By Heather Hurst published January 29, 2017

Stop Killing Your Content Team: 3 Ways to Scale Work With Existing Resources

killing-content-team

Year after year, many content teams are asked to deliver more and better content with the same staff and budget. In fact, 73% of B2C marketers say they plan to produce more content in 2017 than they did in 2016.

But how? Here are three foundational tips for increasing output without burning out your team and losing the talent you rely on. (You may be surprised that only one tip is directly related to the content.)

1. Learn to say no to unnecessary work

One way to scale your work with the resources you have is to let go of any content tasks that aren’t meeting your team and company goals. While this can be tricky to determine, there’s one simple question to ask, according to Michele Linn: Would anyone miss your content if you did not publish it?

Let go of any #content tasks that aren’t meeting your team and company goals, says @hehurst. Click To Tweet

Ouch. Obviously, if you’re just starting down a content path, you have to give it time before people will miss it. But if you’ve been at it consistently for a while, and you can’t honestly say anyone would notice if you stopped publishing, maybe you should rethink that channel or strategy.

At an earlier employer, I inherited a content channel that I wasn’t convinced was integral to my team’s goals or necessary to overall business objectives, but the project’s sponsor lobbied strongly for us to continue publishing on it. We did so, until a technical glitch blessedly intervened. After a couple of months, with the glitch still not fixed, it became clear that not only did the intended audience not miss the content, neither did anyone inside the company. Saying adieu to that project was an easy proposition, and my team was freed for more relevant work.

But these decisions aren’t always so clear-cut.

It can be helpful to build a business case for each initiative, whether your goal is to justify to yourself how you’re allocating your resources, to prove the value of an initiative that others are questioning, or to justify letting go of a project you doubt but others champion.

Martin Webster wrote a how-to guide for creating the perfect business case. He says the purpose is to “outline the why, what, how, and who necessary to decide if it is worthwhile to continue a project.” Each business case for your content efforts doesn’t have to be as detailed as Webster suggests as long as all of the high-level ingredients are included.

2. Get better at managing and prioritizing your work

Nobody likes a fire drill. You know, the kind where you get to stay late and work the weekend, all because someone didn’t plan well enough for the work to be accomplished.

Planning the resources needed, time estimated, and steps to take to accomplish a big deliverable is certainly an art. A lot of technology solutions, including project and work management software, can help to take the guesswork out of it. Whether you use software or not, it all starts with a solid process and building good work habits with your team. You can get back your nights and weekends by following these underlying principles:

  • Automated work assignments: Use a standardized template to assign work the same way, every time. Automate this as much as possible to cut down on manual effort. You also can use this tool to view each team member’s workload before you drop a new assignment into the queue.
  • Transparency for everyone’s workload: Whether you use an Agile burndown chart, a Kanban Work in Progress board, or software that achieves the same thing, seeing every team member’s top priorities at a glance makes it easier to slip new assignments into the mix, keep work balanced across the team, and reassign work as needed to keep work flowing at a steady pace.
  • Communication efficiencies: Anything you can do to cut down on unnecessary meetings (like status meetings) will give your team more time to focus on their most important work. In a recent survey, 62% of marketers say unnecessary meetings are the biggest culprit in productivity interruptions. That same survey reveals that after email, meetings, and other daily distractions, marketers are only able to spend 38% of their time on their primary job duties. Given these staggering realities, the more you can communicate and collaborate via Slack, Trello, or work-management software, the more time you free for content creation.
Cut down on unnecessary meetings to give your #content team more time to focus on most important work. @hehurst Click To Tweet
  • Streamlined proofing and approvals: If you still send proofs of your content for review by email, wait for responses, and aggregate feedback before making changes, you could be leaving hours of precious time on the table. Digital-proofing solutions like ProofHQ and WebProof allow every stakeholder to review and comment on everything from PDFs to videos to webpages in a shared space.

The benefits of better managing and prioritizing your work go beyond simply being more organized and productive. You’ll also improve morale, make more informed decisions about projects and personnel, and have more reliable data to justify staffing requests.

3.  Leverage the content you already created more effectively

Finally, some direct content talk. There’s a wealth of information available to help with everything from treating your content team like a newsroom, to livening old content and atomizing one killer piece of content into 10.

Alongside these bullet-proof suggestions, I offer the environmentally friendly reduce-reuse-recycle approach to content marketing:

  • Reduce the cadence, scope, or effort involved in your content releases – or perhaps a little of each – to relieve some pressure on your team. After all, when it comes to content marketing, frequency matters far less than consistency, relevancy, and quality. Using blog publishing as an example, will your audience object (or notice) if you publish three times per week instead of four? Will the world end if you take a few posts per month and convert them from original content to curated pieces? These low-effort posts can require nothing more than assigning a writer to find a thoughtful, relevant article somewhere on the web, write a brief personal reaction to the piece, quote from it, and link to the original.
  • Reuse interview material, quotes, graphics, data sources, and topics to get the most bang from your initial investment. Angie Lucas, a Salt Lake City-based freelance writer, was asked by a client to ghostwrite six articles under three bylines for multiple publications that all pointed to the same report – in a time span of about a month.
Reuse interview material, quotes, graphics, data sources, & topics to get the most bang, says @hehurst. Click To Tweet

“You might think you’d get better and more differentiated results by assigning the articles out to six different writers,” Angie says, “but I’ve found that you can save a lot of time and effort by having the same person tackle them all. Plus, it avoids accidental overlap.”

Angie says she conducted just a couple of interviews as a basis for all the articles, using different quotes from piece to piece. Relevant, particularly compelling statistics from the report were quoted in nearly every article.

Further, she was so familiar with each piece that if she wanted to make a similar point in another article, she could quote the bylined author of one of her other ghostwritten articles.

  • Recycle content when possible, transforming it into something new with each iteration. At Workfront, we invest in an in-depth survey such as the annual State of Work. From that research, we typically publish the full report, an infographic, a blog post sharing unique insights from the infographic, a SlideShare presentation, a blog post sharing a new and unique angle about the SlideShare presentation, a video or two, and more. Conference presentations or webinars often follow. The key with recycling content is to change the form rather than engage in mindless repetition.

Marketer Emily King describes it this way: “Atomization can squeeze more value from your successful content. It can bring that content to new audiences by adapting it for platforms and consumption preferences. It can extend the value of an existing piece of content by months or – as in our case – years.”

Atomization can extend the value from your successful #content by months or years, says @ek6891. Click To Tweet

Angie says she has been asked to revise a previously ghostwritten article line by line. “The client had a publication opportunity for one of their executives on a prestigious website, and it turns out we had covered that exact topic a couple of years earlier,” she says. “Given that the executive was unavailable for a new interview under the timeline, I was asked to rewrite the old article sentence by sentence, finding new supporting quotes and updating the research. In the end, there wasn’t a single phrase duplicated between the two. It was quick, efficient, and it met the goal.”

CPR for your content team

The constant drive to produce more and better work, even without additional resources, doesn’t have to put your team into cardiac arrest. In fact, if you focus on your underlying processes, get better at managing and prioritizing your work, learn to say no, and follow the three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) – you’ll be a few steps closer to creating the consistent, relevant content that your audience craves.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Editor’s note: We appreciate Workfront’s support of Content Marketing Institute as a paid benefactor. This article was reviewed and edited independently to ensure it adheres to the same editorial guidelines as all non-sponsored blog posts.

 

Author: Heather Hurst

Heather Hurst is the Director of Corporate Marketing at Workfront, where she leads the company's AR, PR, social media, and content strategy. Heather has more than a decade of BtoB and BtoC experience helping companies tell their stories in the changing media landscape. Get more work management tips on Twitter and LinkedIn. Follow Heather on Twitter @hehurst.

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