Content writing is both a creative and business-oriented process and, as such, it needs to follow clearly defined rules in order to be efficient and productive. The best way to achieve this is to set up a content workflow and provide detailed information about each stage of the pipeline.
While organization and creativity are more often than not considered incompatible, when their strengths are combined, businesses can optimize and enhance content production. This empowers everyone involved to focus on their work rather than waste time and energy figuring out the process and their role in it. Furthermore, when the workflow is documented and unambiguous, the risk of mistakes and delays is minimized.
In this article, we’ll provide a list of actionable tips and tricks for developing an efficient content and editorial workflow. The techniques can be applied to both content marketing and journalism, and adapted to any type of content.
So read on to streamline your efforts and boost your results!
1. Keep a Solid Stockpile as a Backup
It doesn’t matter what anyone says, the number one rule for an efficient and successful content workflow is to keep a solid stockpile of content.
Even if you have a rock-solid bullet-proof process and there’s not a single slacker amidst your team, you should be ready to face potential production setbacks. These can be caused by days off, productivity pitfalls, unexpected external factors, employee turnover, and whatnot. The best way to avoid these delays is to have a stockpile of articles at hand that are waiting and ready to be published.
This way, you will have the flexibility to change priorities, explore new ideas, and manage emergencies without hurting the integrity of your editorial calendar. Publishing regularly and on schedule is vital for your strategy and, in order to retain your audience and maintain engagement, you should be capable of consistency under all circumstances.
Furthermore, having a backup or stockpile allows you to keep up the quality of content as you do not need to rush any stages of the creative process and have enough time to polish each piece you produce.
However, if you are just starting out with your content efforts and you are short-staffed, this may be difficult to achieve, as it may be hard for you to keep up with your schedule anyway. The most secure course of action in this case, is to build a stockpile before you start publishing altogether. This will minimize the stress involved with meeting deadlines and will ensure that your strategy will not be compromised when you are short of time.
2. Map Out the Content Creation Process
To map out the content creation process means to list the steps of the content workflow in consecutive order and add a short brief about each. Providing this information in black and white (or, why not in a full-color graphics) helps businesses to streamline content creation and ensures that no one misunderstands their place in it.
The transparency that the map provides can greatly benefit both management and employees, as it allows people to complete their tasks without missing important steps of the process. As a result, production runs smoothly and potential bottlenecks are clearly visible and easier to manage.
What steps to include depends on what type of content you create and what team members are part of the process. In addition, you need to set up an individual workflow for each type of content in your calendar.
At the end of this article, we provide a content workflow template for creating articles and blog posts. Referring to it may help you obtain an idea of what to include in yours.
3. Prepare Exhaustive Documentation
Aside from summarizing what each step of the content workflow involves, you should provide exhaustive documentation on how to implement it. In it, you should describe what is expected of the person that the task is assigned to, where they can find additional resources, and who to turn to in case they have further questions.
In short, it should provide clear instructions that enable each person to complete their tasks without setbacks and uncertainty.
The documentation can refer to your brand guidelines and knowledge base, or be presented in the form of a stand-alone pdf.
In addition, make sure to provide a list of any tools that can or should be used in the process, as well as instructions on how to operate them. If necessary, provide training, and encourage employees to request assistance if they are not confident in their skills.
4. Distribute Responsibilities Properly
Each person should be aware of the steps that they are responsible for, and who is in charge of the rest. This way they will know who to pass over the task to when they have completed their part, and also, who to turn to in case of setbacks.
In addition, there has to be one person in charge of the whole process, this can be a project manager, a content marketing strategist, a content manager, or a dedicated project owner. This person makes sure that the created content fits into the company’s content strategy, mitigates issues, and monitors the content’s performance once published.
However, do keep in mind that in different companies, content workflow roles may be combined to be implemented by one marketing expert, or there may be multiple people on the job.
Also, for the content workflow to run smoothly, every team member should know to whom they can delegate their responsibilities, in case they need to be absent. This way, vacation days are less likely to create blockers or production issues.
5. Define Task Timeframes
This part of the content workflow often remains overlooked, but it can easily become the reason you make it or break it.
In the documentation, you should provide clear instructions on how much time each task is expected to take. Otherwise, you risk the possibility that people misunderstand their priorities and create bottlenecks.
Furthermore, everyone needs to be aware not only of their own timeframes, but of the whole process’s timeline, so that they can plan out their tasks properly on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
However, make sure that the timeframes and deadlines provided are realistic and achievable. There’s no need for everyone to have dozens of overdue tasks. This demotivates people. If you notice that staff is regularly falling behind, you should investigate why, and revise your strategy if necessary.
6. Implement a BPM Tool
Business process management (BPM) tools make it easier to follow and monitor processes, identify issues, and keep everyone on track with their work. They not only promote transparency, but can simplify the content workflow for both management and employees.
There are many SaaS BPM solutions available that are accessible to both small and medium organizations as well as large enterprises. Implementing one in your company can give you a better overview not only of the content workflow but of all operations. Furthermore, it may improve communication, allow management to have a more individual approach towards employee performance, and contribute to better productivity.
In addition, it makes it easier to set and meet deadlines. The workflow can be organized into templates, and show notifications for approaching due dates. Furthermore, it can be automated and adjusted when necessary.
Bonus: Content Workflow Template
We’ve created a content workflow template for you that can be used when publishing articles and blog posts. You can adapt it to your business needs based on the steps in your pipeline, and the resources you have at your disposal.
Content Creation Map:
- Brainstorming and Title Suggestion. Creating a list of content titles or pillar posts that contribute to the company’s strategy. Adding the titles to the editorial calendar, and assigning them to writers.Person in charge: Strategist and/or writerTimeframe: Should be done at least once a month to ensure that there are enough topics to feed into the pipeline.
- Keyword Research. Finding the best search terms for each title to match the user intent with the company’s goals. Providing a list of subtopics that need to be mentioned to ensure in-depth coverage of the topic.Person in charge: Strategist and/or writerTimeframe: The main keyword should be provided during the title suggestion. Additional search terms and topics can be delivered subsequently.
- Brief and Tite Assignment. Providing information on how the topic will be approached and assigning it to a writer.Person in charge: Strategist, content manager, and/or writerTimeframe: According to the editorial calendar, and the process timeframes. Should be delivered with enough advance to ensure that the team can implement the task on time.
- Research and Outline. Researching the topic and outlining the article. Depending on the writer’s skills, experience, and knowledge on the topic, they can either submit the outline for approval, or directly proceed with writing the article, and submit the draft once it’s ready.Person in charge: WriterTimeframe: 1 day
- Writing. Creating the text, optimizing it with keywords, and formatting it properly with headings and subheadings. The writer may also add internal links and provide a list of related articles, as well as suggest external links to relevant research, statistics, and information. The writer should also provide ideas for images and graphics.Person in charge: WriterTimeframe: 2 days
- Review. Reviewing the text to make sure that it matches the brief and that it is compliant with the company’s requirements. The person in charge can also perform a plagiarism check to confirm that the content is original, and creates no duplication issues. Next, they assign the task back to the writer to implement edits and make adjustments, if any.Person in charge: Content manager or senior writerTimeframe: 1 day
- Subject Matter Expert Approval. Depending on the topic, the text can be assigned to be reviewed by an expert who can check for factual mistakes and other issues and suggest improvements.Person in charge: Subject matter expertTimeframe: 1 day
- Editing. Reviewing the text to eliminate grammar and spelling mistakes, and readability issues.Person in charge: EditorTimeframe: 1 day
- Graphic Design. Formatting all the provided images and screenshots, making a featured image, and creating the requested graphics, visuals, infographics, gif, etc. Once the visuals have been approved, the content is ready for publishing.
Person in charge: Graphic designerTimeframe: 2-3 days
- Uploading and Publishing. Uploading the content on the CMS, together with the images. The person in charge takes care of any additional SEO optimization, such as schema markup, meta description, image alt tags, URL optimization, and so forth. Once this is done, the content is published online.Person in charge: Content managerTimeframe: 1 day, depending on the content schedule
- Distribution. Repurposing the content for the company’s omnichannel marketing strategy, including social media sharing, email newsletters, podcasts, videos, etc. This step may include additional creatives and text, that may be subject to a different content workflow.Person in charge: Social media manager, email marketing managerTimeframe: 1 day, depending on the respective schedule
- Content length (in words or characters)
- Tone of voice
- Vocabulary and style
- Heading case style
- Oxford comma usage
- Writing and SEO tools
List of additional resources:
- Graphic design and visuals guidelines
- Social media guidelines
- Email marketing guidelines
While it is possible to successfully run content creation without a workflow, omitting to document the process and provide clear instructions to everyone involved undoubtedly compromises efficiency.
By providing guidelines and timeframes, and distributing responsibilities accordingly, you make it possible for people to do their job without distractions. The workflow can be both a roadmap that allows people to navigate the process with confidence, and a safety net that provides security on how to proceed when in doubt.
That said, the greatest benefit of workflows is that they do wonders for productivity and can turn a team into a well-oiled machine.