By Pratik Dholakiya published September 6, 2017

3 Components to Running a Smooth Content Operation

smooth_content_operation_components

When it comes to talking strategy and tactics, sometimes we still talk about this industry like we’re a bunch of solo content marketers who happen to work together.

To create a functioning content marketing team, you need to thoughtfully put together the key elements – talent, tools, and operations – to ensure that you have the right people who can do the work in a framework that benefits them and your company.

Let’s get started.

1. Talent

Who do you need on your team? Let’s talk about it.

Writers

This is obvious: You can’t do content marketing without writers. But what makes a good writer for the purposes of content marketing? That’s not an easy question to answer, but these areas of knowledge are close to a universal necessity for your writers:

  • Research: The most-skilled writers in the industry know how to research above anything else. They know how to do it quickly and accurately. They do it without accidentally sourcing “fake news” or untrustworthy outlets, and they do it without sourcing the same information everybody else is. They look in less obvious places; they combine ideas from different disciplines and industries; and they do so in a cohesive way.
  • Structure: A talented content marketing writer knows how to pull readers in with the first sentence, hook them, make promises about what’s to come, and presents the information in an easily digestible way. Your audience rarely wants flowery language. They look for clarity.
  • Creativity: Writers in this industry know how to propose ideas that will catch attention, and that means they can synthesize knowledge in ways that result in novel concepts. Not every blog post needs to have an original idea that revolutionizes the world, but the ideas have to be novel enough to be worth clicking on.
  • Intent: Writers must understand the reason for the content. I’m not saying they need to come pre-wired with an understanding of the content marketing industry, although that’s a massive bonus. I am saying they need to understand the psychology of the reader and be able to quickly adapt to types of content that serve different purposes.
Writers in #contentmarketing must understand the reason for the content, says @DholakiyaPratik. ‏ Click To Tweet

Developers

A wall usually exists between web development and content marketing. It should be torn down.

I spend a lot of time looking at web analytics and tools and gadgets are often the highest performing pages on a site. As the lines between websites and apps blur, more people expect something beyond a static experience.

Marketing-oriented developers need to be able to produce bite-size applications in short time spans, come up with ideas to fill gaps in free offerings on the web, and have an intuition for the types of applications that will not just get used, but also get shared.

Designers

Designers must be able to produce infographics, have sufficient development experience to build or at least edit functioning aesthetic themes, and be able to design for a cross-platform experience.

But, you need to look for these two traits more than anything else:

  • Message-first approach – Great design clarifies and draws attention. Gimmicks like slideshows, parallax, and other frills may work, but if they distract from the message they are counterproductive. Much of design talent comes from an artistic background, but art is usually meant to be subjective and up to interpretation. That often is the opposite of what you want from design.
  • Prolific mindset – It can be harmful to the team if designers prioritize perfectionism over productivity. Your content marketing team needs to test ideas quickly, whether it’s an A/B test or an experimental design-centric piece of content. If you reach 80% of perfection, you are in good shape for most projects. Of course, the ability to really double down on something that works and approaches perfection is an important skill, but excessive tinkering is one of the most common problems I see in this industry.

Outreach specialists

While publishing content on your owned channels can work, outreach is still necessary to make the process run far more smoothly, quickly, and effectively. Whether it’s guest posting, collaborative promotional partnerships, or just getting the word out, things go better when your team works with other outlets and influencers.

Outreach specialists are needed to make #contentmarketing programs run more effectively, says @DholakiyaPratik. Click To Tweet

Your outreach specialist absolutely must put relationship-building before cold outreach. This person doesn’t need to be best friends with everybody in your industry, but this individual should have the mindset that the role involves building mutually beneficial business relationships.

2. Tools

While some content marketing operations end up with tool myopia, tools are indispensable to manage and collaborate as a team.

Your choice of tools depends heavily on your management style as well as what may already exist within your organization. As you review your options, focus on tools designed for team use that are simple enough to be used intuitively by team members. In looking at collaborative aspects of tools, don’t go too simple and open-ended, which can mean sacrificing all project management features. The goal is to find the best combination of attributes based on your goals for the team and its work processes.

On the freemium side of things, I like Trello. The setup is good for the types of projects in content marketing – individual tasks that travel through several phases, such as brainstorming, writing, approval, and distribution.

Use a tool like @Trello for individual tasks that travel through several phases, says @DholakiyaPratik. Click To Tweet

The intuitive interface is built on cards that you drag and drop from one list to the next as it passes through a phase. Similarly, you can drag and drop team members onto specific tasks, leave comments on cards, and assign due dates to each card.

trello-board-example

For something more project-management-oriented and better suited for larger, collaborative and integrated campaigns, I prefer Workzone. While the interface is considerably more involved, it gives the core features of a big project-management and task-scheduling tool without the bulk. Included features often missing from simpler tools include Gantt charts, task dependencies, subtasks, a calendar, a cross-campaign view, multiple projects, and multiple workspaces.

workzone-example

Lead managers can remove irrelevant features to keep things simpler. Each user gets his or her own to-do list. Workzone also features the familiar ability to leave comments on tasks.

Unlike some tools, it also allows you to send emails directly to team members from inside the interface. Additional features include image markup and time and expense tracking.

3. Operation

Content marketing teams vary from scrappy start-ups to Fortune 500 powerhouses, but some things remain true throughout.

Organization

Unfortunately, even with the right tools and the right talent, organization doesn’t just happen.

Since every company organizes differently, rather than give you a prescriptive answer let me share some guidelines around how to organize:

  • Use measurement as a key guiding principle of your team’s work (more on this later.)
Use measurement as a key guiding principle of your #contentmarketing team’s work, says @DholakiyaPratik. Click To Tweet
  • Give your team as much independence as possible such as setting deadlines and defining their own processes (in collaboration with their teammates). Steer clear of micromanaging but offer valuable advice when welcome and warranted. Team leadership should focus most of its efforts on defining and addressing the team’s overall goals.
  • Make sure processes are as simple as feasible and used consistently, from logging a project’s completion to file-sharing.
  • Communicate regularly among team members and leadership. Introversion is a common trait in people who are drawn to this industry, which, while fine on its own, can create complications and confusion when it hinders collaboration. Setting the occasional meeting is important, especially for large projects that require work from everybody on the team.

Measurement

As I’m sure you’ve heard, “What gets measured gets managed.” Everybody on your content marketing team should understand metrics – what gets measured and what is learned from those measurements.

Also, ensure that measurement is weighted based on the tactic’s priority in your content marketing strategy. This prevents something I see often: top-page myopia – when you spend all your efforts trying to recreate what happened with your highest-performing pages. Certainly, you should learn from your best-performing content, but you should do so within the context of its goals and whether those goals are still valid.

Feedback

Don’t rely on metrics as your only method of feedback. When you focus too heavily on KPIs and goals you can lose sight of two important things: morale and innovation.

Don’t rely on metrics as your only method of feedback, says @DholakiyaPratik. Click To Tweet

Make sure your team feels welcome to provide feedback and share ideas. Encourage innovation and recommendations. Set meetings to address this specific need. If your talent doesn’t feel involved in the process, morale will suffer and innovation will stagnate.

Be a well-oiled machine

By addressing your team, tools, and structure, you have a solid foundation to help your content marketing team to hits its stride. With the right ingredients for your organization, you are well positioned to set and reach your content marketing and business goals.

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).

Let’s add a fourth item to running a successful content marketing program – reading CMI’s free daily newsletter with tips, trends, and insight on the industry. Subscribe today (or at least sign up for the weekly digest version.) 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the co-founder of E2M, a full service digital marketing agency and PRmention, a digital PR agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, content marketing, growth hacking, entrepreneurship, and digital PR. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat's Unpluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, and other major events across Asia. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, and the Huffington Post to name a few. Search Engine Watch, one of the most respected platforms in the search industry, recognized Dholakiya as a "must follow" SEO expert. He has also been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica three years in a row. Follow him on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik.

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  • ebrenner

    Your talent list is missing a key person: an editor. No matter how talented the writer, they need an editor. Why? Because humans are fallible and when we write, we can’t see our own errors. A fresh pair of eyes is necessary. Someone trained to read for errors and correct for errors.

    The last thing you want to do is invest time and money in a quality content marketing program and publish poor quality content because no one reviewed the copy.

    • http://thecedrus.com/discover/coffee Coffee images

      Creativity: Writers in this industry know how to propose ideas that will catch attention, and that means they can synthesize knowledge in ways that result in novel concepts. Not every blog post needs to have an original idea that revolutionizes the world, but the ideas have to be novel enough to be worth clicking on.

  • http://www.quest-technology-group.com Linda Rolf

    Good article. I would add to the talent list the strategic visionary who continuously communicates and reinforces the “why”. Also a content strategist who ensures consistency in messaging.

  • http://www.softscotch.com/ Sanju Joseph

    Thanks for a great content!