“Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.”
That cliché is cold comfort when you’re buried in assignments, distracted by the constant ping of new requests hitting your inbox, and dreading when your brand’s latest change initiative trickles into your department.
Before you let that stress raise your blood pressure, keep this in mind: Meeting the inflow of demands to “do more” doesn’t mean you should focus on the “do.” Prioritize the “more” and make every element of your program more efficient, effortless, and impactful.
Working with generative AI tools can help, but it’s not the only tool to get everything done — and done well. We gathered expert tips, templates, and cheat sheets to help power your processes and unleash your sense of accomplishment.
Robert Rose explains that a content strategy’s primary purpose is to develop and manage core responsibilities and processes. But, he admits, its operating concepts defy easy explanation. Robert uses a mnemonic device for the five key pressure points. Keep each C in focus as you develop (or sharpen) your strategy:
- Coordination: Your strategy should guide and govern all your content activities — from how raw ideas get turned into assets to how business value will be determined. Without properly coordinating those processes, you’ll likely struggle to measure or repeat the successful outcomes your content drives.
- Collaboration: The job of a content marketer isn’t to be good at content — it’s to enable the business to be good at content. To achieve that goal, content must be collaborative with responsibilities shared across business functions. “Scalability only happens through an effective, collaborative approach to transforming ideas into content and content into experiences,” Robert says.
- Content before Containers: Marketers are trained to create content based on the platform and channel buckets to fill. Yet this approach traps content in a single context, making it harder to repurpose top-performing assets or gain production efficiencies. Robert recommends taking a reverse approach: “The first step must be to create fully formed ideas (big and small) and then (and only then) figure out which containers and how many might be appropriate.”
- Channels: Channels dictate how you ultimately reach the customers and how the customers will access your content. Robert says that content measurement becomes guesswork at best without a clear strategy for every channel you’re leveraging.
Read Mnemonic Content Strategy Framework Can Spark Conversations to learn more about these key elements and how they fit into Robert’s strategic framework.
Your strategy can’t drive success if you struggle to activate it.
After trying (and failing) multiple productivity tools, trackers, and techniques, IronEdge Group’s Randi Neville says an Eisenhower matrix helped make her tasks more manageable.
She uses Microsoft’s OneNote note-taking tool for this visual framework, but a spreadsheet or document table will work just as well.
Create a vertical Y axis and a horizontal X axis. Label the top of the Y axis as “important” and the bottom as “not important.” Label the X axis as “urgent” on the left and “not urgent” on the right, creating four quadrants. It should look like Randi’s sample template below:
List current content tasks and place each into a quadrant on their level of urgency and importance:
- DO tasks are both highly urgent and important. They need to be done now. Randi prefers to define now as “today,” but set your timeframe to mean within the next hour, week, or month.
- DECIDE tasks are important but not as urgent — you decide when to work on them. Block that time off in your calendar so meeting requests and other tasks don’t create conflicts.
- DELEGATE tasks are urgent but aren’t top priorities or require more time or focus than you can spare now. Redistribute these tasks to other team members to ensure they’ll be handled promptly.
- DELETE tasks have minimal importance or urgency. Remove them from the matrix if you feel they aren’t necessary; otherwise, consider recategorizing them for delegation.
Once all tasks are listed under the appropriate category, reorder so your highest priorities are on top. Randi shares an example of how the matrix might look once you’ve done this:
- DO: Write article about how I manage my task lists. Get approval for the Springtime Campaign concept. Finalize the budget for the annual event.
- DECIDE: Check emails. Present Winter Campaign ROI results to C-suite. Calculate Winter Campaign ROI results. Align content calendar with Sales. Decide on a new digital asset manager. Finalize naming connection for new digital asset management program.
- DELEGATE: Gather analytics from the Winter Campaign event. Schedule Spring social media posts. Compare/contrast digital asset management programs. Update blogs prior to 2021 with accessible alt-image text.
- DELETE: Get with HR to write up internal memos introducing the new leave policy.
Depending on your bandwidth, you may need to move some tasks from one list to another. For example, if a newly requested meeting prevents the completion of your “do” tasks, consider moving the lowest priority “do” task to the “delegate” or “decide” list.
Randi says it’s helpful to establish a few ground rules and stick to them. Among her recommendations:
- Don’t equate “do” with “deadline.” Putting a task in the “do” column means you prioritize working on it that day, not necessarily that you finish it.
- Limit top priorities to three per day. Any more than that is unrealistic and puts you at risk of falling behind.
- Keep all tasks visible on a single page or screen. If your list creeps outside the boundaries, you’re either trying to do too much at once or not prioritizing tasks properly.
- Remove “delegated” tasks from the matrix. List them on a separate page so you can keep tabs on their progress without getting distracted by seeing them on your task list.
- Create a wins page. A running list of all the accomplished tasks is a great motivator to keep you pushing forward.
If you decide to use OneNote, you’ll find some expert-level tagging and formatting tips in Randi’s article, The Productivity Hack That Helps Me Tackle My Content Marketing To-Do List.
Audiences can’t engage with your content if they don’t distinguish it from other options or trust your insights and subject matter expertise.
Fact-check it so you don’t wreck it
Generative AI tools can help streamline content creation, but they don’t distinguish accurate, authoritative information well because flawed insights can enter its learning models.
When your content is filled with errors, inconsistencies, or outdated information, your audience can lose faith in your content — and your business. Ann Gynn suggests identifying every source referenced in your content and answering these 10 questions to ensure what you publish is beyond reproach:
- Does the source exist, and are their identification details accurate? Check their company’s website to confirm they’re on the team. If they’re not listed, call the company to verify.
- Is the source’s name spelled correctly? Make sure it’s spelled correctly in every reference.
- Is the person’s title accurate? In a volatile job market, it’s worth checking their LinkedIn profile to see if they’ve recently been promoted or moved on to a new role.
- Is the company name spelled correctly? Pay careful attention to capitalization, spacing, and any special characters in the organization’s legal name.
- Have you used their preferred pronouns to identify them? Don’t assume: If you aren’t sure, reach out to ask.
- Did you get the quote or information from the person cited? If not, ask your contact for an email or phone number and confirm the data directly.
- Is a source cited for each statistic or data point included? Consider removing any unsourced insights from your content.
- Are you citing an original source? Drop it from your content if you cannot trace data or citations to their primary origin.
- Are all numbers accurately represented? Check any data you take from third-party content against the original source to confirm the information — and how it’s being interpreted —matches up. It should also appear consistently in both the article copy and any infographics.
- Does the research meet professional standards? Review the study’s methodology to determine who the respondents were, what questions they were asked, and how the resulting data was analyzed. Check the sample size to confirm that any conclusions are based on a statistically significant number of respondents.
For more ways to ensure your content is accurate and trustworthy, read How To Fact-Check Human and AI-Generated Work.
Your content isn’t the only fish in a vast sea of engagement options. But a great headline can be the hook that catches your audience’s attention, giving your brand a better chance of reeling them in.
- Promise to deliver a relevant benefit. Tell your audience exactly what your content can help them achieve.
- Speak in specifics. Include numbers or percentages to clue readers into how much time or effort they’ll need to invest to achieve desired results.
- Use terms that identify your intended audience. Help your target readers feel seen and understood by mentioning job titles, distinct personality traits, or relatable challenges your content addresses.
- Evoke curiosity. Incorporating metaphors, alliteration, and wordplay or adding an element of surprise or intrigue can tempt your audience to click to learn more.
- Speak in a relatable voice. If your headlines sound like conversations your audience might have with a friend or coworker, you’re on the right track.
- Get right to the point. Human brains are lazy. Keep your headlines brief and straightforward so consumers immediately understand your content and why they would want to read it.
- Include a subhead. Complement your short headlines with added details that establish your content’s distinct focus and relevance.
- Follow SEO best practices. For search-friendly headlines, aim for 60 characters or less and include a relevant keyword — the closer to the beginning, the better.
For more details on each of these headline helpers, read 8 Questions To Ask for Headlines That Will Hook.
Google took a giant leap into AI last year with its Search Generative Experience. As BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu explained, SGEs aim to enhance search satisfaction by rewarding content that follows Google’s EEAT principles: experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
To benefit from the latest strategic shift in search, optimize Google’s favorite types of content: images, videos, blogs, and articles. Use these tips from Jim to guide your efforts:
Images and videos
Speak to search intent across conversational queries with one idea per asset:
- Break long, complex videos into snackable clips that address a single question or idea.
- Create original, high-quality images illustrating a single point, product, or concept.
Review your site’s schema markup and structured data to help search engines understand the intent of your visuals:
- Follow best practices for image meta descriptions, file names, and alt text.
- Help search engines find your images and videos by including them in your sitemap.
Make design and copy choices that enhance the visitor’s experience:
- Size images so they render clearly. Compress files so your site loads quickly and completely.
- Design your website and images so they’re responsive and mobile-friendly.
- Emphasize the organic use of keywords in your video and image titles and your alt text, captions, and descriptive copy.
Blogs and articles
Structure your text-based content so it’s easy to skim or read:
- Include clear subheadings to break up blocks of text and highlight essential information and ideas.
- Ensure subheading descriptions line up with the copy beneath it.
Use natural language your audience finds relatable and reassuring:
- Adopt a friendly, conversational tone. Your audience should feel like your business understands their concerns and cares about providing helpful answers.
- Incorporate long-tail keywords in a way that fits seamlessly into the context.
- Always write for humans first and optimize for search second.
Learn more about SGEs — and what you can do to make your content a part of them — in How To Optimize Your Content for Google’s Search Generative Experience.
Save steps to save your sanity
This year promises to be full of unexpected shifts and surprise opportunities. The more time saved on your content responsibilities, the more brain power you can devote to adapting, innovating, and conquering new challenges.
If you’ve developed your own helpful hack for these content tasks – or others – I’d love to hear about it. Drop me an email and let me know.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute