By Joe Pulizzi published June 29, 2010

How To Effectively Manage the Content Marketing Process

One of the most popular questions we get at the Content Marketing Institute is how to effectively manage the content marketing process.  Although there are many ways to go about resourcing for content marketing projects within an organization, here are six keys to making it happen.

A Content Management System

This should go without saying, but many brands we talk to still have a challenging time creating and editing their website content. Even if you are working on a print project, you still need an easy way to integrate that information with an online source.

So, if IT or a webmaster controls the content process, meaning you need someone from that team to upload your content, you’ve got a problem. Your top priority should be to see this change through in your organization.

There are literally thousands of content management systems to choose from, but some of our favorites are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. All are open source, which means the software is free and there is a community that builds software plugins and improves the system. This site is built with WordPress. Here is a list of available content management systems.

Air-Traffic Control/Listening Posts

Kodak recently hired a Chief Listening Officer (CLO).  The role of the CLO is to function as air-traffic control for social media – listening to all the conversations on the web about Kodak and routing them to specific departments (customer service, sales and marketing, etc.) to handle. We have a similar process at Junta42.

For the content marketing process, we need this function to serve as the centerpiece of our listening posts.  I’ve used the term listening posts for years in the publishing context. This means that we set up multiple posts around our customers to get a clear and consistent handle on their pain points. The goal of this is make sure we continue to get a feed of information so we can always be on the cutting edge with our content.

Traditionally, talking to sales reps and sending out surveys was key, and still is, but even more important is listening through Twitter Search, Google Alerts or possibly a reputation management system like a Radian6.

Although this function can be outsourced to an agency, best practice is to make sure this role stays within your marketing organization so you are closer to the needs of your customers. Plan for a minimum of 30 minutes a day if you are a smaller company. Larger brands with more products and services, like a Kodak, may ultimately need a full-time employee.

The Project Manager

Superior execution is the core of a successful content marketing program. One person in your organization should be responsible for and own the content initiative. More recently, we’ve called this the Chief Content Officer. Kodak calls this the VP of Content Strategy while Radian6 calls this the Director of Content Marketing.

Consider this person the publisher for your content efforts. Ultimately, this person is responsible for executing the goals you set out to accomplish. When content programs fail, it’s usually not because of a lack of high-quality content, but because of poor execution. That’s why a project manager may be your most important asset, even though this person most likely won’t be creating any of the content. The project manager must ensure excellence in every content marketing tactic, including:

  • Content/editorial
  • Design/art/photography
  • Web resources for content
  • Integration of marketing and the content, including social media
  • Project budgeting
  • Contract negotiation with freelancers
  • Audience development
  • Research and measurement
  • Ultimately responsibility for accomplishing the goals of the program

The project manager is often the director of marketing. Many brands, like UPS, have a project manager inside the company that oversees partial internal content production as well as the production of content by an outside agency. Although brands can outsource a wide variety of content through vendors like the ones at Junta42, we still advocate keeping the project manager inside the organization.

The Managing Editor

The managing editor has a critical role in the content marketing process, and is probably the most sought after by brands today. As more brands develop content, more employees are being asked to blog and write on behalf of their company.  Unfortunately, the writing style of employees who have never created content before often leaves much to be desired.

That’s where the managing editor comes in. CMI partner OpenView Venture Partners has a fantastic VC company blog where a number of OpenView employees contribute. Some employees don’t need any help…some needs lots of help.  The managing editor works with the employees on:

  • Content scheduling
  • Keyword selection
  • Search engine optimization of posts
  • Style corrections
  • Tagging and images

Sometimes the managing editor is there to teach so the employee can start to do more of this process. Often, the employee just meets the schedule and the managing editor completes the content per the content guidelines document, like this one from ANSI.

The Editorial Calendar

One thing is certain: if you don’t keep an editorial/content calendar, the content doesn’t get done. An editorial calendar simply tracks what content you are going to cover, what tactic it’s for (blog, newsletter, etc.) and who’s responsible. This could be something as simple as what Andy Wibbels put together on editorial calendars, or you could leverage something like Google Docs for online sharing or Basecamp for setting and assigning tasks.

Best practice is to set up a master calendar for all your content initiatives, and then a separate content calendar for each initiative. Traditionally, we’ve set up editorial calendars 12 months out and then constantly change them as we tweak the marketing plan.

Dynamic Budgets

This last point comes from Paul Roetzer at PR 20/20. Having an effective content marketing process also means that it’s constantly changing. For example, an eBook that delivers the highest conversion rate you’ve ever seen will most likely be something you’ll want to do again.  Uh-oh, no budget for that.

Gone are the days of rigid budgets. As a leader in your marketing organization, you need to mandate budget flexibility. For example, you may decide that instead of sponsoring that additional trade show, you’ll like to move that $100k into the eBook initiative that you’ve found so successful. Many organizations don’t have this kind of flexibility. For content marketing success, you need dynamic budgets. If the budget you created at the start of the year is not drastically different than the one you ended up with, you probably aren’t listening enough to what your customers need.

What other elements do you think are critical to manage the content marketing process? Or do you have other suggestions of things that have worked well?

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • http://www.reputationtorevenue.com Rob Leavitt

    Thanks Joe, great post. The management challenge for content marketing, especially in large organizations, is huge, and these are six great points about how to make it work effectively. The one piece I would add, at least for B2B organizations, is something about research and thought leadership development. These may be partly covered in your listening posts and managing editor elements, but, to me at least, B2B organizations increasingly need to put serious energy into developing strong, evidence-based, and differentiated points of view. Listening to customers and the market is a starting point for this, but there is no substitute for deep primary research, rigorous analysis, and focused creative thinking (usually collaborative) to build points of view that undergird great content marketing. The big consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, Accenture, Deloitte, etc., do this best, and they have strong processes and dedicated resources in place to make it happen alongside all the other elements you cite. Not every B2B firm can invest in thought leadership at the level of these firms, but I'd suggest that integrating the same approach into a broader content marketing program is essential to success.

  • http://twitter.com/rightwebtools Alan Kaplan

    It's important to not recommend open source as free – this get's mis-understood by business people. The framework is free- then you need a designer and developer to put all the necessary pieces together.

    Not to mention the investment in a marketing / content strategy from the website.

    It's frustrating as a business owner to hear recommendations which do not paint the full picture and drive laypeople down a slippery trail of mis-understood information.

  • http://twitter.com/rightwebtools Alan Kaplan

    Great Point on collaboration Rob – thank you.

  • http://www.writespark.com Janice King

    Expanding on your mention in the project manager section of using an outside agency and freelancers, most companies will need a stable of resources for content production. Writers, designers, video producers, and website developers will all be needed, likely drawn from a mix of in-house staff, agency personnel, and freelancers with specialized skills and/or knowledge.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    I agree with you Janice, and since we know that 9 in 10 companies outsource some part of the content marketing process, you are definitely correct.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Alan…you are right on this one. I needed to give more detail on that for sure. Even though the CMI website was built with WordPress, we had to pay a developer to put it all together and maintain it. You are probably correct that some marketers don't realize that an expert needs to actually put the site together (although, I personally don't run into that issue as much anymore. Marketers seem to get the open source argument and that it's not really free).

    Thanks Alan

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Great Rob…all companies are publishers today, which means they need to be developing the best information in their industry to present themselves as thought leaders. Like you said, it takes real commitment to make this happen (and probably a little help as well).

  • http://www.netstrategies.com Laurie Dunlop

    Joe,

    Organizations should remember to sync their annual content calendar with the sales department, IT dept., etc. to ensure content efforts support other company-wide initiatives. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but more often than not, bloggers write about topic A, webmasters add pages about topic B, and the sales dept. pushes topic C in a PPC campaign rather than working together to cross promote the same initiative.

    I really like the Content Institute. Thank you to you and the other contributors for sharing your expertise!

    Laurie :)

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Thanks for the compliment Laurie.

    You know, it's funny. Content (formerly custom publishing) used to sit in a corner outside the rest of the marketing department. Did that for years in many companies. It will take years in some companies to get it back in sync.

  • Teresa Basich

    Great resource you've provided here, Joe. Thanks for putting it together. :)

    I'm hesitant to call us a “Reputation Management System” because I truly believe the actual management aspect of that term is completely up to the brand using our platform. That being said, though, your comments about establishing listening posts are spot on. I think what's interesting is that many organizations create listening posts and then don't connect the dots between what they've “heard” and the content they produce; that feedback should directly impact the content you're creating, *and* how/where you're marketing it.

    We no longer have a Director of Content Marketing, but we do take content marketing very seriously. I act as the Managing Editor and Project Manager for most of our content initiatives, and know firsthand just how much effort and organization (and collaboration among internal teams) it takes to oversee the content marketing process, and how important every single one of these roles is to making that process productive.

    Thank you, again!

    Cheers,
    Teresa

    Teresa Basich
    Community Manager, Radian6
    @TeresaBasich

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Hi Teresa…thanks for the insight on the Content Marketing position. You are obviously moving fast to adjust. I love that Radian6 has someone like you to handle content. We should probably get you more active in CMI!

  • Jody Pellerin

    I agree 100% with the B2B sentiment. I AM the “marketing department” for a small company. I am only part time, but there is so much to try to take care of, even for a small initiative or campaign, the I am often overwhelmed. Since we are small I am getting much more help from sales and training than I might in a larger organization. In fact, the sales people seem relieved for someone else to do the writing.

    Since we are also B2B I feel the need to show thought leadership and evidence based differentiation. My problem is in obtaining the research for those types of content.

    Would you have a suggestion about market research for B2B, article submission sites, article syndication, and other forums? We are a customer service and support software developer and vendor. I have used the free databases through the public library and have found a few authoritative sites about customer service, but I am uncertain how to obtain the data I need.

    Also, is there something the sales reps should be talking to the prospects about to find out more about their business?

    Thanks

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Hi Jody…good question, with no easy answer. Are you using Google Alerts and targeting the forums in your industry? Are you targeting keywords that your customers use and listing to them via Twitter search? Those are great starting posts. I think that you can find a ton of intelligence by listening online without paying for research (yet).

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com Ryan @ SmartBug Media

    Your point about building and tracking to an editorial calendar is what we find the most critical. That is the basis of communication between our clients and the account managers. Working and changing the calendar to accommodate for what's working is key. It also helps keep the client's juices flow about other areas they can unlock for great content.

    Ryan Malone
    SmartBug Media
    An inbound marketing agency and Hubspot Partner
    @RyanMalone

  • Teresa Basich

    Hi Joe! Apologies for the delayed reply — getting ready to head up to headquarters in Canada, so it's been a bit crazy! I truly believe one of the thing that sets us apart is our focus on creating and sharing valuable content. Please feel free to contact me about CMI — I'd love to connect with you!

    Cheers,
    Teresa

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Thanks Ryan…what do you use as an editorial calendar? Just curious.

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com Ryan @ SmartBug Media

    Hi Joe –

    We use Excel with the following columns:

    - primary keyword (the one I am really going after)
    - difficulty
    - exact monthly searches
    - status (in draft, in review or publish)
    - target publish date
    - actual pub date (more for pot mortem and monthly review)
    - author
    - working title (usually helps to have for an interview)
    - secondary keywords (include after publish for reference)

    With multiple outside writers we use Google calendars with similar info.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Really helpful Ryan. Thanks!

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  • Doug Kessler

    I'd add another role to the process discussion: Content Analyst. Someone who rides the analytics to feed back what's working and what's not.

    For our content marketing efforts (for our own agency and for our clients), this is a critical role and really does drive what we do.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Excellent point Doug. I've been talking to more brands that put a large focus on that type of position. I'm also seeing content strategists dig into this role as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://www.green9media.com/ Glenn

    Nice breakdown. In my role at Impact Learning Systems and in a previous role at Qmania (as well as for my own online brands), I’ve continually used Google Reader with subscriptions to Google Alerts, and the Twitter feeds for keywords related to each brand. I’ve found it pretty comprehensive, but not entirely real time, and that (as you state above) it truly isn’t a one-man job unless that’s all that person does (and the brand’s that individual manages don’t communicate much).

    The team is the brand. Content is a reflection of the team!

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  • HelenNest

    Evergreen post. Useful. The most important to me appears the comment from Paul as to the Dynamic Budget

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  • http://www.sahilparikh.com/ Sahil Parikh

    Great post. You should also check out Brightpod.com for marketing teams. They have an editorial calendar. See http://blog.brightpod.com/how-to-manage-content-marketing-with-an-editorial-calendar-free-template/

  • Edward

    Great post Joe. For preparing editorial calendars we use proofhub. See how we use this tool for creating editorial calendar: http://www.proofhub.com/use-cases/editorial-calendar/