By Jodi Harris published August 16, 2022 Est Read Time: 9 min

5 Steps To Build a Content Operations Workflow That Helps Everybody

For smooth content marketing operations, your team members must have a clear workflow and the right process to make their work manageable.

Workflow is your set of tasks in sequential order to produce a content asset. Process is how your team executes those tasks efficiently and consistently. Together, they help team members understand their responsibilities, how to complete them, and how their work will be routed to the next step.

Detailing workflows and processes helps team members understand their responsibilities, how to complete them, and what happens next, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

This streamlined, five-step approach can help you map the workflow for any content format and build it into an executable process. The templates and examples can further help you complete each step.

Step 1: Audit your content formats

Create a template with these columns – content format, primary delivery platform, other delivery platforms, and special circumstances that might exist as part of your content marketing plan. Then, fill out the template with all the content formats your team produces:

  • Content format: Do you create articles? E-books? Live presentations? Webinars? Visual content? List every format your team regularly produces.
  • Primary delivery platform: Where does each format get published or shared first?
  • Additional distribution platforms: Does this content format appear on other channels? (These answers help surface tasks to add to the process for that content format. It also accounts for post-publishing steps to provide a consistent multiplatform experience.
  • Special circumstances and variations: Are some e-books gated for lead gen but not others? Are videos added to your newsletters only when you have an event or special offer? Any variations that require extra steps should be noted.

TIP: If you realize a content format is used significantly in multiple ways, break them into separate listings on the spreadsheet. For example, videos might be listed as Video – YouTube and Video – Instagram Stories.

At this point, focus only on the high-level tasks in your workflow. No need to think about the finer details like who creates the content, who needs to approve it, design features, etc., just yet.

Detailing workflows and processes helps team members understand their responsibilities, how to complete them, and what happens next, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Here’s an example of how a completed template might look:

Content Format Primary Delivery Platform Additional Distribution Platforms Special Circumstances/Variations
Editorial article Website (Blog) · Newsletter

· LinkedIn profile    page/group

· Social media

· Sponsored posts

· Crowdsourced posts

· Example collections

· Republished posts

 

Newsletter Email
E-book Website (Resources page) · Email campaigns

· Editorial article

· Sponsored         landing page

· Gated for lead gen

· Sponsored e-books

 

 

Video (livestream) Instagram · Facebook

· Twitter

 

 

 

· Created with influencers
Video (scripted) YouTube · Website blog

· Event microsite

· Website video page

· Sponsored webinars
Social media post LinkedIn · Facebook

· Twitter

· Instagram

Live presentation In-person event · Blog posts

· Virtual event

· Video snippets on social media

Use this framework to start the list of required tasks, mapping as workflows and building them into a unified process.

Step 2: List all tasks for each format

Next, you should list all the tasks needed to produce one content format for one primary platform.

You may want to start with the format produced most frequently or the one most critical to your content goals. Alternately, you may select your most complex asset – one that involves multiple teams or many extra steps to produce and distribute. You’ll see why in a minute.

Don’t worry about putting the tasks in order yet. Just list as they come to mind. For example, an “editorial article” might include this task list:

  • Determine topic.
  • Schedule for publication on the blog.
  • Edit submitted copy.
  • Load copy and images to CMS.
  • Format content for layout.
  • Send edited copy to author for revisions/approval.
  • Request sales/marketing feedback on topic.
  • Send links/assets to contact person for the daily email.
  • Design and develop images.
  • Gather author bio info/assets.
  • Brainstorm specific story angle.
  • Interview subject matter expert(s).
  • Assign author to write copy.
  • Proof and approve the final layout.

Some of these tasks have multiple sub-steps. For example, formatting the article could involve importing and resizing images, adding hyperlinks, setting category tags, etc. But for this exercise, stick to broad task categories.


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Step 3: Organize tasks by production stage

Next, organize the tasks into pre-production, production, and post-production stages in sequential order like the one shown below. This step allows you to map a seamless workflow (step four).

Stage of Content Format (editorial article) Task To Do
Pre-production stage Determine the topic.
Brainstorm angle.
Identify sources/subject matter experts.
Request sales/marketing feedback on the topic and approach.
Assign a writer.
Identify governance requirements.
Create/gather author bio info/assets.
Production stage Write content/receive author submission.
Edit/revise copy for style and substance.
Design/develop images.
Send a final copy to the author/stakeholders for approval.
Load/format copy and images for layout.
Set metadata details.
Proof and approve the final layout.
Post-production stage Schedule for publication on the blog.
  Publish content, including metadata.
Send content to [contact] for email alert/newsletter
Share links/assets with [contact] for additional promotion, repurposing, distribution according to content plan.
Collect metrics data and generate reports.
Share data with stakeholders to inform potential adjustments or future content plans.

Note these details to help organize your tasks in logical order:

  • Which tasks must happen before others can start?
  • Which tasks can happen concurrently?
  • How should each task be noted as completed and ready for the next task?

TIP: Your processes must account for standards and requirements set at the enterprise level or that contribute to other organizational functions. For example, you may need to align your content ideas with your brand’s governance or set metadata details according to your enterprise SEO strategy.

If you’re unsure what these tasks are, this is the time to find out. It makes your work harder if you need to plug in missed steps or reorganize your tasks later.

Step 4: Assign roles and map how work will flow among them

From here, you add a column to the chart for roles and detail who is responsible for each track. With this information, you can create a map showing how production efforts flow from one role to the next.

The first part is relatively easy, especially if you have a small, centralized content marketing team and clearly outlined roles. For collaborative tasks, include all roles. In this example, I slotted in some pre-production roles as a guide.

Stage of Content Format (editorial article) Task To Do Roles
Pre-production stage Determine the topic. Team leader
Brainstorm angle. Team leader

Managing editor

Identify sources/subject matter experts. Managing editor
Story editor
Staff writers
Request sales/marketing feedback on the topic and approach. Managing editor
Assign a writer. Managing editor
Identify governance requirements. Managing editor
Create/gather author bio info/assets. Copy editor
Production stage Write content/receive author submission.
Edit/revise copy for style and substance.
Design/develop images.
Send a final copy to the author/stakeholders for approval.
Load/format copy and images for layout.
Set metadata details.
Proof and approve the final layout.
Post-production stage Schedule for publication on the blog.
  Publish content, including metadata.
Send content to [contact] for email alert/newsletter
Share links/assets with [contact] for additional promotion, repurposing, distribution according to content plan.
Collect metrics data and generate reports.
Share data with stakeholders to inform potential adjustments or future content plans.

Determining roles can be more complicated for larger enterprises or those with shared content responsibilities across multiple departments. But once you slot the content marketing team members, you can see where gaps exist. That will help you identify the right teams to approach for collaborative assistance.

Assign roles to tasks listed in your #content workflow. Then, identify the gaps where collaborative assistance is needed, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The chart now provides all the information needed to understand the editorial article format workflow. However, transforming it into a shareable graphic or map could be a helpful addition. It will help stakeholders visualize where their role fits in the production continuum and what still needs to happen.

Step 5: Operationalize and iterate

At this point, you have the tasks and order of operations mapped out for a content format. Now, implement it as a repeatable process. Create a mechanism to track and manage the tasks as they get done and ensure everyone has what they need to do their part.

You can use the detailed dashboards provided in project management tools like Asana or Jira to build a sophisticated system. You can also build customized trackers and checklists using cloud-based work tools like Airtable, Trello, or Monday. But the most straightforward approach may be to copy the information from the templated chart into a shareable Google spreadsheet or Excel document.

For example, the editorial team at CMI uses a multitab tracker similar to the editorial calendar template below. The process for managing scheduled content is tracked on the main tab, while brainstormed ideas and pre-production tasks get their own tabs. Each field is specific to the tasks required for those parts of the process.

Earlier, I mentioned you could create a process around one content format, then adapt it for other variations. Here’s how that works:

  • Revisit the original table that notes special circumstances and variations that require extra steps.
  • Walk through the chart denoting the tasks. Identify which tasks are unnecessary and should be deleted and what tasks should be added.
  • Add the roles to the newly added tasks. Using what you just did for editorial articles as a model, you can also build processes for other content types.

You can see why you want dedicated processes for content formats with completely different variations. You also can see why you might want to start with your most complex format. If you focus on a simpler format like livestream videos for Instagram, it will take a lot more work to map out the production tasks for more extensive efforts like e-books.

Build, revise, repeat

Content marketing teams juggle a lot of responsibilities. Why not make it easier by mapping your workflows and building reliable processes to achieve your marketing goals? If you decide to try this shortcut, drop a note in the comments to let me know how it worked – or what you changed to make it work better for your team.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.

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