Building a content strategy and filling out your editorial calendar is only the beginning of a successful content program. Now you need to bring those ideas to life, start producing content regularly and make sure that each piece represents the greater vision of your organization in a compelling way. Long gone are the days of traditional advertising where brands could communicate through a single, repetitive ad campaign or a catchy jingle. Today, customers expect multifaceted stories and holistic experiences that personally address a wide variety of use cases and business needs. So how can organizations operationalize their content creation process across their entire organization and develop content that reaches and resonates with audiences at every touchpoint?
Establishing Standardized Content Workflows
Once you’ve determined the right cadence and strategy for the type of content you want to create, the next step is determining a workflow for how to actually meet that demand. Enterprise brands are creating and distributing messaging across hundreds of brand sites, channels and regions. They can’t afford to get stuck in a cycle of endless revisions and approvals where editors spend months in production arguing over which headline is “snappier” or the merits of a comma vs. a dash, only for your marketing communications department to scrap the whole article at the last minute because you never got stakeholder approval.
The Drupal CMS makes it clear who is responsible for each step of the content workflow through defined roles and permissions. This means a Content Lead can assign users specific permissions to edit, create or publish different content formats and types and maintain control and visibility. Content teams can also build and refine content templates that align with the types of materials they create most often from blog posts to white papers to e-books. These templated formats ensure that all of your content experiences are consistent with your chosen brand guidelines. As your content ecosystem grows more complex, creators need an efficient way to standardize these offerings so they can be repurposed and duplicated across systems without starting from scratch. Defining the content types your creators will need to access streamlines the creation process and allows all content to be mapped to a deliberate format.
Establishing a content governance strategy at the center of your content operations empowers teams to collaborate without stepping on each other’s toes and ensures that content is created with input from the right stakeholders. For instance, your digital marketing VP may have Administrator access to all of your properties, while your summer intern can only view and edit a pre-selected group of content types or pages.
Choosing the Right Brand Imagery and Media
Impactful and memorable content marketing is much more than words on a web page. Centralized governance also must exist between the content and creative teams. From stock imagery to video to infographics, brands are multimedia storytellers. Ensure your brand messaging is consistent by referencing your creative and brand guidelines.
Giving your creative team a view of your editorial calendar will also keep them informed of any upcoming design requests.
When it comes to matching visuals to suit the content, I like to follow the advice of renowned Broadway lyricist Stephen Sondheim that “Content dictates form.” A corporate announcement published by your CEO should be clean and professional, only incorporating visuals that illustrate or underscore the larger message or industry trends being discussed. On the other hand, a post with a more tongue-in-cheek tone can often be more engaging when paired with more interactive media, like a Twitter embed or a pop culture gif. (We recently published our own blog post packed with memes.) While you shouldn’t recycle the same five stock photos of businesspeople putting sticky notes on walls throughout your entire blog, standardizing elements like color and perspective ensure that your content hub is cohesive and memorable.
For example, the Youth Hostels Association publishes a digital travel guide for each season called “The Journey,” full of bright outdoor landscapes to appeal to travelers planning a vacation.
Meanwhile, financial services institution Enterprise Bank and Trust take a straightforward and minimalistic approach to their Insights page thumbnails. Using a standardized graphic throughout their library of published reports and news materials reflects the needs of their business-focused audience members who need direct, simple access to these resources.
Working with Subject Matter Experts
Despite what we may like to think, content editors don’t know everything. In an average week, I may publish content discussing transformation in the financial services industry, describe the latest features of a product, promote an upcoming employer branding event and create a case study focused on success in higher education. Yet, I don’t have any experience in banking, coding, recruiting or the college admissions process. But someone else does, and it's the role of a good content marketer to help them tell their story. Working with subject matter experts (SMEs) is at the heart of every strong content program.
For content to sound authentic, you need direct input from the people on the frontlines. You should develop continuous, collaborative relationships with everyone from product managers to web developers to senior executives. Engaging subject matter experts across your organization ensures you’re creating a diverse canon of specialized content that boosts brand authority and thought leadership. People love recognition and offering them a public platform and profile to share their thoughts with others is an excellent way to gain participation and increase awareness for the content. It also helps prop up your SME as an influencer. However, engaging these leaders can be a challenge when they’re busy answering tickets, calling prospects or deep in the midst of a crucial code sprint. The struggle to overcome obstacles and book time in a busy schedule is amplified further when the SME you want to work with is an external customer or partner who has their own brand’s efforts to prioritize before fulfilling favors.
Here are a few strategies to get the information you need while still respecting the time of your experts:
- Have a conversation! Schedule a 20-30 minute interview or Q&A with your SME where they can discuss their idea in their own words. Make sure to come prepared with your questions beforehand and take detailed notes or record the conversation, so you have a transcript to reference when you write your draft.
- Offer templates. Emailing template questionnaires or a list of the main ideas you want to cover in your content makes it easy for someone to just fill in their thoughts without starting from scratch.
- Pre-draft and incorporate edits. If you’ve got a decent outline of the messages you’d like to publish, create the first draft independently then give this to your expert to review and add feedback and edits. If you’ve done the legwork of learning about the industry or project beforehand, often they’ll only have a few key revisions and suggestions to add.
- Build off existing material. For many content initiatives, it's likely that the material you want already exists in some format on your company drive whether that be a sales deck, technical documentation, a webinar, etc. Use these resources to inform your own draft and craft a narrative from this work rather than duplicating efforts.
With people, processes and mission in place, brands can set off on the path to delivering their message and engaging audiences through valuable materials that are in-tune with the kind of experiences that today’s customers expect. The next step: making that content discoverable and available across all of your various channels and properties. Content marketing doesn’t end after you hit “publish.” Check back soon for our tips on how to launch a content distribution strategy that drives awareness and builds your audience.