Tools are funny things. If you’re familiar with the problem you need to fix, and you understand how, when, and why to use each tool, they’re incredibly helpful. They save you time and money and help you do a truly professional-quality job. But if you just want to fill a big toolbox full of shiny new tools because you think it’s necessary for some vague reason, they’re a staggering waste of time and money.
Building a new content marketing team or large-scale initiative is like building anything else. If you want to do a professional job, you need professional tools and you need to know how to use them. You don’t need to start with every tool—just start with what makes the most sense for your team and go from there.
Why you need a content marketing toolkit
Having a standard set of tools helps content creators to efficiently develop consistent content. It also helps to promote a clear and consistent vision and definition for your content marketing initiative.
Understand your audience
Different people will use different content tools across the organization. Take a moment to think about who needs to be supported in creating quality content. Your list may include:
- Your dedicated content team
- Content contributors from other areas of your organization
- Content publishers and web traffic coordinators
- Visual design team
- All company employees
- Content freelance contractors
Make your content marketing toolkit usable
All content tools should support user tasks and be easy-to-use, but give extra attention to tools used by staff who are not content specialists and whose primary job is not creating or contributing to content. Your content marketing toolkit should:
- Be available online. Encourage staff to interact with the tools online, rather than print, to ensure they are using the most up-to-date information. Keep all your tools in one, easy-to-access place.
- Be printable. Staff will want to print some tools and keep them for easy reference. Allow for this, but make the date of publication obvious, and ask them to check periodically for an updated version.
- Display only the tools relevant and available to each user group. Create permission-based access to the toolkit. That way you’ll have one central repository to manage and update, but your users won’t be overwhelmed with documents or tools that have no relevance to them.
- Be clearly branded as a content marketing tool and part of the larger toolkit. The writing, visual design and format should reflect the brand of your organization and the sub-brand of your content initiative. Be sure to model content best practices.
Never assume that people will understand how to use the tools or where to find them even if it seems obvious. Taking the time to educate your users will help you better understand their needs and obstacles and make them feel involved and included. This will result in better adoption of the tools. Include a review of the content marketing toolkit as part of the welcoming and training process for all new employees in each user group.
Create high-quality, useful tools
Remember that your content tools are representative of the quality of content that you’re looking for. Don’t lower your quality standards just because your audience is internal.
Be sure to match each tool with one or more user groups. This will help you to focus it on your user needs as well as set access permissions. Here are some of the tools you may want to include in your toolkit:
Art collection: A repository for pre-approved art and images for content marketing that the content team can grab and go.
Article submission brief: A form to collect the necessary information from content contributors who are submitting an idea for an article.
Article template & checklist: A brief outline and fill-in-the-blanks template to help content contributors write an effective article. Include key concepts and a high-level checklist.
Brand brief: A one-page, high-level description of your corporate brand, voice and personality.
Content maintenance calendar: A maintenance schedule identifying content that needs to be updated or removed. Include a schedule and reason for update.
Content marketing playbook: A comprehensive overview of the different types of content marketing products that your organization creates. Include descriptions of content products, their purpose, key audiences, resource requirements, and their position in your strategic content mix.
Design style guide: A comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for content visual design. Be sure to include guidance for photos, images, font and color-schemes.
Editing checklist: A checklist to ensure that your editor looks at all aspects of quality content. In addition to writing style and grammatical issues, be sure to include things like fact-checking, full URLs included, indications of where this content will be linked to or from, SEO optimization, cross-channel requirements and opportunities, metadata and ALT text descriptions and scheduled maintenance, if necessary.
Editorial calendar: A calendar of all content approved for upcoming publication, including content requirements, responsibilities, and schedule. If you only have time to develop one item in your toolkit, this is the place to start. Idea list: A list of pre-approved article ideas that content contributors can choose from.
Kick-start content ideas: A one-page list of idea-generating techniques to help content contributors identify and create new content ideas and opportunities.
Opportunity calendar: A tool for collecting content requests and timelines from different departments. You can distribute the calendar at regular intervals such as quarterly, and each department can identify key concepts, themes or campaigns they have coming up that may impact your content marketing. Typically, this information is captured in an Excel document, which is reviewed by your editorial team as they decide on upcoming content.
Personas: Hypothetical archetypes that represent distinct customer-groups. Each persona is a one-page fictionalized customer account derived from real customer data for that segment. Personas are used to guide content focus and decisions to ensure your company maintains a customer-focused approach to content development and delivery.
Pre-publication content checklist: A checklist to ensure content quality prior to publication. Make sure that links are checked, metadata and ALT text descriptions are included, images are properly formatted and sized, and pages display properly at target resolutions on relevant browsers.
Process diagrams: Diagrams to communicate the process flow through all stages of the content life-cycle.
Quick tips for quality writing: A one-page overview of the most important writing guidelines with examples.
Quick tips for social media: A one-page overview of key social media concepts and guidelines with examples.
Writing style guide: A comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for writing to quality standards. Be sure to include sections on tone and voice, writing mechanics, information design, social media, and SEO.
What other tools have you found helpful in the past?
Photo credit: Austin & Zak