or worse, not even on the radar. Get to know the customer, whether it is by spending some time shadowing your customer service executives, getting involved with live chat, or listening in on the phones. You can ask these valuable team members any questions you might have - they've often seen and heard it all.

Don’t forget that most businesses with a dedicated customer service team will be scouring your content all the time to help them answer queries. Sometimes good content is just as useful for members of staff as it is for customers!

The Sales Team

Sales teams generally have some very unique points to make about the website and its content. So many times we hear clients say, “our sales team told us we need to change this on the website” or “the sales team made their own collateral”. Use this knowledge.

If the sales team is creating their own content, questionnaires, or customer profiles, absolutely use this to improve your content strategy. It could highlight regular questions that potential clients have, and answers to those questions. If the sales team can’t provide you with any information right off the bat, then why not use a surveying tool to ask them well-thought-out and open-ended questions?

Management

Management can be in a silo of their own due to lack of time. It is important to ensure appropriate management figures are involved in the strategy process and in the sign-off process.

Getting overall strategies, article outlines or early drafts approved means cutting out wasted time spent on something which later gets canned.

A flowchart showing six stages starting with define and moving to research, creation, review, distribute and promote and finally, measure.
Identify where in your process you need to bring in management to approve.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it is a good start. Think of product managers, external photographers, videographers, product designers, recruitment, and HR. Sometimes you might even have people with very specific areas of expertise who need to be involved in the content process, for example, an educational provider may need teachers or tutors to be integral to the content process.

Breaking down the barriers for better content

So now that we've seen how the silo mentality can have a negative effect on content production, what can we do to collaborate with people within our own disciplines and beyond?

Here are five key ideas to take away:

1. Always take a collaboration-first approach to content.

Make collaboration a part of your regular content marketing process. But don't wait until the project is mid-flow to bring in other teams or people. Understand when you need to collaborate and where your collaborators will fit into your process before you begin.

When it comes to content creation and collaboration, you want to make the collaboration process as easy as possible. This will help you get buy-in from those who would otherwise say no because they have so much on their plate. The easier it is for people to collaborate, the less resistant they will be.

2. Audit beforehand to determine who you need to involve.

Conduct an audit of the project at hand to find out who needs to be involved and invited.

Here are some things to consider to get you started:

  • Top-level view of what needs to be produced?
  • Do you have personas and tone of voice guidelines to work with?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • Can it be linked to a specific point in the buying cycle?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who is creating content? Copywriters, editors, photographers, videographers, designers, developers?
  • How will you collaborate at every stage of production? For example, will you be using pair writing?
  • Who will this content affect internally? For example, will the sales or customer service teams use it frequently?
  • Who will optimise the content?
  • Will it be used in advertising campaigns?
  • Who is signing the content off?
  • Potential risks/issues?

3. Invite others to collaborate.

Find ways to prove to different departments or ‘silos’ how giving up their time to collaborate with you will benefit them. Ensure you know how you are going to measure success so that you can present it back to key stakeholders and all individuals involved in the collaboration. This makes people feel positive about the project, promotes a culture of collaboration, and encourages people to be involved in the future.

"Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you." - Paul Arden

4. Host a production workshop for all collaborators.

Hold a meeting or workshop and be the advocate of collaboration. These meetings should be an open environment that makes it easy for people to give and receive feedback.

Ensure it doesn't spiral into a counselling session on past projects, but utilise past failures to improve the workflow moving forward. These meetings should be forward-thinking and inspirational, a time to get key influencers to buy into the content process.

A process flow showing project assessment and a collaboration workshop.
Taking time to assess the project, identify collaborators, and hold a collaboration workshop will make the process go much smoother!

5. Define the workflow before you get started.

Create a process that everyone agrees on before content creation begins — make it visual, get it signed off, ensure everyone knows what their responsibilities are.

Check out the example below of a simple process flow and more of a detailed description for a specific project.

A detailed process document with the six flowchart stages, deadlines, allocated time and key tasks needed for each stage.
This is what your content process flow could look like.

Can I do this in the real world?

At this point you are probably thinking, well this all sounds great but realistically I can’t get all of these different people or departments to give up their time to help me do my job.

Each project will be different, and it is important to understand where collaboration really needs to be inclusive across several areas or just a few. If you are unsure, try speaking to others to get an idea of the scope.

If you feel strongly enough that collaboration from a particular isolated team would benefit the project outcomes and their team in some way, then speak to them about it. Chances are, they will be flattered that you are asking for their help and grateful that you have their interests at heart.

Need to know: Want to see real-world examples of this in action? Check out our webinar, Connecting silos in your institution for efficient ContentOps.

Collaborating is the future

Without adopting a collaborative and holistic approach, at best you will miss out on some great ideas. At worst, you will end up with content that is not fit for purpose.

If we approach these issues head-on, we can avoid extensive mop-up projects and surprise people with work they never saw coming.

The challenge is to take steps to understand the silos within your company, or that affect your projects. Never stop striving to encourage an open and inclusive approach to content strategy and production.

GatherContent makes the content collaboration process easy with its structured content editor that allows your team to create content at scale. With the ability to collaborate on content in the cloud in real-time, you eliminate the inconveniences that may keep your team members from saying “no” to collaboration.

Want to see it at work for yourself? Book a demo now!

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word silo, in relation to business as “a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others.

A silo mentality can present issues within teams and businesses. As content professionals, it’s arguably more important than ever to understand where fantastic input, ideas and opportunities are hiding within isolated teams.

Let’s dive into silos and how they impact your content marketing team. But first, we need to define a few things.

What is a content silo? (And why do we use them?)

A content silo is a method used in search engine optimization (SEO) that involves structuring your website content around keyword-based themes. Basically, when you create a silo structure, you are grouping related and relevant content into distinct sections on your website.

Content silos use subtopics or subcategories as part of the website structure to group content together based on relevant keywords and topics. Silos also rely on a strong linking structure to help guide visitors to additional pieces of content that relate to the web page they’re currently viewing.

Content silos are important for SEO because they help search engines gain a better understanding of your website content. When a search engine crawls your site, it wants to understand what your content is about, how it’s structured, and where it’s located. Silo architecture provides a structure that makes it easy for search engines to do this.

SEO Silo Structure
This is an example of what a siloed website structure looks like with subcategory pages and posts that pertain to those topics. (Source)

This technique not only helps you improve SEO, but it also helps you improve usability. Some websites may seem like a disjointed group of unrelated information because there is no way to understand how web pages are related to each other.

However, siloing your content through taxonomy or subcategories can help improve the user experience as visitors can better understand how each piece of content relates to one another. It also makes it easier for users to find additional helpful information.

While content silos are a great tactic for improving SEO, organizational or business silos that separate your content team from other departments are not so helpful. Let’s take a look at what they are and why they happen.

Business silos and how they happen

In regards to silos in business, these can actually have a negative impact on your content team and your business as a whole. They keep your teams from connecting and sharing relevant information.

What is a business silo?

A business silo is when a team works in isolation or processes run in isolation. They occur when teams work in a vacuum without communicating or collaborating with other teams. For instance, marketers may be working together, but may not be talking to the sales team or the SEO strategy team.

When your teams work in silos, they often aren’t talking to one another, let alone working together. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, overlap in efforts, and missing out on opportunities.

Business silos
When your teams don’t talk to or work with one another, it can cause some major problems in your organization. (Source)

Examples of business silos

One example of a business silo is when your content marketing team doesn’t talk to your customer service team. In this case, they may be missing out on opportunities to create quality content around the most frequently asked questions. Your customer service team has a lot of great information and data that can inform better content creation.

Another example of a silo is when processes work independently of one another. Let’s say your marketing and sales teams work separately and don’t have processes that allow them to communicate important information. If your marketing team’s processes and systems don’t include your sales team, then sales may not be following up on important leads. Similarly, sales may feel like they don’t have leads to follow up on if there isn’t a process or system for them to get those leads.

There can also be silos within a team. For example, different members of your marketing team may not be communicating or working together as well as they could be. When your SEO team member doesn’t connect with your web developer, your website architecture may not be optimized for Google search. And when your SEO team member doesn’t connect with your copywriter or content strategist, your content team may not be creating the right content pages that will help you rank in SERPs.

Need to know: GatherContent makes collaboration easy,you can get everyone on the same page with cloud based, real-time content collaboration.

How silos happen

Silos happen when there is no documented process or expectations for communicating with team members or other teams within your organization. When you include expectations for communication across teams and business units, team members are more likely to communicate and collaborate with each other.


Silos often form over time without anyone really noticing. It’s only when an issue occurs (like dropping the ball on a client) that silos are recognized. That’s why it’s important for organizations and separate teams to periodically review how they are communicating and collaborating with each other.

The benefits of identifying silos in your content team

As a content strategist, copywriter or content expert in any role, the benefits of understanding where these silos exist are plenty. Identifying silos that hold back production could be the key to removing some of the bottlenecks. Most of all, identifying silos can help you improve your content.

Here are some reasons that identifying silos in your content team are so important:

  • You gain valuable insights that you may never have stumbled upon by yourself. For example, you may discover things about the content that is required, about your target audience and their needs or about the organisation’s needs.
  • The time spent collaborating will be worthwhile because you will reap the benefits of having a much stronger strategy that is holistic and works for everyone.
  • It enables you to get buy-in from stakeholders and wider teams. This can prove to be a valuable asset, especially when wider teams begin to understand what you do, what your goals are, and how they align with their own.
  • You will have more ways in which you can prove how your content strategy has helped the business, both in specific areas and the bigger picture.
  • You get to meet or speak with new people, which is good for you and good for business.
  • You will undoubtedly learn things that can be fed into future projects.
  • The content produced as an output of your collaborative efforts will be stronger, better informed, meeting business needs, and most of all, the user needs.

Overall, identifying and connecting the silos in your organization will help you create a more efficient process and create more effective content.

Business structure shouldn’t equal silo

Businesses need structure to function and that is probably why we develop silos in the first place. There are varying levels by which this can cause a silo mentality, but it’s often down to conflicting or isolated management and a poor flow of information.

Couple this with a lack of resources and the ‘not enough hours in the day’ feeling that most of us have, and it’s easy to see how it happens. Once this culture exists, it can become increasingly difficult to break down the barriers. Even if structure is vital to the business you are a part of, that does not mean you shouldn’t take steps to acknowledge and understand where a silo mentality is hindering productivity.

The structure may not be going anywhere, but structure shouldn’t equal silo. A positive view is that isolated teams will undoubtedly contain expertise and new opportunities that can really improve your content. You just have to find a way in!

Benefits of business silos for in-house, agency or freelance teams

Let’s start with the fact that it doesn’t matter where or how you work, you can stand to benefit from understanding and breaking down a silo mentality. In-house silos may be different to those experienced by people working with clients in agencies or freelancing.

Here are some examples:

  • A B2B retailer has an in-house marketing team and a separate digital marketing team. Digital and eCommerce has been a growing focus, but it has mostly been thought of in isolation rather than as part of the core marketing team. Online and offline activities are fraught with inconsistencies and both teams are battling against differing goals and poor flow of information.
  • An agency-based content team is tasked to work on a new website project alongside a web development agency and another marketing agency that is looking after SEO and paid advertising. Despite having a common goal, all three parties have different ideas, opinions, and methods of working, not to mention the fact they are all in different parts of the world. Without proper management of this collaboration, a lot of time is wasted and this impedes the final outcome.

These examples highlight that issues with communication underpin a lack of collaboration — how can we overcome these barriers? Obviously, if you are in-house, then getting up and speaking to a person face-to-face is a nice communication method to have. One which, by the way, can be drastically underused. Even if that is out of the question, communication can always be improved.

Here are some ideas to try out:

  • Use technology. — Whether it is Slack, Trello, GatherContent, Skype, Hangouts, Google Docs or conference calls, you need to have an easy way for your team to communicate. Find out what works and aim to keep most communication in places that are accountable and traceable.
  • Share information early. — Don’t save the important details until they are pertinent. Holding information back from others can have negative consequences.
  • Share your calendars. — Sharing your calendars allows everyone to see when they can schedule meetings or chats. It also allows others to be sympathetic when someone has a busy day or week.
  • Have a clear agenda. — Ensure meetings (in person or online) have a defined agenda by the project lead. This keeps everyone on track and on the same page.
  • Reassess meeting needs. — If you find you are having meetings for meeting's sake, review the effectiveness and push back on wasted time, even if that means getting clearance from management. Similarly, if you’re not having enough meetings, assess if you need to schedule some to ensure collaboration is happening.

Overcoming siloed barriers is not an overnight fix. It takes determination and buy-in across the company to begin to adopt a collaborative culture.

Take small steps and figure out your priorities and quick wins. Brushing up on your people skills and the art of persuasion will always help, too.

Silos within siloed teams

Within marketing teams alone, where content teams usually sit, there can be areas or individuals working in isolation. SEO, paid advertising, social media, print collateral and PR are some of the areas of marketing that should effectively collaborate with the content experts.

Let's look at some examples:

Example 1:

The content and SEO teams are working in isolation. The content team spends a month crafting a huge amount of content for a new website, half of which is already signed off on.

The SEO expert reviews this halfway through the project and has questions about the SEO keywords, improvements they want to suggest, and potential new landing pages.

Example 2:

The content and SEO teams work on new website content collaboratively. There are plans to run PPC campaigns and social advertising soon after launch but at this point, the paid search executive has not been involved in the website project.

With both situations many potential issues can arise:

  • There is a lack of time to fix the issue before the website is launched.
  • Collaborating at this stage causes friction as both parties are now already under stress.
  • There may be differences in opinion on how to approach optimising content.  Do we create content for content’s sake, content for SEO, or somewhere in the middle?
  • Landing pages required for PPC need may clash with the work the SEO executive has done, so ideally this needs to be planned out together.

By collaborating before this project began, any debates on the approach or execution of the work could be discussed with a unified goal in place. Processes could be signed off ahead of production and tasks could be assigned to the appropriate people.

These examples could go on. Website content not marrying up with offline marketing collateral is another common one. Any of these examples could become a breeding ground for negativity and dispassion for the project.

💡 See Also: Collaborate: How to bring people together around digital projects

How to break content silos and take small steps towards collaborating

Starting within your own umbrella of discipline can be the first stepping stone in collaborating more laterally, eventually. It is more likely that you will already know the people who you need to encourage to give up some valuable time a few months earlier than expected, with the view of saving time in the long run.

Go ahead and audit the project in hand. Be ambitious in your plan to collaborate with more people, but also be realistic and prioritise who needs to be involved. One thing that you can do is invite everyone to a pre-project workshop. (But more on that later.)

How collaborating with different teams helps content

Let’s take a look at the following common areas where collaboration could be key to your content successes:

Design and Development

This is an obvious one, and you would think that these areas would be synonymous with marketing in general, but that is not always the case. There are issues with communication and collaboration that can stem from limited preconceived ideas about what design is and what marketing is. Sometimes, it can even be negativity about the other from either side.

Even with an increasing amount of content-first website builds, are you still collaborating first, as well as you could be? The people designing or building a website, app, or product are working on functionality and usability. The people doing the marketing are working on the content, structure, and ever-changing nature of the search engines.

These things are all so closely linked these days that to build a new website without involving teams from both silos seems absurd. Yet we still see it all the time. Both sides will suffer because design and development may struggle to build a website that is fit-for-purpose, or should I say, fit-for-content. This in turn affects content production and delivery.

All of these things will always be a moving feast and there will always be work to do post-launch. But if we work together we can iron many things out from the start and avoid a lot of common inconsistencies.

Customer Service

You may very well spend time doing user research to inform your projects, but how many times have you spent time with the customer service department as a content strategist?

This has probably been one of the lightbulb moments in my marketing career and we’re all guilty of letting it be one of those tasks at the bottom of the list, or worse, not even on the radar. Get to know the customer, whether it is by spending some time shadowing your customer service executives, getting involved with live chat, or listening in on the phones. You can ask these valuable team members any questions you might have - they've often seen and heard it all.

Don’t forget that most businesses with a dedicated customer service team will be scouring your content all the time to help them answer queries. Sometimes good content is just as useful for members of staff as it is for customers!

The Sales Team

Sales teams generally have some very unique points to make about the website and its content. So many times we hear clients say, “our sales team told us we need to change this on the website” or “the sales team made their own collateral”. Use this knowledge.

If the sales team is creating their own content, questionnaires, or customer profiles, absolutely use this to improve your content strategy. It could highlight regular questions that potential clients have, and answers to those questions. If the sales team can’t provide you with any information right off the bat, then why not use a surveying tool to ask them well-thought-out and open-ended questions?

Management

Management can be in a silo of their own due to lack of time. It is important to ensure appropriate management figures are involved in the strategy process and in the sign-off process.

Getting overall strategies, article outlines or early drafts approved means cutting out wasted time spent on something which later gets canned.

A flowchart showing six stages starting with define and moving to research, creation, review, distribute and promote and finally, measure.
Identify where in your process you need to bring in management to approve.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it is a good start. Think of product managers, external photographers, videographers, product designers, recruitment, and HR. Sometimes you might even have people with very specific areas of expertise who need to be involved in the content process, for example, an educational provider may need teachers or tutors to be integral to the content process.

Breaking down the barriers for better content

So now that we've seen how the silo mentality can have a negative effect on content production, what can we do to collaborate with people within our own disciplines and beyond?

Here are five key ideas to take away:

1. Always take a collaboration-first approach to content.

Make collaboration a part of your regular content marketing process. But don't wait until the project is mid-flow to bring in other teams or people. Understand when you need to collaborate and where your collaborators will fit into your process before you begin.

When it comes to content creation and collaboration, you want to make the collaboration process as easy as possible. This will help you get buy-in from those who would otherwise say no because they have so much on their plate. The easier it is for people to collaborate, the less resistant they will be.

2. Audit beforehand to determine who you need to involve.

Conduct an audit of the project at hand to find out who needs to be involved and invited.

Here are some things to consider to get you started:

  • Top-level view of what needs to be produced?
  • Do you have personas and tone of voice guidelines to work with?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • Can it be linked to a specific point in the buying cycle?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who is creating content? Copywriters, editors, photographers, videographers, designers, developers?
  • How will you collaborate at every stage of production? For example, will you be using pair writing?
  • Who will this content affect internally? For example, will the sales or customer service teams use it frequently?
  • Who will optimise the content?
  • Will it be used in advertising campaigns?
  • Who is signing the content off?
  • Potential risks/issues?

3. Invite others to collaborate.

Find ways to prove to different departments or ‘silos’ how giving up their time to collaborate with you will benefit them. Ensure you know how you are going to measure success so that you can present it back to key stakeholders and all individuals involved in the collaboration. This makes people feel positive about the project, promotes a culture of collaboration, and encourages people to be involved in the future.

"Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you." - Paul Arden

4. Host a production workshop for all collaborators.

Hold a meeting or workshop and be the advocate of collaboration. These meetings should be an open environment that makes it easy for people to give and receive feedback.

Ensure it doesn't spiral into a counselling session on past projects, but utilise past failures to improve the workflow moving forward. These meetings should be forward-thinking and inspirational, a time to get key influencers to buy into the content process.

A process flow showing project assessment and a collaboration workshop.
Taking time to assess the project, identify collaborators, and hold a collaboration workshop will make the process go much smoother!

5. Define the workflow before you get started.

Create a process that everyone agrees on before content creation begins — make it visual, get it signed off, ensure everyone knows what their responsibilities are.

Check out the example below of a simple process flow and more of a detailed description for a specific project.

A detailed process document with the six flowchart stages, deadlines, allocated time and key tasks needed for each stage.
This is what your content process flow could look like.

Can I do this in the real world?

At this point you are probably thinking, well this all sounds great but realistically I can’t get all of these different people or departments to give up their time to help me do my job.

Each project will be different, and it is important to understand where collaboration really needs to be inclusive across several areas or just a few. If you are unsure, try speaking to others to get an idea of the scope.

If you feel strongly enough that collaboration from a particular isolated team would benefit the project outcomes and their team in some way, then speak to them about it. Chances are, they will be flattered that you are asking for their help and grateful that you have their interests at heart.

Need to know: Want to see real-world examples of this in action? Check out our webinar, Connecting silos in your institution for efficient ContentOps.

Collaborating is the future

Without adopting a collaborative and holistic approach, at best you will miss out on some great ideas. At worst, you will end up with content that is not fit for purpose.

If we approach these issues head-on, we can avoid extensive mop-up projects and surprise people with work they never saw coming.

The challenge is to take steps to understand the silos within your company, or that affect your projects. Never stop striving to encourage an open and inclusive approach to content strategy and production.

GatherContent makes the content collaboration process easy with its structured content editor that allows your team to create content at scale. With the ability to collaborate on content in the cloud in real-time, you eliminate the inconveniences that may keep your team members from saying “no” to collaboration.

Want to see it at work for yourself? Book a demo now!

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About the author

Kym Ellis

Kym is having fun working remotely on SEO and content at Jungle Scout. She’s passionate about content strategy, research and effective workflow.

When she's not being an SEO geek or crafting content, Kym can be found making friends with cats, taking photographs, cycling and travelling.

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