We all know the dream, right? We create and distribute amazing, engaging content because we had:
We all know the reality, right? We endure strict deadlines, spend way too long getting buy-in and approvals, and see new content requests pile up. We also continuously fight the good fight for developing worthy, value-rich content for the brand.
In 2020, we inherited a few more obstacles to keep everything moving and staying connected to the wider organization to ensure ongoing buy-in support for content marketing.
While we can’t solve everything, we can work to fix the bottlenecks that make the dream a lot closer to reality.
What is a content bottleneck?
A content bottleneck occurs where demand for content exceeds the organization’s ability to deliver meet that demand in a timely manner. While that’s simply stated, the factors and circumstances creating bottlenecks are many and sometimes may not even be obvious:
- Requests exceed available resources.
- Content strategy isn’t used (or isn’t sufficiently detailed.)
- Content silos make collaboration difficult if not impossible.
- Multiple tools are used to manage the process.
- Content assets are not easy to find.
- Stakeholders only know their part of the process.
Now, let’s look at five fixes to shatter some content bottlenecks.
Bottleneck fix 1: Look at your content strategy
It all starts with the big plan. Make sure your content strategy acts as a blueprint for everything that involves creating content for your organization. It should nail down aspects such as:
- Organization’s marketing goals and objectives
- Topics and themes
- Content formats
- Delivery channels
- Resources (who is involved)
By zooming in on these particulars, you narrow the criteria for what content should be produced and can more easily identify what content requests, ideas, concepts, etc., fall outside those boundaries.
By rejecting content requests and ideas based on the company’s content strategy upfront, you are less likely to have content get stuck in the process because it doesn’t fit the strategy.
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Bottleneck fix 2: Build better levels of collaboration
Content development likely involves more than one person in your organization. Each person should fulfill their role in the content project so it stays on track.
Often, though, the parties don’t necessarily understand their role or how their role affects others’ roles and responsibilities. That’s why you must define who will be doing what, when, and plot this throughout all the stages, from the first draft to editing, approvals, and publishing.
A word of caution: Don’t assume documenting someone’s role and responsibilities means they will accept them. Take an honest look and get those stakeholders (and/or their managers) on board before you finish the roles-and-responsibilities guidance.
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Bottleneck fix 3: Streamline technology
You’ve got your content strategy sorted, and your colleagues are ready to pitch in and do their bit. But what about the digital systems used to manage all those pieces of content?
It’s not uncommon for marketing departments to use several types of software, online documents, and communication methods to manage their content operations. But using multiple tools opens up the opportunity for more bottlenecks.
Using a centralized platform can bring many benefits to your team (and the wider organization). A single system not only facilitates better collaboration but it provides improved visibility and easier access to the content assets. These two benefits alone will save your team stacks of time.
Using one tool also provides better alignment across teams and departments because everybody works on the same system. It also allows everybody to see the status of the content asset development – likely making the “who’s accountable” person more likely to meet their deadlines.
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Bottleneck fix 4: Develop and roll out realistic content workflows
Recent CMI research tells us that “lack of processes” is the biggest reason why organizations don’t take a strategic approach to manage their content. No process – or too many processes – can really slow down content creation.
Documenting your content workflow only helps after you finished the first three bottleneck fixes. Detail the process for each content asset type – then add names and dates when a new project comes along. Doing so reduces the possibility of content bottlenecks in part because it demystifies the process and grants new levels of transparency.
Here’s a draft of a content workflow, outlining the steps and actions to keep the content creation process moving along:
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Bottleneck fix 5: Examine how published content is performing
Something we often neglect to do – because we’re all so busy trying to get all that new content planned, produced, and published – is to look at how published content has been performing.
If your experiences are anything like mine, there could be the odd piece that you gritted your teeth to produce because you didn’t believe it was really needed or even that good. Wouldn’t it be nice to prove that it didn’t work, so you don’t have to do something similar again?
You can understand what content works and what doesn’t by leveraging and inspecting the data through Google Analytics or your content marketing platform.
Yes, conducting this analysis is a time investment, but it’s a good use of time. You can determine which content assets:
- Earn their keep – delivering decent levels of traffic, social engagement, and/or leads
- Exceed expectations – delivering new highs of traffic, social engagement, and/or leads
- Fail to make an impact on your audience – few views and/or high bounce rate
Acting on these results can reduce future bottlenecks. Now you know better what’s working with your audience and what content isn’t valuable and can make better decisions on what content to create. The analysis also furnishes solid evidence that you can use to push back against new ideas or requests that haven’t worked.
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Living the dream
As content creators, we all strive to give our audiences the content they need and want at the right time in the right place.
But too often, the volume of content requests, the number of internal stakeholders, and lacking content strategies and workflow create so many bottlenecks that we can’t deliver.
By making these five bottleneck fixes, you may soon be living your content creator’s dream – and your audience will respond accordingly.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute