Let’s start with a small thought experiment: Imagine someone fully immersed in a creative activity.
Maybe the person is writing, or painting, or designing clothes.
In your picture, what kind of environment is the person in?
Chances are that you imagined someone alone at a desk or in a studio, working hard with no one else around. But in a modern marketing department, though it’s a highly creative environment, nothing gets done without collaboration.
As high quality, truly creative content becomes a market advantage more and more, content teams increasingly struggle to streamline the process of creative collaboration.
To meet the twin demands of outstanding content and business goals, you have to give your creative team members the time and space they need to work, while ensuring the right work gets done at the right time.
And, with 73% of B2C marketers reporting plans to produce more content in 2017 in the latest CMI research, this concern is only growing.73% of B2C marketers reporting plans to produce more content in 2017 via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet
During a roundtable chat at Content Marketing World, we discovered three things that many best-in-class content teams who have solved this problem have in common. They:
- Take a journalistic approach that puts the quality-vs.-quantity content debate to rest
- Structure the team to allow creative marketers to devote their time to actually creating content
- Follow non-linear creation flows to increase their output while reducing bottlenecks
Led by Deborah Holstein, vice president of marketing for Hightail, the B2C roundtable featured Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping; Margaret Magnarelli, senior director of marketing and managing editor for content, Monster; Thao Le, vice president of marketing at Hyland’s; Amanda Todorovich, director of content marketing, Cleveland Clinic; and Michael Weiss, vice president of marketing, Creative Circle.
Why effective content collaboration matters
When asked to rate their organization’s content marketing approach compared with one year ago, 63% of B2C marketers say they are “much more successful” or “somewhat more successful.”
The most common reason for their success? Content creation.
Content marketing teams who are seeing better results have figured out how to create higher-quality content in a more efficient manner.
By contrast, among the marketers who saw no improvement in their content marketing efforts year over year, 37% believe that content creation challenges contribute to their stagnation.
Regardless of past success (or lack thereof), nearly three-quarters of B2C content marketers are ramping up their content output in the coming year. This all lends a particularly strong sense of urgency to the discussion about how to improve creative collaboration on our teams.
How to Make Content Creation the Star Quarterback
Modeling content teams like newsrooms
On smaller content teams, you need creators who can laugh in the face of the quantity-vs.-quality debate. You need people accustomed to consistently producing at scale and on a deadline.
For many content managers, this means hiring journalists. For others, it means going further to adopt a journalistic mindset and create a brand newsroom.
That’s how Margaret has been running her expanded team at Monster, bringing more writing in-house so the company can turn around newsworthy articles in a shorter time frame. She comes from a journalistic background, so for her, as she says, “the idea of not having enough time to create content is kind of foreign.”Bring writing in-house so you can turn around newsworthy articles in a shorter time frame says @mmagnarelli. Click To Tweet
For example, her team writes an analysis within two hours after the release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics weekly jobs report. Monster’s audience wants to learn more about this data, so Margaret has purposely hired a team that can turn that information around quickly.
And, like journalists who use their sources to bring new insight and ideas to readers, content teams can extend their collaboration capabilities by tapping into communities.
Thao’s team often gets news tips on what to cover on Hyland’s Pickleball Channel from audience members. This relationship helps ensure that the company is creating relevant content and shortens the production cycle by bypassing the need for brainstorming topics.Get #content topic ideas from your audience says @pickelballusa. #cmworld Click To Tweet
Let creative people create on your team
One of the reasons Margaret’s team can turn content around so quickly is that she has transferred all project management tasks away from her writers and onto a dedicated head of production and operations.
Amanda’s team at Cleveland Clinic is similarly structured, with project managers who focus on keeping the wheels of collaboration turning. This arrangement, she says, has “been crucial to keep the creative people focused on creating.”
Also consider any bottlenecks in your current collaboration efforts, and look for new hires that can improve your content flow. A dedicated production manager may be your next employee. Find people who can bring a wider variety of content creation efforts into your brand newsroom environment to create your team.A dedicated production manager may be your next (#contentmarketing team) employee @AndreaFryrea. #cmworld Click To Tweet
The important thing is to be deliberate in expanding your team; don’t just hire carbon copies of your current high performers.
After all, 41% of the B2C marketers who experienced more content marketing success this year attribute it to organizational changes, staffing, and/or new content marketing roles.
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Embrace non-linear collaboration
Even a perfectly structured team will struggle to effectively collaborate and meet deadlines without a solid foundation. More and more teams, including Amanda’s and Margaret’s, are turning to non-linear and Agile methods to solve this problem.
With a linear approach each piece progresses from one state to another:
Research → Writing → Editing → Design → Publication → Promotion
If something gets stuck in one part of the process, it derails the content train. By moving to a more Agile approach, Amanda and Margaret have increased the amount of content they can produce without sacrificing consistency.
Amanda has writers and designers work in tandem on a piece rather than handing off a final written draft to a graphics team.
Margaret runs three distinct teams inside her content marketing department, each of which is working on separate pieces of content simultaneously.
Creating the space for creativity
The table stakes for content marketing are constantly going up, which means successful teams will be the ones who can foster creative collaboration without sacrificing consistent publication schedules.
Monster, Cleveland Clinic, and other organizations are hitting this balance by:
- Turning to newsroom-style approaches that focus on rapid content creation without sacrificing quality
- Including managers who are responsible for production and project management, freeing content creators to be creative
- Exploring new methods of work management that break free from the risks of linear content flow
What other steps has your organization taken to make creative collaboration work?
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute