- May 4, 2017
- Posted by: Kathryn Hawkins
- Categories: Business Transformation, Content Strategy, Featured
Done well, your content marketing assets can open the door to thousands of new prospects, engage existing customers, and even help win back previous customers. A longform ebook or a revelatory research paper can energize your industry and instantly cement your business’ reputation as a thought leader in the space.
There’s no question that such assets can serve as crucial business drivers. But they can often be ridiculously difficult to get across the finish line, on time and on budget.
Why? More often than not, it comes down to misalignment within the team on the workflow review process.
As an agency principal, my team’s worked with dozens of marketing departments—and when the marketing team has a streamlined, consolidated process, things can go flawlessly. But in situations where a key stakeholder doesn’t review a document until it’s ready to go into layout, the whole project can get derailed, and everyone must frantically work to go back to the drawing board to get the project on course.
So, whether working with an internal team or external vendors, how do we avoid such catastrophic situations? It comes down to developing, and utilizing, a clear stakeholder review process. Here are our recommendations:
Develop a clear messaging framework before diving in.
Before executing on deliverables, it’s important to make sure that there’s a consensus around your brand’s overall messaging and content strategy. A clear content strategy requires in-depth research into your buyers’ needs and the most effective methods for communicating with them—but once your team has finalized this crucial stage, you’ll have a clear foundation for all of the content assets you plan to develop. As Content Marketing Institute’s research has found, 53% of the most successful B2B marketers have a documented content strategy.
When developing a new project, identify who the internal stakeholders are, and appoint a key contact to collect their feedback at crucial stages.
Which executives within the company will need to weigh in and sign off on a content asset? It’s crucial to identify these stakeholders before the project begins, and clarify the stages when they’ll be asked to provide feedback. We typically work with a manager or director-level staff member who serves as our key point of contact, and will aggregate and summarize internal feedback at each crucial stage: Typically, we might ask them to weigh in on an outline, a draft, and a final draft. Limit feedback to the initial group of identified stakeholders, so that your content development team is receiving consistent feedback along the way—there’s nothing worse than getting to a (supposedly) final draft and learning that the CEO had a completely different concept in mind.
Numerous content workflow tools are available to support these efforts; at our agency, we typically work directly within Google Docs, so that each stakeholder has access to the most up-to-date draft, and can provide edits and comments directly within the document; and use Teamwork (which integrates with Docs) for project management.
Clearly outline all tasks and timeframes for the project, with each person’s role clearly identified.
After holding a kickoff call with everyone involved in the content project, it’s important to make sure everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities. Your project manager (either internal or external) should break down each project step into its components with associated delivery dates. While you can do this in a spreadsheet, we find a dedicated project management system to be extremely helpful, as it can send automated reminders every step of the way. Here’s an example of an ebook’s workflow for the copy stage.
While key executive stakeholders don’t need to receive day-to-day project alerts, they should receive advance notice of the dates when they’ll be needed to provide feedback. Often, feedback takes longer than anticipated, so give your team room to move back other deadlines accordingly each time you fall behind schedule.
It’s also important to notify your stakeholders of what kind of feedback is expected at each stage of the process: In an outline, for instance, verbiage isn’t important, so ensure that your stakeholders aren’t focused on line edits when they should only be looking at the general messaging.
If you’re in an unpredictable industry, allow time (and budget) for mid-project changes.
Some industries, such as finance and insurance, face heavy regulatory pressure, and you may find that you’ve gotten to the finish line on a content project only to discover that you don’t have legal authority to share certain client data, or that a new law will add a lot of complexity to how your clients can make use of your solution.
In certain situations, your content can become irrelevant before you’ve even launched it—so make sure that your organization has the potential to be agile and make shifts as needed. If you’re working with an outside vendor, use a milestone-based approach to payments, so that each revision cycle can be factored into the process as its own deliverable. In any case, if your content needs aren’t predictable, ensure that your team has enough time, budget, and resources to regroup and rescope the project based on changing variables along the way.
We’ve found that a clear, streamlined process with strong communication along the way is pivotal to the success of any content marketing project, regardless of the size or scope. Start with a clearly documented content strategy; use a strong team of internal and/or external content creators and provide them with access to high-level subject-matter experts; and follow a clear-cut process to carry your content marketing project through to the finish line.
The end result? A compelling, on-brand asset, delivered on time and on budget, that will move your marketing needle.