Content production is demanding.
Once the strategy is in place and the wheels are in motion, regularly writing, editing, publishing and monitoring posts is a real labour of love. Those that maintain consistency see results, but often that weekly blog post is the first thing to slip when deadlines loom or shit hits fan.
We've run successful content campaigns for over 80 businesses over the last four and a half years, and we've honed a content production machine that works.
So we thought, why not share it with you?
Who will get the most out of this post?
- This post will give you tips on how to generate regular, insightful content.
- We’ll give you tactics on how to curate ideas.
- We’ll explain the mechanics on how to operate an efficient content plan which doesn’t take all your time.
- We’ll explore the content mix, ensuring that you strike the balance between creativity, effectiveness and time.
- You’ll get tips on reporting, and the metrics that matter to the C-level within the business.
- We’ll arm you with some simple ways to inspire your team to contribute to regular content creation.
- We will save you time and energy based on our own experiences. We’ve learnt from the mistakes so you don’t have to!
- We’ll signpost the key elements needed to set up a content team in-house, and the people you need to execute it well
Can a brand become a publishing powerhouse? Undoubtedly.
Look at the likes of Van Winkle's, the publishing arm of Casper Mattresses. In the space of a year and a half, the spin-off mag has grown to attract over 500,000 unique hits a month, a devoted newsletter audience and 5,000 Twitter followers.
However, there are a couple of caveats. 1. They have a full-time editorial staff of four experienced journalists. 2. The mag serves no explicit commercial purpose and doesn’t align its success with any traditional traditional business KPIs.
Van Winkle’s doesn’t come to the boardroom saying it will reduce Casper Mattress's cost per acquisition, or that it will generate 20 leads a month for the business. Its stated aim is investigating “the science, culture and curiosities of sleep.” Some would argue this is content marketing in its purest form, but pitch that content plan to your CEO or MD and prepare for the shortest strategy meeting of your life.
So, can a brand become a content publishing powerhouse? Certainly. Can yours? Absolutely. Perhaps not on the same scale as Van Winkle’s, but it can become a slicker, more focused and effective content machine without the need for a full-time editorial team.
This post is aimed at marketing managers, business owners and anyone else interested in creating a fertile business environment in which content strategy, ideas and production are smooth, organic processes rather than labours of love (and hate).
Creating the right content, and the best content, is hard: believe us, we know only too well. But over the last four years, producing content for over 80 businesses, we’ve picked up a few key tricks and traits that businesses need to survive and thrive in this game.
These can be boiled down to two main pillars which form the two main parts to this post:
1.Thinking Like An Editor
This section is focused on logistics i.e. developing the right structure in-house to allow content ideas to flow seamlessly from thought to brief to article to published piece, and beyond.
We'll hit you with the tools you need to inspire a solid content eco-system inside the business; one which make your life roughly 68% easier.
But content production isn’t a series of neatly packaged moving parts that fit together seamlessly, there’s a softer side, too. That of the editorial team. The most successful content plans spread the creative pressure across the entire business, moving your role as marketing manager or director from ‘content producer’ to ‘content co-ordinator’. This means asking for more from your team. And you'll only get more if you get buy-in from all involved.
2. Getting Content Buy-In
In this section, we'll teach you how to foster an environment where people not only understand what you’re trying to achieve with content, but actively want to input their own ideas and contribute their own words.
Getting buy-in is key. If you’re passionate about content, but the MD doesn’t get it, you won't get the best results. If you take on all the responsibility of content production without involving the team, you will burn out. 100%. Maybe not straight away, but 3-6 months down the line, that weekly post will start slipping. Weekly publishing becomes every two weeks, becomes monthly, becomes never.
If you do make it past the six-month mark, content can become a chore to produce. And that comes through in the copy. People can read the difference between a passionate and insightful piece and an article bashed out to maintain a quota.
When we talk about getting the team involved with clients, we’re usually met with a few unconvinced faces which say: “You’ll never get Tom from the dev team involved, he just won’t”. There’s probably a ‘Tom’ in your office, too. Don’t worry, we’ve met Tom before. You just need the right pitch.
And by the end of this post, you’ll be armed with the techniques and arguments to win over the most doubting of Thomases.
This post is concerned with the internal processes and arguments to make content work for your business, and as such starts with some presumptions about your company as a whole.
Before you start implementing these processes, we would recommend that you have the following in place, and that they’re documented.
- A wider business marketing strategy.
- Company goals for the next 1-3 years.
- Brand guidelines.
- Customer personas.
- Tone of voice guidelines.
- A responsive website.
Too often we see content activity with no clear goals or measurements of success in place. This should be step one before you set the logistical wheels of content production in motion.
Unfocused content hosted on an ineffectual website with no means of distribution is a recipe for failure, and all the processes in the world won’t save it.
Documenting a content marketing strategy is the subject for a whole other post, but in short: Know your audience, know your goals, and know your plan of attack.
Got all that done? Great, let’s look at how it fits together.
Content production is, first and foremost, a creative endeavour: creative thought to set the right strategy and creative writing to produce the final blog content.
As with any creative industry, it’s difficult to bottle, package and sell: there has to be room for the sparks of inspiration, for new developments and for mistakes. In short, it’s an imperfect art, one built on testing and measuring: trying, failing, refining, trying again.
Why does this matter? Well, we’re going to be talking a bit about processes, and there’s a danger that you’ll follow this to the letter, and not adjust things to suit your business. This is intended as a guide, not a sacrosanct set of commandments. Play with it, and mould it to suit you.
So, creativity is key. But so are deadlines. It’s classic Parkinson’s Law - “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” - and a sole focus on the creative leads to procrastination, doubt and stasis. Often, you simply need to get publishing.
The processes we’ve developed for content production are not set in stone, they’re fluid depending on the demands of the client. But we’ve got a system in place now which affords space for creative thought and focuses minds to produce work quickly.
Speed, efficiency and end product in equal measure.
Let’s start with the tools you'll need.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’d be lost without Trello. We trialled a few different platforms, and nothing comes close in terms of flexibility, collaboration or intuitiveness.
The fact that it integrates seamlessly with the likes of Slack, Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive and more is a bonus, but it’s the flexibility of the program itself that really wins out.
Let’s be clear, it’s not without its faults - the fact that you can only set one deadline for each piece of content is a real bugbear (the chance to set a publish date and a writing deadline date would be ideal), as is the lack of in-depth reporting. However, the good far outweighs the bad. Set it up. Download the brilliant mobile app. This is your content coalface.
As a content marketing business we have boards for every one of our clients, you only need two:
- Editorial strategy
- The production board
The editorial strategy board should have a column for every month of the year. This allows you to think longer term, fitting content ideas around key company dates and documenting a clear, cohesive editorial strategy. Once you start using Trello in this way, you'll start incorporating other elements of the business - social media, events, conferences - into it too. Guaranteed.
The production board is all about production, mapping out the steps needed to create articles and monitor progress. Here’s how we lay out our own production boards:
- Docs - A place for important docs like tone of voice, personas, brand guidelines.
- Inbox - An ideas dump for interesting articles, sketches of ideas, and thoughts.
- Consideration - Every month, we pick 5-6 ideas worth exploring in the editorial meeting and move them into this column.
- Approved - Once the client's happy with the ideas, we move them here. We then allocate each article to a writer.
- Being Written - Once the work has been allocated to a writer, move it here.
- Edit - A key step, work needs to be well edited before it goes live.
- 2nd edit - A second edit stage to ensure quality control. More of a proofread.
- Ready to publish - When the work is done and simply needs uploading to your CMS.
- Published - Done and dusted.
To reiterate, this is a guide. Feel free to adjust the process according to your own key aims for the content plan. Clients of ours have added further columns to the end of this process. For example:
- Ready for LinkedIn - For articles ready to be republished on LinkedIn.
- Ready for Medium - For articles ready to be republished on LinkedIn.
- Infographic - An article suitable for turning into an infographic.
You get the idea.
What Trello allows for is a top down view on all activity, plus granular level detail on what's happening with each article. Management, writers, editors, creatives and anyone else can access the boards.
Make sure you invite them, they will be helping soon enough.
Future Content has three edit stages for every piece of content that goes out the door. Two of these are by editors with years of publishing experience under their belts. But we still use Grammarly.
Why? It’s a final gatekeeper. You can have all the experience in the world, but that only reduces the risk of mistakes, it doesn’t eradicate them entirely. So Grammarly is our backup. It also checks for plagiarism so if you (or your freelance writers) are copying and pasting from the web, it will slap you on the wrist.
If you don’t have publishing experience, you need editorial backup. And for £100 a year we’ve yet to find a better one.
NB: This section’s all about the tools of so we’re reluctant to get into the process too deeply, but it’s always worth getting a second pair of eyes on any piece of content as well as your own, and Grammarly. That’s why we have a second edit column on Trello. If there is a willing participant in-house, use them. We’ll teach you how to be incredibly charming in part two, so use some of those skills to onboard them. If you’re contributing to the company blog, self-editing is tough.
Google Analytics deserves, and has, huge exploratory posts and videos dedicated to it, so we won’t get too lost in the details. But it pays to get to grips with it, however rudimentary. Here are some key stats to keep an eye on:
- Number of users - Are more people coming to your site on a quarterly basis?
- Average session duration - How long are people spending on your site?
- Pages per session - How many pages are people visiting when they land on your site?
- Bounce rate - Are people landing on your site then immediately going elsewhere? Time to look at the site.
- Landing pages - Are the blogs attracting traffic directly to the site?
- Goals - If you have newsletter sign ups, ebooks, email series or key content, it pays to set them as specific goals to measure conversions.
If you want buy-in from management level, you need to ratify Analytics metrics with the metrics they care about, too. We’ll tackle that in part two.
Google Analytics is fantastically flexible and you can spend hours delving deeper and deeper into the data. Our advice? Take some time out to work your way through Google’s official Analytics Academy and get the basics right.
We have two key meetings with clients: an editorial meeting every month where we focus on the upcoming month’s article ideas, and a quarterly review where we talk more strategically, analysing what’s working, what isn’t and what the tilt for the next 3-6 months will be.
As with any process, you have to allow for the unexpected. If, for instance, you notice that the analytics is showing a 50% drop off in blog traffic over the course of a week, don’t wait until a review meeting to bring it up. That’s heart attack territory and needs action NOW. But having a structured time set aside every month away from the daily grind to talk about content ideas is both important for a successful content push, and a nice break to talk about big ideas.
Clients love this time to really think about their business in a different way, and your team will too.
These meetings should be safe spaces, where ideas are formed and crafted into brilliant articles. There are no stupid questions, suggestions or people in these meetings. There can, of course, be definitive no’s, but input has to be encouraged.
And, crucially, an article may be interesting to you, but make sure it’s important to your target audience too. Your content isn’t for you, it’s for them.
The balance of creative thought and structure is imperative here. Chair these chats with precision and make sure you get out of them what you need.
Monthly editorial meetings
Editorial meetings are the most important element to a successful content push.
For one, they create structure; a focused hour (or so) to solely talk about content.
Secondly, they are one of the best ways to get the team involved. We’ll talk about getting buy-in from the team in part 2 below, but editorial meetings are one of the best ways of keeping up interest and momentum.
Mix up the people you invite along each month, and even the most cynical of team members will soon see the benefits and the possibilities of what you’re trying to achieve.
Don’t invite everyone, you might think the more ideas the better, but having too many people talking editorial can quickly turn into mayhem.
Aim for a maximum of four people in each monthly meeting.
Even then, without an agenda, editorials can run away with you, so make sure they’re structured well. This agenda works well:
- Recap of last month (10 mins) - Analyse what got published the month before. Highlight successes and statistics. This should be based on agreed success criteria.
- Recap on strategy (5 mins) - What are the wider goals of the content strategy? Don’t discuss strategy in too fine a detail here, just make sure everyone in the editorial is switched on to the wider goals agreed in the quarterly review.
- Content ideas (45 mins) - A free-for-all. You’ll already have a few ideas ready, but use this as an opportunity to pick your co-workers brains and draw out interesting ideas. Always question whether the piece is of value to the reader and whether it works with the wider goals of the business.
- Wrap up (5 mins) - Go through the monthly action points from the meeting, allocate the work.
This should be a session with your MD to review the previous quarter’s performance.
This is where analytics come into play. Your metrics for success should have been set at the start of the plan, so assess how the content is delivering against the wider goals, and the wider company goals.
- Company news (20-30 mins) - You may or may not need this, depending on the comms throughout the business. It may well be that you’re fully updated on all business activity, in which case skip to the reports.
- Analytics (30 mins) - Without monitoring metrics, you’re not doing your content justice. You need to have a grasp on what’s working so get to grips with the basics of analytics at least and present them in an engaging and meaningful way.
- Review of goals (30 mins) - What are the wider business goals and is the content supporting it? Think about the deals that are happening and what’s in the pipeline. Think about the conversations within the business. Assess your targets and personas. What can you do over the next quarter to improve things?
- Plan for the quarter (30 mins) - You should go into this meeting with a plan for the next three months to pitch to the boss. Think about what benefit it’s going to be to the business, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how the content push will improve the things they care about the most.
- Key actions (10 mins) - What are the next steps after the meeting and who is responsible for what?
This is hard to define or control. People often say they have their best ideas in the shower, or indeed sat on the loo, you need to make sure that you are fully prepared so that when genius strikes, you’re ready to note it down.
Carry a notepad/notepad app - The most important first: always have a notepad on you. Without writing it down, that brilliant idea you had will pop back into your head in six month’s time when you’re clearing out your cat’s litter tray and you’ll kick yourself for having forgotten it. A chat with a friend can just as easily spark an idea as an hour brainstorming session. Be prepared for your genius.
Social media - Yes, it might be 90% noise, but social media is also a constant stream of information. Our favourites for this kind of research are Twitter and reddit. Follow the right people or subscribe to the right subreddits and inspiration is never far away.
RSS feeds - Focusing your reading is essential. There’s so much content out there that it can be hard to cut through the noise. Simply get it sent directly to you. Feedly works well.
Events - Got an event coming up? Write about it. Find out who’s speaking there and track someone relevant down for an interview. Look at the themes of talks being hosted. Can you use them as inspiration for a piece?
Client conversations - Clients, and potential clients, are always asking questions. What are they, and more importantly can you write a post addressing their concerns?
Team conversations - Strategy meetings, kitchen chats, casual non-sequiturs: your team is full of brilliant knowledge. Get their ideas down.
Important days - An old journo trick admittedly, but an effective one nonetheless. Valentine’s and Christmas are biggies, large events like the Oscars of the Olympics are also winners, but there are plenty of other days that can inspire. Are you a design agency? Coco Chanel’s birthday might be a good jump off for a piece. Do you make apps? The anniversary of the launch of the iPhone is perfect content fodder. Research the rest of the year, note the important dates on your Trello planning board.
Books - The internet is everyone’s go-to source of research these days, books can offer greater depth and insight away from the echo chamber of ideas that exists online. We’re not just talking business books either, any books can provide inspiration for analogies, quotes, facts and points of view. Read!
Editorial meetings - Key to getting insights from the team. You should go to these meetings with ideas prepped, but I’ve lost count of the number of times that ideas mould into something completely different after a 15-minute chat. Be prepared to be flexible.
This is where the Trello inbox comes into its own, an ideas dump where the whole team can deposit threads of ideas, URLs and interesting points for discussion in the editorial meeting.
There’s not enough time or space to teach you how to write here (although, quick lesson: don’t complicate things, have a distinct thread and always keep your customer in mind), but there is room here to talk about the different types of content.
And to do that, we need to talk about eggs.
There are certain pieces of content which are essential, but they’re so close to your business that it will take weeks to produce and hold up content production. This is what we call the yolk.
Spreading out from there is the egg white content. This content is no less general, relevant or valuable, but it’s moving away from your core offering.
Then on the edges are the crispy bits, fun pieces to catch the eye on social media.
Let’s crack the shell and investigate further.
The delicious yolk
Yolk represents that content that every business really has to have. The kind that’s closely linked to the business’ DNA, the kind that’s extremely high value, the kind so entwined with your offering that it has to be absolutely perfect.
And perfect is difficult to get right.
Let’s take an example from one of our clients, The Marketing Centre We wrote a piece for them titled ‘the two metrics that every business should measure’ (cost per acquisition and lifetime value, if you’re interested). The Marketing Centre provides part-time, senior level marketing directors to businesses looking to accelerate growth, and these two metrics are everything to their marketing directors.
As such, every single word and phrase was poured over by the client (rightly so), and there were two or three people looking over the piece, each with their own input on how it should read, what points should be made and what
The point is, this seemingly straightforward piece took a month to get right.
Difficult to get right means stretched deadlines, numerous edits and high blood pressure.
We’re not saying never to eat the yoke, far from it. This is the best kind of content, in that it get’s right to the heart of why your business exists. But, limit the amount of yolk you eat.
The muscle building, protein-packed goodness around the centre; the egg white is the content to build your strategy around. The white is still high value, but its remit it slightly wider than that of the yolk.
For this egg white content, we try and ascertain an editorial series (or series plural) that takes our clients into a good, healthy creative space.
Let’s skip back to The Marketing Centre again. Their target audience are business owners, their expertise is marketing. The thing that came out of our initial meetings was the confusion that a lot of business owners had around different marketing tactics.
With so much marketing advice online, a lot of their clients felt overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. They were asking: ‘Do I need to be on Facebook?’, or ‘Does PPC work?’, those kind of things.
To demystify these channels we devised a series—‘Is [such and such] right for my business?’ This attacks a pain point of the client head on, but also provides a decent framework by which we as their content agency can work from: get one right, and we can follow the same structure for each. Obviously, we still need to be knowledgeable, but this series moves away from the key fundamentals of marketing and more on the communications.
This doesn’t mean it’s less important, but part-time marketing directors have a larger stake in a piece about marketing mechanics than they do in comms tactics.
The crispy bits
You know what? Not every piece of content needs to be a searing and insightful investigation into your industry. You can *gasp* have a little fun too.
We call these the crispy bits: the crunchy bits of goodness on the fringes of the content egg.
Crispy bits are never going to win you business, they’re probably not going to get you a lead either, but they are good brand-building awareness pieces.
With The Marketing Centre, we started a book club: recommendations from each of their 50 marketing directors on what to read. It’s not ground-breaking, but it gives potential customers an insight into the people they’ll be working with, plus it personalises the brand. And everyone loves a book recommendation.
B2B has a reputation for being a little stuffy, crispy bits are a good opportunity to show your personality.
The three to one rule
The truth of the matter is, the yolk is the best content to write. Done well, yolk content can directly address a key business question. But the value of it is outweighed by the time it takes to produce. Don’t screw up your breakfast by going straight for the yolk before you’ve tasted the rest of the egg.
Get the balance right: three pieces of egg white/crispy bit to every yolk. And that’s the last mention of eggs you’ll find in this post, guaranteed.
We’ve been working with Bristol-based app agency Calvium since February 2016. We spoke to their marketing and operations manager, Charlie Harman, who told us about her initial fears about outsourcing, her experiences over the last six months working with us, and the results of the campaign so far.
Charlie joined Calvium in April 2014 with a strong background in digital marketing, and also a degree in film and journalism. As a firm believer in the power of content and her own writing chops, she naturally took on the content production herself. Soon, however, she found herself with no time to focus her energies on creating work she was proud of. Outsourcing became an option. She explains:
“As my role progressed within Calvium and I started doing more of the strategic work, and less of the day to day tasks - it became clear something had to give. I distinctly remember management telling me that just because I was responsible for something, didn't mean I had to be the one doing it.
“For them, if my time was best spent elsewhere and I could prove the ROI, outsourcing was an option. We're an SME and our budget isn't infinite, so at that point in time it was about choosing which element of my marketing mix we could outsource that would provide the largest benefit.
“Choosing content wasn't a difficult decision to make. Great content forms the foundation of all my other marketing output so I wanted it to be outstanding, something I couldn't make happen with my limited time and split concentration.
“I was nervous about managing the outsourcing process; but from day one Future Content strode in, took the time to really get to know us and our company and got things up and running immediately with easy to use process tools and methods.
“They are fantastic self-starters and have not only written us fantastic content - but have organised the production of it with very little input needed from me - which was, and is, brilliant.
“I was concerned about managing things and in my head I had half expected I would be the one setting editorial meetings and chasing things up. which I knew would initially add to my workload rather than decrease it. Having Future Content come in with all of that process existing and working already was a huge relief.
Lighten the load
What we aim to do within a business is to provide a platform for content creation. We will happily manage a company’s blog output, but what we really try and do is create an ecosystem within the business which encourages all the staff to think about how content works for the business. It’s a team game, after all. Charlie says:
“We have worked on pieces recently where the who team have chipped in willingly with ideas and insight. It’s not quite an editorial team just yet, there’s a way to go until everyone is writing regularly, but we're certainly planning on getting more systematic about getting ideas from people.
"It’s been wonderful having an arsenal of content that I know is well written, engaging and most importantly, of value to our clients and prospects… and everyone for that matter!
“We’ve had recognition from friends, colleagues and industry magazines and direct leads off the back of the content.
“I would have no hesitation in recommending Future Content to anyone looking to give their content marketing strategy a serious boost."
“We've incorporated a 'blog ideas' section to our weekly team Monday meeting, and then get that team member to follow it through - read it, comment and sign off.
“We’ve had fantastic leads directly off the back of the content,” Charlie enthuses. “An agency we’re talking to now read our post about React Native, and got in touch straight away.”
“It's just been wonderful having an arsenal of content that I know is well written, engaging and most importantly, of value to our clients and prospects... and everyone for that matter! We've had lots of comments from friends and colleagues about blogs they have read on our site, as well as recognition in the form of industry magazines publishing us and sharing our stuff via social.
"Not only that, we have a bank of content that our team loves, too. Jo (the MD) regularly attends editorial meetings, and I regularly get ideas pitched to me. The whole process has created a buzz and enthusiasm from everyone to really shout about what we're passionate about. It's been great!"
Tools, tactics and time-savers are all well and good, but without buy-in from the rest of your team—from C-level down—you’ll struggle with consistency.
The majority of businesses we speak to have tried to implement a content strategy before, and most have struggled to keep up with the demands of publishing regularly.
Like counting the rings inside a tree trunk, you can track the history of a content marketing strategy by looking at a company’s blog page. A flurry of activity when they start, a tailing off a few months later, and a screeching halt between 6-12 months in.
This might ring true for a few of you, too.
You’re not alone: In a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute, the top three B2B content marketing challenges for marketers were: 1) Producing engaging content 2) Measuring content effectiveness 3) Producing content consistently.
To deliver content with the insight, clarity and regularity needed, your entire business should be not just bought into the idea, but contributing to the process, too.
Make no mistake, the onus is on you to make your content strategy work, but that doesn't mean strategy, execution and delivery should all be on your shoulders like some kind of content Atlas.
Far from it.
Too often the content marketing process of a business looks like this:
This is all wrong.
A true, sustainable and successful content system should look more like this:
The best content comes from harnessing the in-house expertise of the team, and the best content strategies are backed by a board or C-level with the patience and belief that content works.
The success of a content plan can hang on the support it gets internally from all the players. So, how do you do that?
It’s all about how you pitch it.
There are two parts to getting buy-in from these guys: the selling, and the reporting.
You need to first convince them that content marketing is going to benefit the business and that the investment will be well spent, then you need to prove it's worth, consistently reporting progress as you go.
The key to both is getting the language right, and understanding what information matters to your management team.
Getting buy-in from C-level, earns you leverage with the rest of the team to get them contributing.
Speaking their language
As marketers, there’s something comforting about the marketing funnel. Pouring people in the top, getting leads out the bottom. ‘Awareness this’ and ‘Evaluation that’,
Even better when these stages are married to analytics: average pages per session or average session showing how well people are engaged.
And you should feel comforted, it’s your job to be engaged with these stats.
The problem is, C-level don’t care about this level of detail as much as you.
When you’re pitching content to them, they might have a passing interest in the number of hits you’re getting on your website. They are less interested in bounce rates and time on page. And with good reason. These metrics and figures don’t automatically resonate with something they see as a business imperative.
The conversations need to centre around their biggest concerns, which are:
- Cost per acquisition (CPA ) - How much does it cost to gain one new customer?
- Growth rate - Is the growth rate expanding?
- Customer LTV - How much does a customer spends over the customer lifetime?
- Competitive comparison - What are we doing compared to the market?
Therefore, instead of the conversation going:
“We need to invest in content. Having original stuff to share on social will draw more traffic to the site, and the SEO benefits mean that we’ll be higher in Google rankings.”
It should be more like:
“Great content will drive more organic traffic to the site. This will reduce our cost per acquisition significantly because we don’t need to pay every time we get a new customer. The right content can deliver a steady stream of leads through the site with only the upfront cost of creative.”
This might seem like an oversimplification but simple is good.
The right reporting
If you sell the content in correctly, you then need to take your data and translate it into something tangible and relateable to them on an ongoing basis
Just as your C-level doesn’t need to know the full mechanics of the content strategy to buy into it, they don’t need to know 1,001 stats to prove its worth. In fact, the more senior, the less information you want.
In their 2010 paper ‘Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data’, Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer analysed the most effective ways to present data. In short, the data is not the narrative; it's the starting point. Impressions, clicks, sessions and whatever other metrics you measure, are meaningless without context.
Reports should show clearly not just figures, but what they mean for the business. Has your content driven more users to the site? Great. But how many of them are sticking around (page views per session)? How many people have been moved to give up their personal details through a lead magnet? What goals have you hit?
And you need to present the story in a persuasive way using colour, insight and a linear narrative.
This is a problem when you look at a standard looking Google Analytics dashboard.
The word you're looking for is, 'eurgh'.
The colours are insipid, the stats unclear, and the benefits clouded. Very few members of the management team will be interested in this level of granularity.
Google's Data Studio gives all this detail in clearer terms. This one based around a Google Adwords campaign.
Don;t underestimate the power of the visual. The sharp colours are vastly more appealing, the topline stats are simple and clear and you can read the report without a tutorial into what it all means.
Data Studio has recently been made available to all, we suggest you get your heads around it if you want to present the results of your content push in the best, most helpful light.
So, you’ve got buy in from C-level. That should give you a good basis for selling content production into the rest of the team, but you’re still likely to come up against some resistance.
Much like the C-level, the rest of the team will need convincing about the effectiveness and benefits of the content. You’ll also need them to contribute content themselves - both in terms of actual writing and in providing knowledge and insight - a much trickier prospect.
This is somewhat dependent on personality types, but there are tactics you can employ to get the team on board. Their pressure is the same as your pressure: lack of time. So you need to find a way to use their expertise without using all their time.
Even if you’re only a team of five, content needn’t be a chore.
There are a couple of key tricks to get people on board and involved. Here are the conversations to have with your team.
- Tap into their passions - Whatever area they’re in, each staff member will have their own passions and expertise, they key is to play on that, focus it, and deliver a brief which suits the individual. If people care about something, they’ll want to write it correctly.
- Interviews - Your team aren’t all going to be fantastic writers, but they’re going to have expertise that you can tap into. A great way to get someone involved in content without impinging too deeply on their time is conducting interviews. Think of a theme, send them questions, sit down and talk to them about it for 10-15 minutes. Get the interview transcribed and you’ve got the skeleton of a decent article. All you need to do from there is edit it.
- Monthly editorials - We said earlier they’re the most important element of a successful content campaign with good reason. Not only are they a safe space to get the creative flowing, they’re perfect for getting people involved in what you’re doing.
- Publishing - Giving each team member their own byline and bio for your site is key (a byline is a lovely ego stroke for everyone), but also encouraging them to share on platforms like LinkedIn or Medium can help raise their personal profile and get them further bought in to your content marketing wonderland.
- Sharing reports - Quarterly review notes, stats and figures make things real for the rest of the team. Increasing numbers, goals hit and improved dwell times are all figures the team can pull together to try and improve. Sharing the successes helps. Depending on the size of the company, this could take the form of an internal newsletter.
- Numbers game - If you’re in a five-person agency, that means each of you only has to produce one article every five weeks. EASY. If there are twelve of you, that’s just one a quarter.
So there you have it, everything you need to lay the foundations for a consistent content campaign.
- The tech
- The planning
- The inspiration
- The content mix
- The buy in from C-level
- The buy-in from the team
All that’s left now is to go and do it.
If you need any help, guidance, support or insight about any of this, don't hesitate to get in touch.