Have you ever stumbled upon a company blog that looks more ghost town than lively community? Scrolling through the blog's articles, you may have realized its most recent was published 8 months ago! Yikes.
For most businesses, having a publicly outdated blog is worse than no blog at all. At best, a prospect may assume you're not on top of things. At worst, they may think you've gone out of business.
Of course, you can always remove the dates should you find yourself in a publishing lull, however, why not avoid a slowdown altogether? By organizing an effective content workflow, you can ensure your team is continually moving forward and customers are continually being served.
Managing Content Creation
After all, you probably started your company blog with some worthwhile goals: Building organic search traffic, developing better relationships, and increasing quality leads. What you may not have realized is just how many steps there are between the initial conception and eventual publication of each post.
In this article, we'll review how to create an optimal workflow for creating, editing and publishing blog content. NOTE: If you haven't already created clear Buyer Personas for your brand, check out this article and then come back. A Buyer Persona is a fictitious description of your ideal customer based on age, gender, interests, profession, geography, web behavior and consumption patterns. Your Buyer Persona(s) should inform all marketing and editorial decisions. Already got that down? Read on.
Create An Editorial Calendar
Your editorial calendar is your blog's roadmap for what's ahead. Just like the editors of Time Magazinedon't wake up in the morning wondering what their next issue will be about, you shouldn't wake-up brainstorming this week's article ideas.
Amateur bloggers figure out what to write about that day when they sit down. Professionals generate a hefty list of topics in advance, often taking into account keyword research, frequently asked questions, and product promotions. Assuming you've done the latter, you're next step is assigning publishing dates.
How many articles do you want to publish a month? Four? Eight? Fifteen?
The number of articles you commit to publishing will depend on your overall strategy, budget, and bandwidth. Regardless, we recommend generating 4 months worth of content ideas at a time. Not only will doing so save your team time later on, you'll also have the advantage of looking ahead for promotional and seasonal opportunities.
Stuck on what to write about? Check out our article on idea generation here.
Create a Content Workflow
Creating a strong workflow begins with analyzing your current workflow: What is the process an article goes through from start to finish? How many people are involved? And how many steps are involved?
At Lean Labs, our workflow is mostly conducted within GatherContent. We like it because it allows us to create a color-coded system for various phases of content and because everyone can see at a glance what's coming up down the pipeline.
Our workflow looks something like this:
- Content Director generates topic ideas.
- Content Director creates a page with a working title for each idea.
- Content Director marks these pages as "Ready For Outline."
- Writer assigns herself to chosen pages for the week ahead.
- Writer creates outline and marks page as "Ready for Review."
- Content Director makes comments and marks page as "Approved to Write."
- Writer writes article and marks page "Ready for Review."
- Content Director may mark page "Needs Revision."
- Writer revises article and marks page "Ready for Review."
- Editor approves article and marks page "Ready for Copyediting."
- Copyeditor makes any necessary updates and marks page "Copyediting Done."
- Content Director checks article for SEO friendliness and marks page "Ready for Publishing."
- Blog Manager imports the content into the CMS, formats, and schedules the post.
- Blog Manager sources any necessary images, GIFs, or videos for post.
- Blog Manager marks page as "Published."
As you can see, that is A LOT of steps for one piece of content, but by breaking things down into a sequential format, everyone on our team knows what to expect. Map out your current workflow and ask yourself: Are there any steps that could be streamlined? Any that can be eliminated?
Look for opportunities to reduce inefficiencies and spread out responsibilities so it isn't one person doing everything. Now that you have a clearer picture of everything that needs to be done, it's time to set some additional deadlines. How much time will you allot for strategizing? Drafting? Editing? Formatting?
While estimating these timelines may initially seem difficult, it's important to have some sense of how long everything will take. Better to err on the side of overestimating when first getting started. As your team gains more experience, you'll be able to set tighter deadlines and clearer projections.
Choose Better Writing Programs
If you've ever sent Microsoft Word revisions back and forth, you know how frustrating those "Track Changes" can get and just how easy it is to mix up several rounds of revisions sent as attachments. Avoid the black hole that is email!
Instead, switch your content creation to a cloud-based system like GatherContent or GoogleDocs. As previously mentioned, we're a huge fan of GatherContent. It allows us to organize a variety of topics before having writers "claim them." It allows you to make your own color-coded, categorical system (i.e. In Editing, Needs Revision, Ready for Publishing) for labeling articles.
If you're looking for a free option, try GoogleDocs. The program includes handy color, share, and category options for files. It also allows multiple parties to view and edit shared documents simultaneously. Additionally, a cloud-based content management solution will ensure files are always available no matter what's going on with that hard-drive.
Switch to Collaborative Tools
If you're currently keeping track of assignments in an Excel spreadsheet, it's time to reevaluate. Not only are traditional spreadsheets cumbersome, they're also inherently non-collaborative.
According to a recent Content Marketing Institute survey, 86 percent of businesses managed their content marketing with a combination of Microsoft Word, Excel, and email. The problem with these tools? A). They aren't visual and B). They weren't made for blog production.
Instead, pair your editorial calendar with collaborative software like Trello, Basecamp or GatherContent. While each option works a little differently, all are inherently visual. Meaning, team members can easily see what they're assigned to, when its due, and any internal notes at hand. Conversely, the content manager can maintain a birds-eye view of all projects down the pipeline
The bottom-line? Keeping a blog running isn't necessarily an easy job, but it doesn't have to be complicated. Create your editorial calendar, map out your workflow, plan ahead with the right tools, and you're much less likely to end up with a "ghost town" company blog.
Prefer any tools we didn't mention? Please tell us about them in the comments below.