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Scaling Content Production by Focusing on Operations [25+ Expert Ideas]

Scaling Production by Focusing on Content Operations

The content team should deliver more for the business.

Almost every marketer has heard a version of that directive at some time or another. But cranking up your brand’s content machine to deliver bigger and better results isn’t easy.

To help you with content scaling, we asked the experts presenting at Content Marketing World for their advice. Their ideas tackle everything from the big, strategic picture to the newly realized value of AI to tackling your existing content operations – including processes, tools, and people.

Adopt a holistic view of scaling content operations

Many components go into content operations. To scale your content marketing, consider each element and work to fit them together.

Prioritize and practice patience

  • Start with your strategy. Stay focused on your strategic goals and know how those are prioritized for your business. Maintain focus on your target audience. Ensure that all your content creators, editors, and strategists understand who you’re talking to and what actions you’re trying to get them to take.
  • Look at your team and tools. Make sure you have the right resources to create an efficient and effective content solution that can ideate, create, optimize, and distribute your messages on the right channels for your audience. Don’t forget to include resources to measure, optimize, and test content performance; otherwise, you won’t be able to constantly improve and show the impact of your content.
  • Document your processes. This is the first step to identifying what AI tools may be helpful or where you might find efficiencies in your workflow. It also ensures an easier transition of personnel when you’re onboarding new employees.
  • Be patient. Content marketing is not a campaign. It’s not a single project. It’s a strategy. It takes time to build trust and relationships with an audience. It takes time to measure changes and to assess the impact. Give your content time to work, and trust the process. – Brian Piper, director of content strategy and assessment, University of Rochester

Standardize the framework

Creators need the freedom to create based on content requirements. The role of the operations team is to build the foundational layer of the process on which good content creation can exist. They should focus on strategy, identification of roles and responsibilities, agreement on quality levels, standardized processes, and documented guidelines/templates. Then, let content creators create. – Colleen Smith, senior vice president global marketing, Avid Technology Inc.

See the bigger content production picture

Many people associate content operations solely with content creation. They think about what assets to create next and how to fill an editorial calendar. However, content operations involve a broader scope. It’s about connecting that content with the rest of the organization, making sure that sales reps, success reps, and even other members of the marketing team, such as account-based marketers, can easily find the right content to share at any given moment.

Sometimes, instead of focusing solely on creating more content, we need to take a step back and consider how to effectively activate and make our content readily available to stakeholders who engage with our buyers. Ultimately, it’s about bridging the gap between content creation and content utilization to maximize its impact. – Randy Frisch, co-founder and chief brand officer, Uberflip

Instead of creating more, consider how to activate #Content and bridge the gap between creation and utilization, says @RandyFrisch via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Establish governance

Marketers overlook content governance. Content governance involves implementing systems, guidelines, and standards to manage, create, distribute, and maintain content across various platforms. Doing this ensures consistency, accuracy, and compliance.

Content governance includes not only brand and content guidelines but also SEO strategies, inclusive language, and policies on approval, archiving, retention, and deletion. How do you ensure you are following your policies? Conduct regular content audits, track content effectiveness, and establish clear metrics for success. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. – Karen McFarlane, chief marketing officer, LetterShop x KMC

Think distribution

Distribution often challenges the ability to scale. For example, a group will have an incredible video production team but no budget or plan to distribute beyond organic channels. As soon as a video gets the green light to produce, there should be a distribution plan with dollars attached. Otherwise, decide if you’re OK making art for art’s sake. – Adam Pierno, managing director of brand strategy, Arizona State University

Follow these steps

When organizations struggle to scale their content operations, they often overlook starting with a solid content strategy. Setting clear goals, defining target audience personas, and establishing content guidelines for consistency should come first.

Step two is planning, organization, and governance. Having a documented process for content creation and distribution, along with an editorial calendar, keeps things on track. And content governance is often neglected. It’s important to have clear roles, responsibilities, and workflows to ensure collaboration and accountability. Get the right people in the right places and define their roles clearly.

The very last thing should be investing in the right technology and tools. It can make a huge difference, but only once your people and processes are in place. – Ahava Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group

Assemble the puzzle

Most content teams understand the parts needed for success: a calendar, a decent SEO strategy, a manager focusing on content, etc. But, having all the right parts is only the first step in building an efficient content engine. They must be assembled, tested, and calibrated piece by piece. This means analyzing each step in the content workflow (e.g., planning, creation, distribution, conversion) and finding out what is working well. Teams that rush to scale will be frustrated by the performance and unable to deconstruct what is going wrong. – Jesse Harris, digital marketing coordinator, ACD/Labs

See content through to the end

Content operations (like governance) as a practice is often overlooked. People/teams think about individual processes and tasks to be done but rarely consider the complete ideation-to-archive of the content. That’s what a true content operations practice entails.

Organizations need to step back, look at everything being done in terms of content, map it out as it is currently being done, look at the technology they have access to, and then align the process to maximize the capabilities of the technology, adapting processes, not customizing technology, to create efficiencies and improve content performance. – Cathy McKnight, chief problem solver, TCA

AI can help grow your options

Artificial intelligence presents many practical implications for content marketers and may help scale content operations.

Add AI tools to expand content

Use AI to open up new channels. If you create podcasts or videos, use GlossAI to turn those files into social posts or video snippets.

If you create white papers or e-books, use ChatPDF to create blog posts or landing page content. If you write product descriptions, use Writer or Google Sheet Automation to create them at scale.

If you invest in PPC ad campaigns, plug those terms into DemandJump or Jasper to create web content at scale to improve organic search. If you create technical support documents, use Synthesia to build talking-head videos. If you create webinars, use Happy Scribe to create transcripts to clip into blog posts. – Morgan Norris, senior brand and content manager, TREW Marketing

Analyze AI potential for specific uses

Document every step in every process and review them all, asking if AI can help with that specific use case. Even finding a few can make certain team members more efficient. This can gradually reduce the total workload over time.

I know (and share) the concerns about AI’s impact on the labor market. I am answering this question as if I was asked by a close friend in need of help. Productivity tools make teams more efficient. This has always been true. – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO, Orbit Media Studios

Productivity tools (including #AI) have always made teams more efficient, says @Crestodina via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Think about your existing content and operations

Your content marketing already happens, so scaling doesn’t require starting from scratch. And when you analyze existing operations, don’t forget content isn’t created only by the content marketing team.

Focus on the basics

Traditional editorial processes. Learn them and optimize them. Don’t cut corners. – Jeff Coyle, co-founder and chief strategy officer, MarketMuse, Inc.

Stick with what you know and already do

  • Stop trying to do everything for everyone. Before you consider starting a podcast, launching a blog, producing more videos, or launching a new-for-your-brand social media platform, optimize what you already have. So many organizations underestimate the value of existing content. It’s so informative for figuring out what’s working and what’s not. Plus, a lot of your content can be tweaked to be current way more quickly and easily than making brand-new content.
  • Don’t jump from hot potato to hot potato. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Embrace performance audits, ongoing optimizations, and re-leveraging existing content. Get your house in order before you expand and venture into the next shiny new thing.
  • Never underestimate the value of supplemental talent. Have already established go-to freelancers, contractors, and consultants at the ready to help with bandwidth during busy seasons. Investing in content creator partners helps in a pinch and avoids the need for over-hiring (and then laying off) team members who aren’t truly needed year-round. – Jennifer Harmon, content strategist and creator, Convince & Convert

Use the tried-and-true methods

This may seem boring, but it’s the truth: Process, rules, governing strategy, change management, and communication. Scale gets lost in the bottlenecks. Organizations without clear roles and responsibilities tend to fail the most in these areas.

Having a clear process around how strategy is decided, how work is divided, and how content is produced is critical. Rule books that dictate style, messaging, and tone of voice are critical to minimizing back-and-forth when producing content.

Introduce these things in a way that is easy to accept. People don’t like it when their way of working gets questioned. You need to bring them along for the ride. – Inbar Yagur, co-founder and CEO, Radical – B2B Tech Marketing 

Sync existing and innovative approaches

Scaling content means being able to perfectly match digital and emerging capabilities, such as AI, with the empathetic and differentiating content marketer. It’s the melding of strategy and insight to build core content that AI and robotics can quickly scale for other uses. This requires agility and the ability to think beyond. – Tiffany Grinstead, vice president, Nationwide

Look inside

Some organizations can be more efficient by looking within rather than looking to new content to scale their operations. Many companies have multiple marketing groups operating in silos that may be creating complementary content that could be easily adapted for different audiences and purposes. Organizations can often find value in creating an editorial board made up of representatives from different divisions who can discuss critical topics, especially those that may have an impact on other groups. – Matt Harrington, creative director, Pace Communications

Don’t gloss over the details

Scale implies a large team working toward a shared goal with specialists or specialized teams focused on a narrow part of a larger picture. The difference between successful scaling and chaotic activity is synchronization. Teams agree on the challenge and the process to address that challenge and know their role in achieving team success.

The part many visionary leaders skip is the details. They often assume that a clear goal will unify the team into a synchronized machine, but taking the time to agree on a single path forward, assign roles, define success metrics, and listen to feedback and refinements is essential to scaling content operations in a way that can deliver sustained results. – Jenny Magic, founder, Better Way to Say It

The difference between successful #Content scaling and chaotic activity is synchronization of strategy, process, and teams, says @JennyLMagic via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Find efficiencies in existing processes

Scaling up is all about understanding how your content operation gets things done and then pinpointing the efficiencies that save time and money. For example, can you bring localizing content in-house and freelance the initial longer piece? If you create multiple case studies a quarter, can there be a repeatable workflow to get the most out of that content? Take a hard look at how you’ve traditionally gotten things done and understand what takes the most time and where you need your in-house vs. external people to focus. (Talk to your team.) – Chloe Thompson, head of global content strategy and thought leadership, Reward Gateway

Move to the center

Organizations struggle to scale their content operations because they work in silos. People think that with a narrow focus, things can get done quicker. Wrong. When you centralize content operations, you build a strong content foundation to scale from – creating reuse and repurposing of content.

And don’t overlook the benefits of a content marketing platform. The investment is worth it to help deprecate redundant tools and streamline the content lifecycle across teams and contributors. – Jill Roberson, vice president, digital marketing, Velir

Organize (and consider hiring) people to scale

Even with an AI assist, people remain the core drivers of content operations. By reassessing who’s doing what and why and identifying gaps, you’re more likely to successfully scale your content operations.

Think microscopes, not paintbrushes

Specialization. Marketing has become more science than art. The specialized skills needed run the gamut from creative to data science. Additionally, in some cases, leadership oversimplifies what it takes to achieve desired results, placing unrealistic expectations on understaffed teams. – Bernie Borges, vice president, content marketing, iQor

Hire strategists and analysts

The biggest gaps I have seen in content teams are strategists and analytics specialists. Organizations create churn-and-burn functions to create more and more content without having people in place to guide why they’re creating all that content and if they are successful.

They also often lack a strategic overall content plan. Companies will get more bang for their dollars spent creating content if they have a company-wide plan for content and people in place who can be thoughtful about why content is being created, who it’s being created for, and how to measure the success of the content. Even if your organization is small, you need someone who can see across all the elements of your marketing efforts and connect the dots. – Andi Robinson, content consultant, Hijinx Marketing

Designate a content owner

Most don’t hire in-house content producers. This, still, is the biggest problem. Unless someone truly owns content and is fully dedicated to it, it doesn’t get done.

The other big reason for failure is companies, especially those of enterprise size, aren’t gutsy with their content, rarely push the envelope, and have way too much red tape to do original things. – Marcus Sheridan, vice president, Marcus Sheridan

Hire a program manager

Many organizations struggle with scale because they lack proper content operations and enablement. Businesses focus too deeply on the what and not the how. Having a program manager and program management tool will make or break how you produce your content. Many fail to do it because of the time and budget it takes to set up a PM function. However, once content operations are running smoothly, they can help proactively scale your content by reducing production headaches. After content is produced, it can help enable other teams to use and even reuse the content. It can also help your sales team self-serve to find useful assets to help with the sales cycle. – Amy Higgins, director, content strategy, Lyra Health

Invest in content chefs before equipment

The challenges surrounding the scalability of content operations stem from underlying issues with people and processes within organizations. Many marketing operations or content operations managers tend to adopt a common strategy, continuously seeking out new shiny objects or fancy tools and software in hopes of improving their work. However, no amount of kitchen appliances can transform a bad cook into a skilled one, nor can they magically enhance the quality of poorly crafted recipes.

If you truly aspire to scale your operations effectively, prioritize and heavily invest in your people and processes. Remember, regardless of the tools you acquire or currently possess, the synergy between your team and well-defined processes will ultimately drive successful scalability in your operations. – Christopher Penn, chief data scientist,

Develop a system operated by great people

Keep in mind that content operations are just that: operations. Having good tools for tracking and planning content, digital asset management, governance, and quality assurance is just as important in content operations as in other parts of the business. Content teams need great leaders who are good people managers, but those managers need embedded team members who are excellent operations managers to help scale their efforts. – Zontee Hou, director of strategy, Convince & Convert

#Content teams need good people managers, but those managers need excellent operations managers to help scale their efforts, says @ZonteeHou via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Establish inclusive routes

Team success is defined by what your team accepts.

People and governance are at the heart of successful content operations. Taking time to understand who can improve outcomes of the what and the how to reduce obstacles around alignment and delivery.

One way for content leaders to address this challenge is to create a clear path for team and individual success. Defining workflow and processes, writing down and clarifying roles and responsibilities, and offering training and support to help team members thrive are the building blocks for success.

Being inclusive, clarifying definitions for metrics and quality, and creating a safe place to experiment (and learn) are critical for psychological safety to drive team performance. This can help to ensure that everyone on your team feels comfortable taking risks and trying new things. These small things can make a big difference to the folks on the team and the outcomes you create. – Melissa Breker, change facilitation and support, Breker Group

Make modifications as your team grows

Adjustments to ways of working, especially among team members. You start with a team of one, then two, then five, then 20. At each step, you need to adjust how the team coordinates and communicates. Lots of teams hire and add team members without making the necessary adjustments. – Dennis Shiao, founder, Attention Retention

Get outside help

It’s not necessary for everything to be in-house. Establish partnerships with people who can mutually benefit from collaboration. Building a department that can compete with an established agency can take years. Instead, build external expert teams who can succeed at scale. – Kristyn Wilson, executive vice president of digital PR and communication, Adept

Keep calm and scale on

No matter which of these content scaling tips you follow, heed these words from Wendy Covey, co-founder and CEO of TREW Marketing: “Chaos doesn’t scale. As organizations grow, they need a framework for planning and prioritization that helps them work more strategically, be more efficient with resources, and tackle the most important content projects rather than succumb to the most persistent requestors.

“Within your framework, build in some flexibility for urgent, important projects because a business is dynamic (the 80/20 works well), and use trade-offs to keep the organization accountable for prioritizing, not overloading.”

Please note: All tools mentioned in this article were suggested by a contributor. If you’d like to suggest a tool, share the article on social media with a comment.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute