Do you have a documented content workflow in your business? What are the benefits of having one? And what are some of the ways you can manage your content workflow once you've created it?
What is a content workflow?
A content workflow is a document that lists the tasks that you or each member of your team need to perform in order to create and publish a certain type of content. It could be content that you regularly publish for your own business as part of your content marketing strategy. Examples might include web copy, blog posts, newsletters, or even social media content. Or, you could document the process that you follow to create content for your clients, if this is a service you provide.
Why do you need a content workflow?
Just like any other business process, content creation is predictable. In order to create content consistently, you take a series of steps, and then rinse and repeat. By documenting and managing your process you can make it more efficient and productive. If it makes sense for your business, you may even decide to automate some of the tasks.
Here's what documenting your content workflow allows you to do:
- Keep track of what tasks need to be completed and by whom.
- Help your team understand how their work impacts other tasks or deliverables.
- Assign deadlines to ensure that the process runs smoothly (more about content workflow management later).
- Identify any dependencies or bottlenecks that could impact your deadlines.
- Ensure your content delivery is on track.
So how can you create a content workflow for your business?
How to create a content workflow
There are different ways you can go about documenting your content workflow. But here are some steps you might want to follow when creating or reviewing your own process.
1. Identify the key roles
First thing first, you need to decide who in your business, department, or team is involved in the content creation process. And you need to do this for each type of content you create.
- Do you have a content strategist?
- Do you have a copywriter? And if so, do they act like editors as well, or do you have someone who fulfils that specific role?
- Who creates your images and visual elements - do you have a graphic designer?
The reason why you need to do this for each type of content you produce is that different deliverables might call for different skillsets and roles. If you share video content or have a podcast, for example, you'll need specialised media editors.
At this stage, make sure you list roles rather than actual people. Doing this allows you to identify any overlap or gaps you might have.
2. Identify the tasks
Once you're clear on the roles involved in the process, you'll want to identify the tasks required. And then match them up (roles to tasks).
If you already have a team and have been creating content without a documented workflow, this might be a quick exercise for you. But take this opportunity to review what you're already doing to ensure the roles you have in place are responsible for the right tasks.
For example, you may have a Marketing Director who sets the content strategy. But you might want (and need) someone else in your business to approve and sign off the content before it gets published. This is your chance to create a more efficient process.
And if you're planning on expanding your team or work with freelancers in different locations, spend some time to define each task in more detail. Try and include information like:
- Guidance on your company's tone of voice.
- Brand guidelines.
- Editing recommendations.
- Image requirements (size, fonts, etc.).
The more detail you can include in your workflow, the easier it is to outsource the process or to train someone new to the company. Also, by documenting the tasks thoroughly you save yourself time and reduce the potential for errors and re-work.
3. Prioritise and date the tasks
Once you've assigned the relevant tasks to the appropriate roles (and done this for each of the types of content you create), you can start to prioritise the tasks. And where appropriate, you can start to add deadlines.
To bring this to life with an example, if your agency has an in-house copywriter who creates copy for your web design clients, they are going to need some key information and guidance from the client before they get writing. Depending on the delivery deadlines you've agreed with your client, your copywriter will need a certain amount of days or weeks to create the first draft of the copy. Taking into account any dependencies and including time required for revisions and edits, you can decide when you'll need the client to send you their input by.
When you strategically assign dates and deadlines to each task, you enable whoever in your business is in charge of the overall management of your content creation workflow to easily identify whether you're on track with the delivery, or whether you need to flag any delays or issues that need resolving.
Documenting your content creation sub-processes
If content approval or content publishing are considerable parts of your creation process (as they often are in larger companies), you could also document your sub-processes. So you might have a separate content approval workflow and a content publishing workflow.
Your approval workflow would focus specifically on approval or rejection. Effectively, this is your sign off process. And it makes sense for it to be separate if and when the actual content creation is outsourced to professionals outside your organisation, for example. Similarly, a content publishing workflow would focus on the last part of your process - publication.
Using a content workflow template
If you're looking for inspiration, you can easily find content workflow templates on the internet. Your content workflow can be represented visually with a diagram or simply with a checklist. Whichever method you choose, try not to over-complicate your document and include a level of detail that's appropriate for your business. Nothing less. Nothing more.
A content workflow is meant to be effective and functional. It needs to serve the specific purpose of helping you to manage your content creation process more efficiently. A complicated document that takes too much time and effort to update and maintain won’t be as effective as a simpler, to-the-point diagram that gets the job done.
What should a content workflow template include?
When creating your own template or adapting one that you've come across during your research, consider getting the key decision-makers in a room and, as a minimum, discuss how you are going to plan, request, create, review or edit, approve, and deliver the content.
Once you've agreed on a suitable representation, you can then use the same content workflow template for each of the content types you create in your organisation.
Benefits of using a content workflow management system
One of the biggest benefits of having a documented content workflow in your business is that you can better manage your content creation process. You can assign a specific Project Manager to this process or have whoever is responsible for the overall delivery of content in your business to manage it.
If you run a larger organisation or department, and your content creation process is well-oiled, you might even benefit from automating your process by using content workflow software. Cloud-based software, for example, would allow you to centralise and speed up the creation process. If you have several roles in your business who play a part in your process, you could use the software you decide to use to assign specific tasks to the relevant roles.
For example, with a content workflow software you could have a copywriter or a content creator completing a piece of work and assigning it to an SME for feedback. Once the SME has reviewed the piece of work, they'd then re-assign the piece of work back to the original creator for any edits or revisions at the back of their comments. This makes collaboration easier. But it also increases efficiency and writing productivity and removes the potential for errors and time-wasting. TrueEdit or kissflow are examples of content workflow management systems on the market.
Using Content Snare to manage your content workflow
If you're a web design agency or work in the in-house marketing department of an organisation, and a considerable part of your marketing strategy and content creation process relies on collecting content from different sources (be it your clients or the SMEs in your company), you might benefit from using Content Snare.
Content Snare allows you to collect content (documents and files) from team members or external clients without relying on an endless (and often frustrating) exchange of emails. Whether you're receiving copy from your clients or from different heads of department, with Content Snare you can do this without chasing. The software allows you to create tasks and assign deadlines to them so you can set up automatic email reminders that do all the following up for you.