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How To Effectively Manage the Content Marketing Process

One of the most popular questions we get at the Content Marketing Institute is how to effectively manage the content marketing process.  Although there are many ways to go about resourcing for content marketing projects within an organization, here are six keys to making it happen.

A Content Management System

This should go without saying, but many brands we talk to still have a challenging time creating and editing their website content. Even if you are working on a print project, you still need an easy way to integrate that information with an online source.

So, if IT or a webmaster controls the content process, meaning you need someone from that team to upload your content, you’ve got a problem. Your top priority should be to see this change through in your organization.

There are literally thousands of content management systems to choose from, but some of our favorites are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. All are open source, which means the software is free and there is a community that builds software plugins and improves the system. This site is built with WordPress. Here is a list of available content management systems.

Air-Traffic Control/Listening Posts

Kodak recently hired a Chief Listening Officer (CLO).  The role of the CLO is to function as air-traffic control for social media – listening to all the conversations on the web about Kodak and routing them to specific departments (customer service, sales and marketing, etc.) to handle. We have a similar process at Junta42.

For the content marketing process, we need this function to serve as the centerpiece of our listening posts.  I’ve used the term listening posts for years in the publishing context. This means that we set up multiple posts around our customers to get a clear and consistent handle on their pain points. The goal of this is make sure we continue to get a feed of information so we can always be on the cutting edge with our content.

Traditionally, talking to sales reps and sending out surveys was key, and still is, but even more important is listening through Twitter Search, Google Alerts or possibly a reputation management system like a Radian6.

Although this function can be outsourced to an agency, best practice is to make sure this role stays within your marketing organization so you are closer to the needs of your customers. Plan for a minimum of 30 minutes a day if you are a smaller company. Larger brands with more products and services, like a Kodak, may ultimately need a full-time employee.

The Project Manager

Superior execution is the core of a successful content marketing program. One person in your organization should be responsible for and own the content initiative. More recently, we’ve called this the Chief Content Officer. Kodak calls this the VP of Content Strategy while Radian6 calls this the Director of Content Marketing.

Consider this person the publisher for your content efforts. Ultimately, this person is responsible for executing the goals you set out to accomplish. When content programs fail, it’s usually not because of a lack of high-quality content, but because of poor execution. That’s why a project manager may be your most important asset, even though this person most likely won’t be creating any of the content. The project manager must ensure excellence in every content marketing tactic, including:

  • Content/editorial
  • Design/art/photography
  • Web resources for content
  • Integration of marketing and the content, including social media
  • Project budgeting
  • Contract negotiation with freelancers
  • Audience development
  • Research and measurement
  • Ultimately responsibility for accomplishing the goals of the program

The project manager is often the director of marketing. Many brands, like UPS, have a project manager inside the company that oversees partial internal content production as well as the production of content by an outside agency. Although brands can outsource a wide variety of content through vendors like the ones at Junta42, we still advocate keeping the project manager inside the organization.

The Managing Editor

The managing editor has a critical role in the content marketing process, and is probably the most sought after by brands today. As more brands develop content, more employees are being asked to blog and write on behalf of their company.  Unfortunately, the writing style of employees who have never created content before often leaves much to be desired.

That’s where the managing editor comes in. CMI partner OpenView Venture Partners has a fantastic VC company blog where a number of OpenView employees contribute. Some employees don’t need any help…some needs lots of help.  The managing editor works with the employees on:

  • Content scheduling
  • Keyword selection
  • Search engine optimization of posts
  • Style corrections
  • Tagging and images

Sometimes the managing editor is there to teach so the employee can start to do more of this process. Often, the employee just meets the schedule and the managing editor completes the content per the content guidelines document, like this one from ANSI.

The Editorial Calendar

One thing is certain: if you don’t keep an editorial/content calendar, the content doesn’t get done. An editorial calendar simply tracks what content you are going to cover, what tactic it’s for (blog, newsletter, etc.) and who’s responsible. This could be something as simple as what Andy Wibbels put together on editorial calendars, or you could leverage something like Google Docs for online sharing or Basecamp for setting and assigning tasks.

Best practice is to set up a master calendar for all your content initiatives, and then a separate content calendar for each initiative. Traditionally, we’ve set up editorial calendars 12 months out and then constantly change them as we tweak the marketing plan.

Dynamic Budgets

This last point comes from Paul Roetzer at PR 20/20. Having an effective content marketing process also means that it’s constantly changing. For example, an eBook that delivers the highest conversion rate you’ve ever seen will most likely be something you’ll want to do again.  Uh-oh, no budget for that.

Gone are the days of rigid budgets. As a leader in your marketing organization, you need to mandate budget flexibility. For example, you may decide that instead of sponsoring that additional trade show, you’ll like to move that $100k into the eBook initiative that you’ve found so successful. Many organizations don’t have this kind of flexibility. For content marketing success, you need dynamic budgets. If the budget you created at the start of the year is not drastically different than the one you ended up with, you probably aren’t listening enough to what your customers need.

What other elements do you think are critical to manage the content marketing process? Or do you have other suggestions of things that have worked well?