Don’t let anyone tell you that creating content is easy. Worthwhile content requires planning, perseverance and often several rounds of amends before you get it right.
But whether you’re creating one blog piece a month, or putting multiple daily pieces of multimedia content out there, the fundamentals are the same.
Part 1: Making a plan of attack
Create a workflow
Do you have the right approval structure in place? Traditional corporate structures are rarely the perfect setup to enable content production, so you’ll need to ensure your content team is plugged directly into the existing structure of your business and, most importantly, you’ll need to give them some teeth.
Ultimately your content team need to be able to make important decisions without having to defer to, for example, the sales team. Giving your content team autonomy is one of the most important things you’ll do within an organisation. Time and time again we see talented content experts put into head of content roles at major brands, only to fail due to a never-ending carousel of bureaucracy and corporate red tape.
Most importantly, you’ll need to make sure you give your content team some teeth.
Yes, your content will probably have to go via legal, PR, SEO and product teams, so ensuring that a process is in place to make that work is crucial. Putting the right people in place is also essential, but make sure they have a seat at the top table and a reasonable right of veto when it comes to pushing content through the system.
Align your strategy
Making sure your content strategy is signed off and set in stone makes it so much easier to put your team in the content driving seat. An agreed tone of voice, set of content guidelines and a real plan on where you can play and where you can’t is one of the most important things you can have before you begin producing content. We’ve spent months on top-to-bottom strategy, governance and team structure, but we’ve also created agile two-week strategies for brands that have most things in place and just want some guidance as to where they should have a voice.
Either way, ensuring your strategy has been agreed across the organisation will save you weeks and months of throwing things at a wall to see what sticks. Test and learn is a key tenet of our approach to content, but it MUST be done within a framework or you can waste 12 months or more just finding out what NOT to do.
Free up your internal team
Unless you have a team of 20 in-house editors, you don’t want to be creating much in-house. Not from scratch anyway. Apply the Lego model of playing to your strengths and find a good managing editor to wrangle everyone, to plan and commission content from a raft of different places.
The managing editor’s job should rarely be to put pen to paper. What they should be doing is coordinating the network of creators you’ve amassed and making sure they’re all pointing in the right direction and know the plan. Yes, the plan rears its head again. You should be commissioning content around three months out to ensure you have plenty of time to edit, design and run it past the necessary heads of departments in your organization. A good team of ready, eager freelancers is your friend here.
Freeing up your managing editor to focus on resource management means they’ll be able to create a LOT of content by utilising a bigger team of freelancer writers and sub editors to do the heavy lifting.
As a side note, be wary of using the same pool of freelancers day-in, day-out. Writers are human after all, but tend to be more prone to a lack of motivation when things become static and staid. Make sure you chop and change regularly to keep things fresh and don’t be afraid to experiment with new writers, particularly when you have long lead times on your side.
More internal resource
We’ve gone into this in more depth in our 6 things you need to know about B2B marketing strategy article, but don’t forget that your business employs some very clever, very experienced people that know your industry and your audience inside out. Sadly, most of them won’t be achingly talented writers or content creators, but to forget them as a resource to be tapped is a mistake. A talented managing editor will interview, Q&A and ghostwrite around the problem.
What resource do you have in place? You need a pool of willing freelancers, industry experts, maybe influencers and a team in place that’s senior and experienced enough to know what to do with it all.
Some content management services offer a pool of writers and managing editors ready formed for you to plug into. Ideally, you’ll have someone in your organisation who can build their own, but there are plenty of ways to do it cost-effectively. I won’t recommend any service over another here, but do get in touch via [email protected] if you’d like to discuss your needs.
Part 2: Feeding the content beast
What’s the plan?
Now that you’re ready to start creating content, you need to make sure you have a good 3/6/9/12-month plan in place. While you’ll have a marketing calendar for this, you should also have ‘content marketing’ calendar – detail can slip as you get further out, but give yourself time to deliver good content and make sure you have key marketing dates covered with content. An ad-hoc approach will tie you up in knots and leave no time for the fun stuff, which is where you can…
If you’ve done your planning right, you’ve given yourself breathing space to react to the unexpected. If you take the structure of a traditional magazine team, you’ll have your features desk and your news desk. Very broadly speaking, features are long-lead planned content, while news is where you can have some fun with current events, reacting to trending memes on social media, indulging in ‘banter’ with other brands and creating memorable content for those members of your audience who interact with you on a regular basis.
Setting the agenda and interacting with cultural phenomena should not be underestimated for their ability to catapult your brand front and centre of the conversation, so making time to be creative and reactive is time seldom wasted. With the right strategy and planning in place, getting reactive content approved and in front of your audience will be much, much easier.
How much content is too much? Be realistic
First question: what’s your budget? How far it goes will depend largely on what you want to create. Naturally, a video series is going to cost you more than a series of running copy blog posts. But arguably that series of videos will have an order of magnitude more engagement than those cheaper blog posts (provided you distribute properly).
Make sure you’ve budgeted for promotion, regardless of which platform you’re choosing to put your content out on. There are very few places you can get good organic reach these days. Paid promotion is the way of the world and, unless you have the gods of SEO smiling on you, your content will get lost in a sea of averagely written, over-promoted content.
Switch it up
Now you’ve found a formula for content, you’ll doubtless want to stick to it. And why not? It’s working after all. However, the problem is that unless you keep evolving your strategy, you’ll quickly become staid, stale and predictable. Chances are your competitors will be watching and will have cherry-picked the best parts of your strategy anyway. If you want to stay ahead, you’ll need to keep moving.
Yet again, planning is your friend here, allowing you the headspace to dream up a new idea (or content franchise as we call them) that will give you several months worth of subject matter. Theming your content as if it was a magazine regular gives structure to your idea generation, but be careful it doesn’t become a box-ticking exercise. The minute you begin to struggle to fill a ‘franchise’ box with ideas, it’s time to move on.
Hold regular ‘ideation’ sessions (and I use the word ‘ideation’ under duress) to ensure you’re not just plodding through existing ideas, but also coming up with new approaches to getting your content in front of your audience. If you find yourself filling boxes with old ideas at those times of year where content ramps up in your industry, then make some changes.
With the right system in place, you should be able to push content as effortlessly from inception to distribution as easily as a publisher can. Seeing your way through the red tape is never easy, but we can help. Get in touch on [email protected] and we can help.