In a recent webinar by Content Marketing Institute, Matt Heinz, CEO of Heinz Marketing, and Heather Hurst, director of corporate marketing at Workfront, gave expert advice on documenting content marketing workflows.
Heather Hurst: We’re going to run fast and furiously through 30 essential tips to document your content marketing workflow, which may not sound like the most interesting topic in the world, but it definitely will give you back your nights and weekends, as Joe said.
So why are we talking about this at all? Content marketers are not really approaching workflow the right way today.
See "Content Marketing Needs to be a Process, Not Just a Project" to learn why you need an effective content marketing workflow.
In fact, if you look around a lot of content teams, they’re passing back and forth information from spreadsheet to email to Word doc, running around hassling each other for updates; it’s really kind of a mess.
And so today, Matt and I are going to take you through these five stages of marketing workflow, which in the end will add up to 30 tips, I promise; we just must love math.
We’re going to start today with the ideation and the request process. Matt, I’ll let you take this one.
Matt Heinz: Pretzels and popcorn ready, starting with number one.
In terms of the ideation process, we hear a lot of people really wondering where do you get more ideas? Where do we need to go? Do we need to go brainstorm? Do we need to go do some specific discovery sessions with our team?
You can certainly do that, but I think if you look around you, you will find inspiration for content everywhere, especially if you’re already grounded in who your target audience is, who you need to be speaking to. Your brain will start to filter for the right information.
There are a number of great things here. We’ve got listed a couple I would point out. People you disagree with, things you think are dumb, taking a contrarian viewpoint on topics is often recommended.
Certainly take advantage of your customer-facing teams; your sales team, your customer service team; those that are in front of customers all day long that might be the first to start to hear trends in the market that you want to take advantage of in your content as well to address and drive more attention and credibility.
Heather Hurst: One big thing, once you have those ideas and you’re putting your work requests into place, definitely do not fall for the puppy-dog eyes that you can get from a lot of your work requesters.
What I recommend is that you establish a way that you receive all of your work requests.
Whether that’s an inbox, an email address that you always follow, whether that’s a web form or whether that’s a work management or some kind of other tool; make sure that all of your work requests come in in the same way. This is really going to eliminate a lot of chaos.
Matt Heinz: Number three, and who doesn’t love a good Monty Python reference and photo? Find an owner of the request process.
Way too often, the processes become inefficient and too complex because there isn’t a particular owner.
That doesn’t mean that owner necessarily has to do a lot more work, but designating someone as the owner of the process in terms of requests for content, in terms of organizing the parking lot of great content; again this isn’t necessarily your editorial calendar but having a place where all content ideas can be put in one place, can be put in a parking lot to be reviewed during editorial sessions.
Having one person who can do that makes the process of submitting ideas easy.
Anyone in the organization that’s seeing things they think are dominant, or that are seeing things they think can become great content; they don’t have to be responsible for it. It doesn’t go on the calendar. But the request process and the parking lot process becomes a whole heck of a lot easier.
Heather Hurst: Absolutely, Matt. And the next thing is require those requesters to complete a creative brief.
I’m sure you’re all very, very familiar with them. But where things get a little tricky is actually getting people to fill out their creative briefs.
I’ve worked from agencies to corporate settings where you only receive partially completed briefs, where people put in the deadline “ASAP,” which is one of my biggest pet peeves. Or they’ll say in the tone section something like “stick to corporate standards.”
One of our customers actually made a really good argument recently that you should only have one creative brief that works for all of your request types so that you don’t confuse your requesters; they don’t have to worry about filling out the wrong one.
Then it comes down to this delicate balance of keeping it very simple, the creative brief, but also getting enough information for your team, which could be a dance that you have to go back and forth with your teams on.
But eventually, you’ll really get to the greatest creative brief that will move all of your work forward and not delay things as you go through it.
Matt Heinz: Boy, amen to that. A little bit of extra work up front goes a long way. And part of that creative brief in any request you have, is to make sure you’re really clear on what the results are.
This doesn’t mean that every piece of content needs to drive revenue. I literally sometimes will hear CEOs and others say, “That’s a great blog post; how much pipeline did it generate?” Well, things don’t really work like that.
But if you’re clear on what your expected measures of success are for a particular request, is this something that you expect to drive more traffic, to drive repeat eyeballs of people?
Maybe a good blog list gets people to read your blog more often. Maybe a particular piece of content is intended to be an asset that can drive lead generation into your organization.
Maybe a piece of content’s real job is to allow the sales team to more efficiently communicate a particular point to drive people from middle of funnel to bottom of funnel.
Be really clear about the context in the ROI of those requests so that as that content is being created and as it’s being used, it can serve that purpose and do that job more successfully.
Heather Hurst: I could not agree with you more, Matt, that it’s not all about the dollars’ revenue but it is all about aligning into whatever goal you have in place.
And that kind of comes to this slide that all of your content requests should be targeted, contextual, evocative, integrated, and measured. And ultimately, what all of that comes down to is all of your content requests should not live alone.
They all need to roll up to the bigger corporate strategy, or the bigger marketing strategy, or something that you’re trying to have a result around within your company or within your department.
And at the same time, they all need to be really interesting. You need to drive content that people are really going to focus in on and pay attention to.
Matt Heinz: Absolutely, and I think as you think about the usage of the content, we talked about ROI. But don’t make assumptions around how that content is going to get into the field. Have a sense for how it’s going to be distributed.
This doesn’t mean getting the most eyeballs to your content. Success is not most impressions; it might be the right impressions. Your content distribution strategy might be 100 percent the sales team, or a customer-facing team that’s going to use that content.
But make sure if it is that, that the sales team knows why they need it. Do you have a plan to introduce it and to engrain it into their processes so that it gets used more often?
We’ve all seen content get introduced at a sales kickoff, or get introduced at a sales meeting and it gets distributed in email and then everyone forgets it. No one knows where to find it, no one remembers how to use it and when, and that’s just for use with the sales team.
So depending on how you need that content to be fielded, make sure you understand that up front and make sure the costs and resources associated with doing that are very clear from the get-go.
Heather Hurst: Yes, that’s absolutely right, Matt. Unfortunately, you’re all too right on the whole sending an email after a sales kickoff and it just goes out into the ether.
And some of that comes down to thinking through all of the formats and all of the types of content you’re going to need to support the bigger content goal.
So for example in that sales kickoff scenario, you might roll out a new brochure or a new PowerPoint deck.
But you needed a few things to back that up. Maybe you needed signage around the sales department, or maybe you needed follow-up emails that you sent, or additional training that went out to your enablement team.
Other things to support that rollout and also support the ongoing promotion of the content really should be taken into consideration up front so that you can lead to a successful launch. And again, going back to the affordability of the campaign, you know that you can afford to create all of this.
And then also you’re going to be a lot more successful, and you’re not going to have big cycles on all of your team’s resources if you could create a lot of similar assets all at the same time.
That brings us into prioritization. Matt, let’s hear about how we can set priorities.
Matt Heinz: Not all requests are equal, and just because someone put an exclamation point on the email they sent to request it, doesn’t mean it’s as important or more important than other things as well. I would establish some kind of a system.
Especially when you’ve got a small team, you’ve got limited resources. Establish some kind of a system to stack rank your priorities. Some of them are going to be urgent, but others are going to be both urgent and important.
Consider the impact that content is going to have. You can’t get everything done right away; you can’t get everything done period. There are going to be content projects that have to wait. There are going to be content projects that simply don’t get done.
So there’s an opportunity cost. If you do things that are urgent but not important, there’s an opportunity cost of things that could have a bigger impact. There’s an opportunity cost of being purely reactive and just doing what happens to be in front of you or for the person that’s screaming the loudest.
So make sure you have a system where you are ranking requests by priority. You’re constantly triaging what’s on the list so you’re getting the most important, most impactful content done first.
To watch "30 Essential Tips to Document your Content Marketing Workflow" on demand, click here.
About the Author
Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.Follow on Twitter More Content by Marcus Varner