By Robert Rose published September 16, 2010

How to Choose a CMS for Content Marketing: Don’t Hammer with a Screwdriver

My college roommate used to hold up his giant screwdriver and say – “this is the only tool I’ll ever need.” And, he’d hammer nails with it, open boxes with it, open beer bottles with it (yes, college was like that for me). It was everything he needed. Sadly, the same can’t be said for different web content management software.

So, if you’re neck deep in a content marketing strategy, it’s a sure bet that you’re also, in some way, wrestling with a web content management system (CMS). Whether you’re publishing a blog, a web site, multiple web sites, landing pages or just throwing press releases up on Marketwire, chances are it’s not hand-coded HTML being FTPd by Dreamweaver.

And if it is. . . well, read on friend, because you need a web content management system in the worst way.

There’s a good chance that – despite how much you love or hate your CMS – it may be a time bomb in your back room, bringing all of your hard, creative content marketing efforts to a dead stop.

What is a CMS?

A web CMS the application you use to publish and manage web content.

Is WordPress a CMS? It’s a question that many in the CMS community can’t agree on, so is it any wonder that marketing folk have a hard time distinguishing between the thousands of products on the market?

For the record, I argue that WordPress is a CMS – if only because a blog is web content, and WordPress is a way to manage that content. But then I’d also argue that if you have someone named Bob or Mary transforming your Word doc into HTML and putting it up on your site, that you have a CMS called Bob or Mary.

How do I know which CMS is right for my organization?

Decide what you need your CMS to do
Any decent CMS (including Bob or Mary) will enable you to publish content to the web. The key is to understand not only what you are trying to manage, but how it is you’ll manage it. For instance:

  • Is it a blog? Will it have private membership?
  • Is it a corporate Web site that will have multiple authors across the business, where content is targeted to different personas?
  • Is it a multi-language e-commerce platform?

Don’t under-buy or over-buy
There are real differences in what you can (or can’t) do with Bob or Mary, or with a blogging tool like Movable Type or WordPress, and what you can (or shouldn’t) do with an enterprise-class web content management solution. The trick is not to under-buy or over-buy technology just to escape the “IT Bottleneck.”

Consider using multiple systems
Understand your process and the kind of web properties you are about to publish before you go out looking for tools. And, certainly don’t be afraid to use different tools for different types of content.

Blogging tools are really good at what they do. If you’re happy using WordPress for your blogs and microsites but you need to add more rigorous workflow to the corporate site – don’t succumb to the idea that EVERYTHING has to come out of one system. CM systems are almost always geared toward publishing different kinds of sites, and it’s now very easy to integrate content in and out of different CM systems.

Choose a tool that aligns with your process
The key to aligning your shiny new web content management system to your content marketing strategy is to understand that the tool is just the facilitation of the process. Like any tool, it’s just leverage. In Joe Pulizzi’s August post, “How To Effectively Manage the Content Marketing Process,” he identified these key tools:

  • A content management system
  • Listening posts
  • The Project Manager and the Managing Editor
  • The editorial calendar
  • The dynamic budget

The right CMS for the job – one that provides you with control and facilitates YOUR process – is one that both talks (publishes) and listens (ingests) content. It enables the Project Manager and the Managing Editor to establish editorial calendars and manage workflow – and provides insight into how that content is performing so that you can keep budgeting effectively.

Don’t be afraid to add tools to your toolbox as you need them. Having a screwdriver prevents you from failing. Having a whole box full of the right tools to manage the job correctly is what makes you successful.

What other tips do you have for finding the right web CMS? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Robert Rose

Robert is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for The Content Marketing Institute. Robert has worked with more than 500 companies, including 15 of the Fortune 100. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert’s third book – Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has been called the “book that rewrites the rules of marketing.” His second book – Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing is a top seller and has been called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” Robert’s first book, Managing Content Marketing, spent two weeks as a top 10 marketing book on Amazon.com and is generally considered to be the “owners manual” of the content marketing process. You can catch up with Robert on his popular podcast - The Weekly Wrap. Follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

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