Imagine being able to produce content that meets user needs and business goals.
With effective content operations, your organisation will have a repeatable process for creating high-quality content.
While big redesign projects or digital transformation initiatives are valuable and can result in positive change, content operations is concerned with how you create and maintain effective content on a daily basis.
What is ‘content operations’?
A content operation is the infrastructure and processes that are required to create content across an organisation.
It’s not the same as content strategy, because it assumes you already have a plan to execute on. And it’s not the same as content management or content marketing because, in our opinion, its span is far wider than the realm of a CMS or publishing tools.
As Deane Barker summarises it:
Content operations is concerned with everything between content strategy and content management”, and therefore “is the “glue” between the (1) plan for content, and (2) the content management system in which it’s managed and delivered.
Process, infrastructure, and probably some human beings. What could possibly go wrong?
The first challenge often involves breaking down silos by introducing shared workflows and standardised tools for content production. The outcome of this change should be a reduction in the technical and human friction that can hold back your organisation from producing high-quality content.
Content operations vary massively from organisation to organisation, but there are some common tools, processes and challenges which we’ll break down here. Hopefully this is useful in your organisation’s mission to produce content that meets user needs and business goals.
Why we need dedicated content operations
A need to create quality content
A clearly defined workflow and quality assurance process are essential to ensure quality is maintained throughout the content lifecycle.
Faster content creation
The need to reactively create content based on an unforeseen event is ever more common. Audiences expect your services to respond quickly, digitally. Meet expectations by creating and delivering content without human or technical delays.
Demand for a greater volume of content
Audiences expect content to exist for all of your products and services, across multiple channels. A governance process to create, deliver, and maintain this growing volume of information is essential.
More regulations faced by organisations
It’s critical to make sure content adheres to evolving laws, regulations and standards being imposed on businesses. From GDPR to CMA, and many acronyms in-between.
Everyone is now a content contributor
To get the highest quality content for your audience, everyone in your organisation needs to be able to communicate and distribute content to where it’s needed. This could be a researcher in your university, a doctor in the field, or a subject matter expert on feline behaviour.
Typical content operations processes
I’m not sure if anyone in the world has a full house here, but having a few of these processes and tools can really help. It’s probably best to make a small effort on each of them and iteratively improve over time, versus going really deep on a single thing.
- A governance model: Content governance is the system, a set of guidelines, that determines how an organisation’s content gets created and published. At its most basic level, it can help you avoid getting sued or embarrassed, or both.
- Clearly defined roles: It’s essential for everyone to be clear on their roles and responsibilities. We recently wrote a free guide on establishing your content production “hats”.
- Production workflows: Content production workflows can be as simple as a series of steps a single piece of content has to go through in order to be produced. You would likely tie steps to roles or teams, and have certain rules for them.
- Content types / templates: A small effort around defining the types of content your organisation produces, and the rules and structures they need to adhere to can save you a tonne of pain down the line. Content modelling is a good starting point.
- Style guides: Creating a content style guide for your authors will ensure content is consistent and authentic. It’s important your content is created with the appropriate voice and tone and follows any styles and formatting rules for your brand or organisation.
- Audits and tools for ongoing measurement: Without well defined goals, or tools for measuring the impact of your work, it’s impossible to know whether your content is having an impact.
The best way to make progress on some of these processes is often to adopt a bit of a guerrilla mentality: staying under the radar and being comfortable working with little resources. In terms of getting them adopted by your team or stakeholders, you’re usually better off to show them something in practice and highlight the value it offers (time saved, quality increased), rather than sit them down and explain the theory. Show don’t tell.
Typical content operations infrastructure
As well as these softer processes, there is a requirement for some solid infrastructure in order to create, maintain, and measure content across multiple teams.
It’s worth noting that there are two slightly opposing schools of thought on content infrastructure. Those choosing to adopt an all-in-one platform for content operations, or those using a stack of different integrated services.
The more traditional approach is the adoption of a single monolithic platform for content operations, sometimes labelled as or bundled into a ‘digital experience platform’. This is really just an evolution of the typical CMS.
A slightly newer approach to infrastructure which is rapidly growing in popularity due to its increased flexibility, is the use of multiple interconnected services. This would involve having a few different tools which specialise in different parts of your content operations process. For example, authoring, publishing, and analytics would be three separate but integrated tools.
Whatever route you take, you’ll need to tick off of the following components:
- Authoring environment: Some kind of authoring environment for creating and editing content.
- Inventory: An organised content inventory or central repository for content to be accessed.
- Asset management: Many organisations choose to have a separate tool for managing and distributing assets and media.
- Project management: You need project management capabilities to enforce a production workflow for different roles and permissions.
- Scheduling: Scheduling tools or an editorial calendar that can be shared across multiple teams is essential.
- Publishing tools: Your content needs to be able to get in front of your audience, so you need tools for publishing content to different channels – likely a CMS and marketing automation services.
- Analytics and reporting: You need tools that can tell you how well your content is performing, and also to help govern it on an ongoing basis. These could be basic analytics services or more advanced digital quality management tools.
As mentioned above, there are many products out there that offer to cover a few of these bases.
Typical challenges with human beings
People can be challenging. Groups of people can be more challenging.
Collaboration: An undoubtably fluffy component, but worth highlighting – you need to be able to collaborate. Really, you need to be able to have multiple teams collaborating across your organisation, with shared goals. We recently collaborated with Ellen de Vries to publish a book on this subject.
Change management: When more than a few people are involved, change isn’t easy. It’s often most attainable to establish some of the principles and practices within existing digital transformation initiatives. Bolting on some of these improvements under the guise of content marketing, or strategy, or as part of a digital first objective can make their business value much more apparent.
How does GatherContent fit in?
GatherContent is the best possible means to getting everyone in your organisation creating resilient content. We are used as an essential part a content operations infrastructure, delivering;
- A central inventory for content and assets
- A collaborative real-time authoring environment
- Structured templating and content modelling
- Tools for project management and scheduling
Since all of our functionality is available on a public API, we can be connected seamlessly to your publishing and analytics tools. Giving you everything you need to break down silos, and get even the least technical people in your organisation creating neatly structured content in a simple workflow. Sign up for a free trial and take a look.
Keen to learn more?
We’re hosting a free webinar, How to repeatedly create effective content: An introduction to content operations. Join us on Tuesday August 28th at 4pm GMT where we’ll cover:
- What content operations is all about
- Why you need a dedicated content operations
- Typical content operations processes
- Typical content operations infrastructure
- Common challenges around content operations (and how to overcome them)
- How a Content Operations Platform can help!
Being aware that many of the challenges with content exist out-with the tools themselves, we also publish a lot of educational content on the more human side of content operations. Check out our blog or resources to learn more.