Whether you’re kicking off a content program for the first time or revamping a strategy that needs more attention, you’ll realize quickly that there is plenty of work to be done. You’re probably familiar with the exasperating expression: If it was easy, everyone would do it. Content programs are not easy, which is why many are not good and many fail, and there is no “magic bullet” for making them successful. That said, there is also nothing particularly mysterious about what goes into them.
If you’re considering a content program, a few questions are likely top of mind. What is the goal of our content? Who are we trying to reach? What kind of content are we going to produce? How much of it will we publish, and where?
Answering those questions is important, but the answers don’t make a strategy, and they won’t determine the success of the program. To whatever extent a plan is important, the ability to execute, sustain and measure it is just as critical. A strategy that has a chance of succeeding will consider the questions that factor into those stages.
No matter how good your content is, it’s worth is still determined by how people respond.
It’s not as simple as setting up a content hub on your site. Distribution can’t be left to chance, and it’s also not better left until months into publishing when you’re not getting the traffic you want. Decide early in the process what role your social channels will play in driving to your content, as well as what content you’ll share directly with a subscriber audience in a newsletter or weekly rundown format. If you’re producing SEO content, plan for how you’ll source your keywords, how you’ll optimize your content and how you’ll track your search performance.
It’s a multi-part question, and you need an answer to each part. A solid strategy has to include a content review process, including individual reviewers, each of whom needs to understand the responsibilities and boundaries of their role. A subject matter expert doesn’t need to comment on keyword use, for example, while someone tasked with proofing shouldn’t be changing the entire angle of the piece. It’s also important to establish who gets to say when and how the content program can be flexed to accommodate business needs. Even if a press release or executive thought leadership piece isn’t a part of typical production, there might still be times when using an efficient content operation to produce them makes sense — don’t wait until the decision is upon you to start thinking about it.
To whatever extent a plan is important, the ability to execute, sustain and measure it is just as critical.
While creating and publishing may seem like straightforward stages of content, they still come with their own set of considerations.
All the greatest ideas in the world are no good to you without the ability to execute. Not only does your content operation need people who can understand your ideas and turn them into great work, but those people also need the time and resources to be productive. If you’re turning to internal subject matter experts, how are you ensuring they have the bandwidth to deliver on your content in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities? If you’re outsourcing to freelance writers, designers or videographers, how are you finding them? How are you paying them, and how much? Who decides their rate? How do you handle scheduling conflicts or missed deadlines? If it feels like there are more questions than answers, it’s because you have not yet answered these critical questions.
A robust content program will see multiple projects in progress simultaneously, often representing a wide range of content types, topics, creators and goals. Before you find yourself lost in a sea of unfinished blogs and half-baked content ideas, develop a plan for how you will brainstorm, organize, assign, review and publish your individual pieces of content. Whether it’s a shared cloud system, licensed content management platform or something as simple as dedicated email folders, everyone involved with your content program should understand and have access to your system. If the web of contributors is becoming too wide, consider assigning a content point person to represent each topic or business area across the organization.
Content is hard. If you start your plan by trying to predict every possible problem and solve for it before it happens you will retire before your program gets off the ground.
Producing and publishing content is not the end of the process. You’ll need to be able to prove the worth of the program through trackable metrics that enable data-driven decision making.
Consider which KPIs are most reflective of your content goals and how it will work from a logistics perspective to collect that information. Will you track the same data across every content type? Who decides what number indicates success? How will you adjust to improve metrics over time? While more data might provide more insights to a point, beware the point of diminishing returns and tracking and collecting more information than you can use.
No one said it would be easy, but it’s not impossible either. If you start your plan by trying to predict every possible problem and solve for it before it happens you will retire before your program gets off the ground. We don’t want that. Instead, you need to build in the flexibility to change and adapt as new challenges and considerations arise.