You might have only one person responsible for marketing in your company. This Jill of all trades can probably handle all the nitty-gritty marketing stuff on her own, and doesn’t even know what the ‘workflow’ is. I used to be that person.
But when your department begins growing, collaboration and teamwork start to matter. We all have to deal with a workflow sooner or later. Maybe you already do.
As much as this word might be repellant to your creative marketing soul, a workflow needs to exist in your marketing team. A workflow ensures:
- That all your team members know the steps required to complete tasks, and therefore accomplish them more efficiently.
- A sense of ownership and accountability for all team members. If people care about what they do, they do it well.
- That managers have a sense of control and know the status of projects. There is no need to strain your brain trying to remember who is doing what.
With a well-defined workflow, your content creators know precisely what they need to do before a post is submitted for review and what they need to do after it has been published.
A documented workflow gives all your processes a firm foundation, resulting in consistency. It also helps new writers get up to speed quickly.
In this guide we’ve outlined our content marketing workflow. You can use it as an example when creating your own.
1. Develop a content plan
Responsibility: Marketing Director (CMO)
Before you start thinking about article titles for your blog and posts for social media, ask yourself these three questions:
- Why do I create content?
- Who do I create content for?
- How will this content actually help people (your target audience)?
Answers to these questions will give you the starting point for your content strategy. A content strategy outlines your marketing goals and suggests ways to achieve them. It also identifies the core value of the content your team will create. For more on this topic, check out my lengthy post on how to create a content strategy. When you finish, sit down and write a content plan for your writers.
A content plan begins with general topics, later broken down into smaller topics or approximate article titles. As this point there is no need to thoroughly work out your titles. Your approximate titles just need to give a general direction for your writers.
How many topics should you come up with for your content plan? This really depends on the frequency of your publication and on the “changeability” of the market you’re targeting.
For example, if you’re doing content marketing in the technology field, I would suggest that you create a plan for three months out at maximum.
This stage in your workflow has the following deliverables:
- Content strategy
- Content plan
2. Perform SEO analysis
Responsibility: SEO Specialist
Your content plan needs to go through SEO validation and analysis. During this analysis, your SEO specialist should provide you with the following:
- A list of keywords for each article
- The number of search queries for each keyword
- The number of competitors found in search results
- Backlink-ability (how likely your are to generate backlinks to each article)
Based on this SEO analysis, your SEO specialist can prioritize your upcoming article topics from most-likely-to-generate-traffic to least-likely-to-generate-traffic.
After the SEO analysis is done, you might change or tweak some topics in your content plan.
3. Research the topic
With your content plan in hand and prioritized, you have everything you need to start creating content. Before starting research on the article topic, the writer should be briefed by the Marketing Director (CMO) to go over the article’s goals.
Then, the writer should review existing content on your website, read external sources and consult experts to pull together all the data, quotes, and materials needed to write the article.
The main deliverable at this stage is an article outline. In the outline the writer needs to define the following:
1) Who will read your article?
Describe the person who is going to read your article. Include the following details:
- What is their business sphere?
- What are their needs?
- What problems have they faced?
- What questions are they asking in order to find an answer to their question?
- What exact words are they searching for to find your article?
2) What is the article’s format?
3) What is the most important value that you’re trying to convey to your reader?
Clearly articulate what you want your reader to learn about the topic, and order these things from most important to least important. The most important idea is the main value that you’ll convey in your article.
4) What sources will inform your article?
Compose a list of resources that you will read and reference.
5) What’s the general plan?
Define the structure of your article and break it into a number of sections. Tell what you will write about in each of these sections.
The writer should then show this outline to the Marketing Director for approval and feedback. Once it’s approved, they can start writing!
5. Draft the article
Now the writer has everything she needs to write the actual draft. The writer needs to convey her message in a way that is interesting for the target audience, brings value to the company, and is consistent with the brand style.
Responsibility: Expert / Senior Editor (Marketing Director)
When an article is ready for review, it moves to the senior editor or marketing director. They check that the draft is well-written, is consistent with other content, and that it conforms to the style guide and house rules.
Some articles require expert review first. Experts are usually professionals employed with your company who can check if the content is factually accurate, on message, and complete.
Each reviewer (expert or senior editor) is guided by a checklist to ensure the draft is reviewed properly:
- Does the content meet a user need?
- Does it help meet a business communication goal?
- Is it unique, current, and relevant?
- Is it factually correct, on message, and aligned with the content strategy?
- Does it conform to the style guide and does it adopt the right voice and tone? (Check out our guide for how to write a style guide.)
- Is it plagiarized?
All reviewers should give their feedback on the draft. It’s best to leave comments right on the page within an article. Google docs is an excellent tool for sharing drafts with everyone involved and for leaving and responding to comments.
The writer looks at their reviewers’ feedback, makes changes to the article, and sends back a new version of the article. She may need to speak to a reviewer for clarification; it’s better to discuss unclear points in person than to get stuck in a feedback loop.
Blog posts are iterative. There can be a lot of back and forth between writers and reviewers before the final draft is ready for publishing.
Responsibility: Senior Editor (Marketing Director)
The revised content is reviewed and approved (or sent back for further edits).
If your writers are non-native speakers, having a copyeditor on your content marketing team is a must — no matter how great your writers are. The copyeditor can also help your writers improve their skills and grow professionally.
Your content team may also need to produce images and other media at this stage (or ask designers to create them).
After the article has been copyedited, it is ready to be uploaded to the CMS.
10. Upload to the CMS
Responsibility: Writer or Senior Editor (Marketing Director)
The writer uploads her text of the article to the CMS and adds links, images, and metadata. Then the senior editor reviews the uploaded content to check that all the formatting rules have been followed.
Responsibility: Senior Editor (Marketing Director)
The senior editor makes any last-minute corrections and publishes the article.
12. Share the article
Responsibility: Writer / Linkbuilder / Communications Manager
If you don’t have a linkbuilder and communications manager on your team, your writers can take care of sharing the articles themselves.
You do need to provide your content creators with a list of approved outlets, however, so they know where to direct their efforts. This list of channels will vary depending on the type of content you want to share. For example, if you write about startup businesses and growth hacking, you might include GrowthHackers.com to your list. If you write about technical stuff, HackerNews is a great place to share your links.
Medium is another great marketing resource. You can repost content originally found on your company blog or even write articles unique to your Medium publication.
Besides self-publishing, you can also pitch your story to a publication that is followed by your desired audience. See: How to pitch or submit a story to a publication.
To learn more about spreading your content and communicating on social media, check out our guide to communication on social media for software development service providers.
That’s it for the workflow. We suggest you create a visual representation of your workflow so your team can easily see the steps their projects take from open to close. Your workflow diagram might look like this:
Good luck creating your own workflow!