Sometimes, crafting content can be like banging your head against the wall—too many ideas, too many deadlines, too many writers, producers, and designers to wrangle. It can feel less like herding cats and more like fighting off a swarm of bees.
Congratulations! This is what having a wealth of content feels like, and it’s a way better problem to have than not enough content. Nevertheless, let’s fix it—there are solutions you can implement to get those unruly posts back in line. In fact, I’ve got eight for you. Use this list of tips, tools, and process tweaks on an ad hoc basis for a quick fix to a specific problem, or roll all of them into your process for a total content creation process makeover.
1. Make the Process Clear, Simple, and Accessible
Can your content creation process be explained in a few sentences, or does it require elaborate charts? If your contributors can’t follow your process easily, they won’t.
Take a hard look at your process and see what you can do to simply or clarify the steps. Make sure a well-written, reader-friendly guide to the process is available in an easy-to-access place for all potential contributors. When people bring an idea for future content, send them the guidelines directly.
For the medium-sized public relations firm I work for (and our content marketing clients), I prefer to stick to the basics when it comes to management applications and parameters. In fact, I typically just use Outlook and Excel for this—seriously.
Why so old school? Using familiar tools makes contributing easier for contributors outside the content marketing world.Can you explain your content creation process in a few sentences, or does it require elaborate charts? Click To Tweet
2. Make Contributors Tie Their Posts to Content Goals and Categories
Submission forms can be an excellent funnel for this purpose in large organizations. For small ones, it’s probably fine to have contributors just email this information with the post. Make note of your process for this—and the goal and category options available to your contributors—in the aforementioned process document. Even though this information is probably easy to identify as you review the post, requiring a contributor to connect the dots for you forces them think about it as they draft.
One way to ensure this happens is to set up your writers as “Contributors” in their WordPress user profiles. This requires them to submit new posts to an Administrator before their work can be published. This creates a smooth review funnel that gives writers the ability to select a post category right from the sidebar.
If they don’t select a category, send it back to them and ask them to address the issue.
3. Use a Content Calendar
By laying out opportunities and tying them to specific dates, you simultaneously create a signup system for those who want to contribute and allow contributors to self-assign deadlines. This relieves some of the burden of assigning content, and also makes you less of a “bad guy” if you have to put your foot down when that deadline finally rolls around—after all, they chose it.
There are ample tools available for this. It can be as simple an outline in Word or Excel or an actual calendar like Outlook and Google Calendar. If you want something more robust, CoSchedule is a great tool, too.
4. Make Your Style Guide Easy to Follow
You may be seeing a pattern here. Making resources about your organization’s content creation accessible and easy to understand makes the process smoother for everyone. Think of these resources as pieces of content marketing themselves—for your content program.
However, don’t confuse “clear and easy to understand” with “simplified.” It’s not necessary to dumb down or eliminate complex rules that protect the brand. Just be thoughtful about how you present them to make them user-friendly.
At my firm, the assumed base for any style guide is the AP Style Guide. As public relations professionals, we’re already pretty well-versed in it. We list any additional rules, client “quirks,” or deviations in a Word document.
5. Build a Small Core Team
The key word here is “small.” A small core team can allow for flexibilities that are crucial within the flow of content creation that a large team typically cannot accomodate. Each member of this team should have enough of a defined role to know where they contribute.
However, for small organizations where people with a content role also have a lot of other responsibilities, keeping these roles loose can foster a sense that we all share accountability for delivering at each step, which allows all members to step in and support each other. The content development load is more manageable when it is shared.
As needed, create sub-teams that report to a core team member. This can help organizations with more robust content plans keep up with the scale of the work.
For major content marketing clients, I get specific with my content team: We’re all responsible for making sure the overall content plan stays on track to meet targets, like releasing a blog post every week and keeping the social media queue full. One person is tasked to write the post scheduled this week, while another is responsible for scheduling all of next week’s social media posts. Another is responsible for assessing the latest social media ad run analytics and delivering a report.
Every team needs a point person with that eagle’s eye view making sure a specific person is attached to each specific task involved in keeping the overall strategy moving forward.
6. Assign Content Focus Areas
You can do this by division, by team, or even by individual, if you have great content creators you want to put to work more frequently. This focuses contributors’ content, making it a lot easier for them to deliver content that is on point. Creativity loves a boundary—you’re likely making it easier for contributors to develop ideas, too.
One of the things I love about working at a medium (or even a small) company is that we all know everyone else. I’m able to take the time to observe what gets each team member excited, and what they perform best at. Then, I can ask them to focus on content related to that strength. But this guidance is just as important—perhaps even more so—when working with a group too large for this.
When I work with client companies with large teams, I work with our primary point of contact to create subject matter expert profiles—people we can count on to know a topic inside and out, and deliver awesome content on that topic. Then, we work with those SME’s on an ongoing basis to identify new topics and opportunities within their focus areas.
7. Praise Success
It’s important to celebrate your team’s successes—and to do it publicly. When people see well-done work rewarded, they are more motivated to follow suit.
But don’t stop at a simple pat on the back. Take the time to share some insight into what you believe caused that piece of content to go above and beyond. This turns the moment into a learning opportunity for the entire team that reinforces best practices.
At my PR firm, I use our monthly company-wide meeting to give a shout-out to the most popular blog posts for the month. I love this because it’s simple, offers top performers public praise, and serves as educational for the entire team as we identify trends.
8. Expand Your Vocabulary
Don’t worry, we’re not dictionary-crunching. I recommend adopting a single word often left out of office conversations: No.
The best trick? Your rejection doesn’t have to be pronounced “n-o.” It can be expressed in much nicer ways, especially when enforcing the other tactics listed here:
- “Sorry, our calendar is full for the month. Touch base again in a few weeks.”
- “We know from experimentation that this type of content works better when [insert fact here]. Can you try re-drafting that way?”
- “Unfortunately, this doesn’t tie to our content goals. Let’s brainstorm something that better supports our established content plan.”
This offers specific feedback that reinforces best practices and arms you to be an effective gatekeeper to control content. It can be pretty tough, especially when saying “no” to a client expert. In these cases, I try to focus on strengths, be specific, and approach the effort as a collaboration.
Here’s an email format I’ve used with very positive results to reshape drafts into compelling publishable works:
Thank you so much for taking the time to get this done—I know you are very busy!
I love the reflections you included in this post. However, I did modify it a bit, just trying to apply a little more of a blog structure to it, optimizing it in a way that makes it more digestible for online readers (breaking it down into small sections and framing it by the key takeaways). You can see my suggestions tracked in the attached updated draft.
I hope I have not overstepped or put words in your mouth in the process. Please take a look and modify as you see fit to maintain your voice and factual accuracy. I am happy to address any questions or talk through this further, if you’d like.
Better Process, Better Content
A robust content creation system can easily go haywire. There are a ton of pieces that all have to come together, and they’re all constantly in motion. It’s enough to drive anybody to swear off content altogether. But there is a lot you can do to reel your team back in from the edge of mayhem. Whether you apply one of these tips or all of them, you’re on your way back to an organized, well-oiled machine.
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