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Large-Scale Content Projects: A Closer Look at Roles and Measurement


In 5 Steps to Run Effective Large-Scale Content Projects, I mapped the moving parts involved in setting up and running super-sized content initiatives. Astute readers raised thoughtful questions, so I’m circling around to focus more attention on the specific roles each team member plays as well as key performance indicators (KPIs), and measurement of project success.

Project roles

Defining the roles necessary to execute each project is a key component to its success. In smaller engagements, team members usually can chat to resolve confusion about who is doing what. However, when a big project is in motion, inefficiencies, redundancies, and gaps can snowball, and the quality of the content invariably suffers. Clearly defining and communicating roles and expectations are crucial steps toward mitigating potential breakdowns. Here’s an overview of roles that have worked successfully for us.

  • Project leader – Also known as the account executive, senior project manager, or the director of content, this person owns the project as a whole. The buck stops here. The role includes:
    • Interfacing with executives and key project leaders to establish objectives, KPIs, and possible latent needs/concerns
    • Determining the appropriate content and content channels to meet those objectives
    • Setting up overarching work flow and ensuring the appropriate technical resources are available (e.g., a document repository, a team virtual communication tool, a CMS, export system, reporting system, and processes)
    • Setting up budgets and analytics
    • Determining timelines and deadlines (often includes oversight of the editorial calendar)
    • Selecting the project manager
  • Project manager – Also known as the senior editor, this person reports to the project leader and ensures that the project stays on the rails. This person manages the day-to-day operations of the project, often playing air-traffic controller, and is constantly aware of any issues, hiccups, or needs of the team. The role includes:
    • Hiring and training writers and editors
    • Creating the project brief and style guide
    • Creating an editorial calendar
    • Assuring quality
    • Retraining as needed for underperformers who show promise and are committed to the project
    • Terminating underperformers who can’t be remediated; rehiring as needed
    • Identifying and coaching superstars who can serve as leaders on other projects
    • Working with technical problems and troubleshooting
    • Answering questions, providing feedback, acting as support for project editors and writers
  • Editor – Depending on the project size, you might have multiple layers of editors. As a function of keeping small “pods” or teams working toward a mix of efficiency and high-quality writing, many larger projects involve both senior and junior editors who collaborate. The primary duties of an editor include:
    • Creating rapport with a team of writers; managing junior editors, if applicable, and small teams, as well as reporting back to the project manager as agreed
    • Fully understanding the project brief and interpreting the style guide
    • Coaching writers and providing consistent feedback to continue to hone the quality of the work
    • Checking facts and assuring quality
    • Ensuring proper grammar and usage without losing sight of the big-picture organization and focus of content pieces
    • Delivering fully edited, quality content pieces by deadline
  • Writer – The role of writer is where the creativity happens. For a large-scale project to work both in efficiency and in style, the writers must be regarded as the bread and butter of the project. Simply put: Talented writing can be made great with smart editing, but there’s no amount of editing that can fix a terrible base. It’s important that writers:
    • Understand fully the project brief and style guide
    • Research quickly yet thoroughly
    • Write engaging, dynamic content that conforms to project standards
    • Accept feedback and coaching from the editor
    • Create high-quality work while meeting deadlines
  • Proofreader – In many circumstances the project manager serves as a proofer or final checker on a project, but we’ve found it’s often useful to employ an extra layer of security that comes via a dedicated proofreader. This person completes a final quality assurance, focusing less on content (that’s the editor’s job) and more on the nitty-gritty of formatting, grammar, and punctuation. The proofreader is:
    • Well-versed in various grammatical styles, including Chicago and AP
    • Detail-oriented – This person reads, highlights, and knows the style guide well and can translate that knowledge into a thorough check for formatting requirements, typos, comma splices, and misplaced modifiers.

Once you’ve got your teams set up and mobilized, conduct constant checks to ensure the convoy is rolling along as expected – specifically, that quality standards and deadlines are upheld.

Measurement defined

When setting up a large content project, it’s also essential to set up the measurement structure early. When initially scoping the project, the project leader works with the executives to determine that the KPIs are based on the organization’s objectives, and to identify the content strategies and tactics being used. The project leader should also review what the current KPIs and analytics look like to set appropriate benchmarks and projected rates of change. KPIs can include:

  • Website traffic increase
  • Site referral increase
  • Time on page increase
  • Bounce rate decrease
  • Domain/page authority and overall rankings (how the aboutness of a page stands up – see below for an explanation of aboutness)
  • Conversion metrics (e.g., download a form, sign up for a newsletter, request a quote)
  • Social media engagement (e.g., “likes,” clicks, shares, comments)

Social media metrics are a bit tricky because they are sometimes regarded as fuzzy metrics (as in, “Sure, ‘likes’ are great, but are they converting?”). We typically recommend looking at engagement metrics as part of a larger picture, including watching social traffic to the website and seeing how those visitors move through the site (and hopefully convert).

Examine domain/page authority and overall rankings by reviewing and modifying pages for their aboutness, then watching to see how those pages perform. Aboutness refers to the overall content and semantics of a page and a site. It’s not about forcing keywords. It is about the website’s intent: When the content, from on-page copy and links to headers, alt tags, and metadata, tells one consistent, engaging story to the user.

Realistic expectations

It’s important to set realistic measurement strategies. An executive who asks you to create a content project for a new product and says, “Get me the first slot on Google for X term,” is creating an unrealistic KPI. A more realistic goal would be, “Get an X% increase in traffic to the new product’s landing page.” Likewise, looking at current search engine rankings and conducting a thorough optimization project to improve the aboutness (overall content and semantics) of each page will certainly affect rankings. Measuring and reporting on that over time is a smart strategy, as is evaluating site authority.

Sometimes setting measurement goals means stepping back and educating executives early so they have realistic expectations about what content marketing is and what types of results to expect from the large-scale project. Likening content marketing to a marathon as opposed to a sprint is a helpful concept.

Measurement tools

When thinking in terms of performance, think about both the macro- and the micro-conversions. Of course, with a retail product, the end goal is hearing the register ring. But studies show that people research products numerous times before they ever arrive at the register. All that research is considered a micro-conversion, and each is a key part of the buying process. Put in measurements to focus on the value of those micro-conversions as well as the macro. You can measure these by setting up campaigns in Google Analytics or other analytics tools.

Be sure that you take the appropriate amount of time to think about and set up both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools before you launch content. If you want to learn more about Google Analytics, Google offers a lengthy training course (about five to six hours) that gives you a deep dive into the what and how of Google Analytics.

Proactive analytics communication

The project leader and project manager may collaborate, but there needs to be a primary point of contact for executives who should receive the updates and reporting. Timing of the reporting should be regular (we tend toward once monthly), and recipients need to know when they will be receiving these reports. With expectations set before the project begins and regular communication, the executives are kept in the driver’s seat when it comes to evaluating how the content is performing.

So, that brings up the elephant in the room: What do you do if KPIs aren’t being met? By having good measurements in place and doing regular reporting, you can determine earlier rather than later what content is working and what content isn’t cutting it. This allows you to make recommendations as to what you are seeing and what needs to change. Don’t wait for the executives to spot underperforming content or to get anxious that the KPIs aren’t being met.

Future approval for content projects will be based primarily on the success of large-scale content projects’ KPIs.

Setting up or reorganizing your content marketing team should improve overall efficiency and effectiveness. Learn more by listening to CMI webinar, The Content Marketing Service Bureau: How to Structure and Optimize Your Content Marketing Team.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute