By Amanda Maksymiw published January 4, 2011

Checklist: How to Ensure Quality Control in Content Marketing

Picture this: you are part of a small marketing team tasked with managing a corporate blog, creating case studies and eBooks, making videos, recording podcasts, writing articles, researching and creating reports, writing and sending a newsletter, boosting website traffic, building the subscriber base, communicating with influencers, and building the brand.  Since there are so many moving parts in the mix, there is a good chance that you will make a mistake.  Marketers are human after all.

Making Mistakes

While there is a movement for the “Good Enough Revolution,” it should not be confused with sloppy execution.  Over the past few months, I have paid attention to the content marketing efforts of several companies and have seen the following mistakes (including some from my own company!):

  • Typo in a piece of written content
  • Using the wrong information in a video
  • Including too many uhs and ums in a podcast or video
  • Hyperlinking to a broken link
  • Using grammatical errors
  • Sending out duplicate emails

Some common mistakes in content marketing efforts should not happen.  I am not writing this article to explain that mistakes are ok.  Mistakes, whether they are as small as a typo or as large as forgetting to cite a source, should be avoided.

So do I suggest you do that? My company has a small team that is focused on eliminating the silly mistakes we sometimes make, and the main tool we use are checklists to reduce and eliminate our mistakes.

Using Checklists

Checklists can serve as an excellent tool for quality control at every stage of the content creation process.  Each content marketing “product” will most likely require a separate checklist. Once you have an agreed-upon checklist anyone in the team or company can participate in a review step without training or explanation.

So what are some tips for creating good checklists?

The Checklist Checklist

Your checklists should have the following:

Definition of valuable content
It is important to define exactly what makes each type of content valuable to make sure you are creating information your audience will eat up.  If the content is clearly defined within the checklist, this is a great start to ensuring that your piece is up to quality standards.

 

Explanation of audience or target persona
For a piece of content to be truly successful, it should speak to a specific persona or audience.  If this is clearly defined in the checklist, you will be able to uncover pieces of content that are potentially less engaging to your targets.

 

Necessary formatting specifications
This area of the checklist refers to simple components such as headings, image size, type of image, placement of image, font size, etc.  If you run a corporate blogging program, it is nice to have a checklist detailing what each of your employees can do within their blogs to maintain a consistent design across all posts.

 

Fair use guidelines
Fair use guidelines become very important if you are summarizing any content within your strategy.  Here is the four-part test used by the copyright office:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

 

Quality control and review steps
For some pieces of content (let’s say a report or eBook), it is essential to have more than one person review to ensure the content is perfect.  But other types of content (say, a blog post), may not warrant a high level of scrutiny.  The point is to define the number of review steps in the checklist so you can be comfortable with the quality of your content.  It may even make sense to specify exactly who you’d like to review the work and for what purpose.

 

Common mistakes to look out for
The most important thing about making mistakes is learning from them so you don’t repeat them.  If you happen to make mistakes or identify them during the review phase, put a special note in your checklist so you don’t make the same mistake twice!

Checklists can be a great tool (and sanity check) for busy marketers.  Do you have any tips to share?

Author: Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda Maksymiw is the content marketing manager for Lattice Engines, a leader in B2B sales intelligence software helping Fortune 5000 companies sell smarter and achieve a 6-14 percent increase in sales productivity within one year of deployment through Intelligent Targeting, Contextual Conversations and Measurable Execution. She is responsible for setting and managing the company's content marketing strategy including creating, producing, and publishing engaging content. Follow her on Twitter at @amandamaks.

Other posts by Amanda Maksymiw

  • David

    Bit ironic that your “Good Enough Revolution” link is broken.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      David,

      Well, that’s embarassing! I don’t know how I missed that when I reviewed, but it is fixed now. Thanks for letting me know. Apparently I need to take Amanda’s advice and use more checklists ;)

      Michele

  • Anonymous

    Love the “checklist checklist!” I find that I make lots of little mistakes when I’m taking a blog post over from Word to WordPress. Two of the additions to my checklist: I always schedule the blog post, so that if I accidentally push publish instead of “Save Draft” (don’t ask me why I always seem to do that), I have time to get it ready before it goes live. I also always double check that I’ve changed the author if I’m loading a post for someone else. Little things can make a big difference, and checklists help!

    • http://blog.openviewpartners.com/blog/the-open-marketer Amanda Maksymiw

      Tracy,
      I manage my firm’s content site that nearly every employee contributes to and it is pretty common for people to click ‘publish’ versus ‘save draft’ so I feel your pain. Great tips and thanks for sharing!

      Amanda

      • Anonymous

        You’re welcome! And yes, if you have the option, scheduling a post far, far in advance as the first thing you do, before even entering any content, totally solves the whole publish problem. That button should be bright red and say “self-destruct” instead of publish or something so we don’t click it!

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    There’s always a struggle between “shipping” (as Seth Godin would say) and ensuring content quality. Sometimes we’re so focused on making our content perfect that it becomes the enemy of the good and either never gets published or published too late, or we are so anxious that we publish instead of running through the proper quality control steps.

    There needs to be a happy medium there, where we don’t hesitate to publish but we hesitate enough to follow the steps you’ve laid out. Great post.

    Jon

    • http://blog.openviewpartners.com/blog/the-open-marketer Amanda Maksymiw

      Jon,
      You bring up a great point. Checklists shouldn’t be so daunting that they get in the way of publishing content. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Amanda,

    This seems like a simple thing but I read my content aloud before I publish it. Hearing the words spoken – even if it’s your words and your ear – almost always uncovers an error. It would be a good step to put on your checklist before publishing.

    • Anonymous

      This is a great method too, but takes forever! I always read something that’s really important–like my resume, or a cover letter, or an email to an important prospective client–aloud, but for everyday writing, or longer writing, there’s just not the time of day. Unless you talk really really fast

  • http://twitter.com/cleveg cleveg

    Hi Amanda,

    I really like this checklist approach. Of all the things I’ve tried to improve quality, I’ve found checklists to be both simple and effective. But going back to Jon’s comment, the tricky part is keeping them simple and preventing them from becoming a barrier to shipping. Thanks for the post, Amanda.

    Just curious, but does anyone have an example of a well-intentioned checklist that proved to be “bad” in practice”?

  • http://www.avitage.com Zak Pines

    Hi Amanda,

    I agree checklists are effective. Also for content such as video, vignettes, web sites and emails — we find that establishing consistent standards are key — so that you are not re-inventing the wheel each time you create and deliver content, and there is consistency. And in fact there are many reasons this benefits both organizations and companies providing content services. I went in to some more detail on this in a recent post in the Avitage blog – http://bit.ly/dJgVlh

    Best Regards

    Zak Pines

  • seo.mindmade

    Thanks for sharing such a useful information..i agree with you to make quality content.