Whichever industry you’re working in right now, you’re probably in a crunch to come up with new content.
We produce more content now than in the previous decades combined. If your content is to rise above the noise of the internet age, it has to be valuable, engaging, and consistent.
So how do you keep up with the demand of a constant outpouring of content?
Content marketing is a full-time gig for many of us, but as it turns out, every stage of content creation can be scaled and economized. Whether you’re talking about brainstorming, writing, planning, editing, or publishing, there are tips, tricks, and tools you can use to make your content production more efficient at every stage.
Let’s start at the first stage of your creation process – establishing the workflow.
Setting up the content production workflow
Your content workflow is the process any piece of content enters to go from the idea stage to the moment you hit publish, and beyond.
More than a checklist to ensure quality control, your workflow keeps all your team members following the same guidelines to create amazing content. It minimizes turnaround time and keeps everyone moving towards the same goals. It is essential to any successful creative collaboration.
1) Form your content team
Any time you’re working with a team to produce something, it’s vital for everyone to have a clear idea of their role. That ensures that each member sticks to a plan, and no one oversteps.
For a seamless content production flow, you should look to define the following roles:
Marketers – It’s their job to do the necessary target audience research and keyword research to ensure the content you’re about to create is something your prospects need to know, as well as that the keywords you are focusing on are something you can realistically rank for. Depending on your set up, they can also help out editors with on-page optimizations of your posts.
Writers – While having in-house writers do make the collaboration a bit easier, most businesses that want to significantly scale up their content production level will have to turn to freelancers. Writers are here to do topic research and write the post according to content briefs and style guidelines.
Designers – Like writers, designers can give you the custom graphics and featured images that go beyond stock footage. Visuals like infographics, charts, and videos, are used by 88% of marketers in over 50% of their content.
If I may say so, custom images like the one above that represents a content production team, give a really nice touch to any article. What’s more, custom images are also a nice way to throw in some branding elements into the post.
Editors – For that all-important final stage. A good editor can not only help spot mistakes, but also clarify sentences, and ensure the overall quality is up to required standards. Very often, they’re also in charge of publishing the content and doing final on-page SEO optimization tweaks.
Once you’ve got a great team in place, it’s time to tackle the meat of your content creation, by defining your content creation guidelines.
2) Define style and quality guidelines
Defining quality guidelines can take some work to get right, but it’s essential to the work you’re doing. It means that no matter who’s writing or designing, you’ll get a consistent tone of voice and overall content quality.
To create quality guidelines, you should look to define the following:
- What are your brand personas? Who is your ideal reader?
- What is the goal of your content? Are you pushing for a sale, passing on information, or trying to add someone to a mailing list? Are you creating content for a specific persona in a specific stage of the sales funnel? These are all important questions to answer, and something that should often be a part of your content briefs for the writers.
- What are your style and tone? Style means more than you think and there are a lot of things to think about – US vs. British English, comma usage, formal vs informal tone of voice, beginners guide vs an expert guide…
- What is your look? A visual guide is important for brand consistency and seamless user experience. What is your color palette? Which typography are you using, which version of your logo? For imagery, are you using custom graphics, stock photos, or both? Do you allow the use of GIfs? Do you plan on having a strict template for featured images or you want to mix things up with different designs?
- Do you have formatting guidelines? As an excellent example, see PV’s formatting guide mentioned below.
- What is your linking policy? Well-researched articles will often link out to valuable data sources. Do you want all of your links to be opened in a new tab though? Will some links be no-followed? How do you plan to reference picture sources? Does every post need to have some internal links? What kind of anchor text do you plan to use? If you do not define this now, you will never be consistent with it.
As you can see, if you want to define clear guidelines, there is a lot of questions you need to answer. The good news is that you only have to do it once, and just tweak here and there if/when needed.
For inspiration, you can use these content production guidelines Point Visible uses for content quality control in their guest posting process. Here is a snapshot:
3) Create a content calendar
To maximize your productivity, you’ll want to set up a content calendar.
A comprehensive content calendar tracks the content you want to create based on content type, marketing campaigns, schedule, etc. However, if you plan to use some templates you find on the internet, do not be afraid to adjust them towards your needs by adding/removing things that you want to track.
Lastly, besides helping everyone stay on track, the content calendar also gives you an opportunity to schedule content around holidays and relevant seasonal events.
4) Set up a tracking system
Finally, when it comes to content creation, deadlines matter. Not just the deadline for the day you hit publish. You have to account for things like revisions and graphic design too.
If you want to ensure everything goes as planned, implementing a tracking system is essential. A simple project management system is an effective way to keep your content creation calendars easily accessible to everyone on your team. It can help you track individual pieces of content through every stage of creation, as well as team workload and performance.
For companies that produce a lot of content, investing in a robust content marketing platform is sometimes needed to streamline the content production process from ideation to distribution. Especially when there is much collaboration needed, as well as checks for quality and compliance, a good platform can save you time, energy, and even lawsuits.
If you need an all-encompassing software that will, alongside content production, help you manage your whole content marketing strategy, you might want to take a look at solutions like Contently and CoSchedule.
Tips for scaling content production
Now that you have a plan, team, and tools in place, streamlining the creation process can only get easier. Use the following tips for keeping a constant stream of new ideas flowing.
1) How to consistently come up with new topics
Ideas are everywhere! Beyond dipping into keyword research, there are many ways to rethink content creation to generate new ideas, including:
- Google trends analytics helps you stay on top of your related keywords, pop culture trends, and anything else that’s popular at any given moment.
- Seasonal content calendars are a quick and easy way to create relevant content to top the search rankings. They’re simple and searchable, and they mean you can plan content months ahead.
- Research. Go beyond regular keyword analytics. Visit popular sites like Reddit and Quora to gauge the questions your potential customers ask about your product or your competition. The more valuable information you can offer, the better it will be for your brand.
- Surveys, social media, and customer service. When it comes to learning what your customers and clients need, the best thing to do is ask! Read comments on blog posts. Use your content to address interesting questions or comments from your social media. Above all else, your content needs to be valuable to readers. When you’re stuck on how to generate ideas, take a look through your comments, questions, and engagement, and ask your readers and customers what they want to see from you!
- Social media monitoring. Another neat way to track what’s popular in your industry is to use social media monitoring tools. Depending on the tool, you can track everything from brand mentions to keywords and hashtags, often in real time.
2) Learn how to repurpose content
Spinning articles is a big no in the world of content marketing. However, learning how to recycle older content and put it to new use is never a bad skill to have.
This can be a great way to save time and offers plenty of brainstorming opportunities to populate your content calendar with, well, more easy-to-produce content.
3) Streamline your content outsourcing process
Let’s face it: most businesses will have to outsource parts of their content creation process. This is why it is very important to develop an efficient workflow that covers the way you work with people outside of your organization.
Here are a few important tips that will help you create a frictionless content outsourcing process:
- Have a single point of contact. Ideally, you want your contact with the freelancers to be one person. Building a relationship with a quality freelancer takes time, and keeping things simple and direct will help build trust. Additionally, having one person managing freelancers means you have someone who will learn their strengths and weaknesses, and knows their current workload – both of which are very important for designing a smooth content outsourcing process.
- Use collaboration tools. Multiple projects, multiple writers, different time zones, multiple assignments at the same time – when you mix all of these things together you get a concoction that that might be hard on your stomach. To find a recipe for success, use tools like Surfer and Google Docs to create an effective communication flow between the people who are writing the content and the people who are polishing and optimizing it.
How to work with freelance writers
One of the most important things you can do for your content production is to hire a talented freelance copy editor (or several). There are many ways to find writers through referrals, online marketplaces, and article writing sites. But how can you find the freelancer you’re looking for amid all that?
Here are a few tips to help you spot what you’re looking for and retain the ones you like:
1. Figure out what kind of writer works best for you
The hunt for a quality writer isn’t easy. Many beginners join content sites to gain experience, and that means it can be tough to find someone who can meet your needs. Follow these tips to streamline your search:
- Vet thoroughly. For quality control, check out a writer’s profile before you hire them. Look for samples. If none are provided, ask for some.
- Don’t go for the cheapest offer. As tempting as it may be to pay for a lower-tiered writer at a cut price, chances are you won’t be happy with the results. Instead, focus on mid-range writers who are starting out, can take instruction, and do better than pass a simple grammar test. If you need expert content on a complex topic, be ready to pay that accordingly.
- Find writers with experience in your niche. A content writer who has experience in your industry can create better content as they can provide more actionable advice. There are some niches like beauty/fitness/healthy living/general marketing, where having a writer who can do good research is enough. However, if you need in-depth content on highly technical topics, your best bet is a niche writer who has personal experience (or extensive writing experience) in that area.
Depending on your own workflow and content creation process, you may find you prefer working with one type of writer over another.
Maybe you want a free-spirited, proactive writer. Someone who only needs a topic to create something mind-blowing (a scout). Or you’d rather have someone who will follow your article brief to the letter, incorporating each and every keyword you listed (a soldier).
This is where having effective content writing templates can come in handy. Think about how autonomous you want your content writers to be and what kind of partnership you are looking for.
2. Create content templates
When you’re looking for a freelance content writer, the easiest and fastest way to get everything you want is to stick to clear article briefs and/or templates. These can be complex and detailed (but they don’t need to be).
A template for a tool list blog post (X Tools To Manage Your…), for instance, can look something like this:
- Intro: Introduce yourself to an ideal reader. Pose a question and get them thinking. Consider listing the tools you are going to mention. State the reason why you have chosen these tools exactly.
- Body: Number each tool and make it an H2. For each one, add a screenshot and a link to their homepage. Describe their pricing options and mention if they have a free trial.
- Conclusion: Close with a call to action and a short reminder of the important parts you’ve covered.
Obviously, templates need to be adjusted depending on the type of content in question – is it a product review, a list post, or a case study? There are plenty of templates online to choose from and adjust according to your own needs.
3. Keep your instructions clear
For best results, it is important to provide clear instructions.
You should be able to communicate your tone, word count, desired keywords, and the structure of your blog. If there are specific points you want to be mentioned, always be sure they are communicated in a concise manner.
Let’s say you’re looking for a seasonal blog post for a natural beauty company that focuses on natural remedies for your skin. An example of a good content brief might read as follows:
- Topic: Natural Remedies For Dry Winter Skin
- Description: We are looking for a blog post between 700-1000 words in length covering natural ways to improve moisture in your skin. This is a blog post for our natural beauty line. You should mention Purelesia Pure Radiance Oil. Should be factual, but informal and friendly. Use “you” instead of “one” and keep the tone light and friendly.
- Keywords: natural skincare, dry skin, winter skincare
- Deadline: 5 days
- Length: 700-1000 words
- Send an outline first that includes the H2/H3s you want to cover with short explanations for each heading.
A bad content brief on the same topic might read:
- Topic: Natural Skin Remedies
- Description: We need a post on natural skin remedies.
- Length: 700+ words
Spot the difference? The devil is in the…(lack of) details.
While in-house writers might have enough context to cover certain topics without any description, giving freelancers no direction on what the post should cover is a risky business. If you do that, don’t be mad if they go in the direction you didn’t expect.
The above “good” brief is simple, and perfect for freelance websites with quick and simple turnovers. As your company grows, you may want to look into developing more detailed article briefs.
4. Allow for some creative leeway
If you’ve written clear instructions and have a talented freelancer, allow them to put a creative spin on your content. That might mean tweaking your original idea or suggesting a different voice.
While it’s important you stay true to your vision, remember that you’re hiring a creative person, not a workhorse. This is a team effort, and you should be able to trust that a good copywriter can take the initiative. If you do not trust them to do that, you probably haven’t found the right writer yet.
Wrapping it up
Having a steady stream of content is a great way to keep your company relevant and your audience engaged. While producing great content at a scale can be very time-consuming, if you are able to set up workflow as we outlined in this article, things should be moving without wasting time on activities that add no value to the content production process.
If all of this sounds too complicated to do in house, you can always outsource it to an agency like Point Visible that offers content creation services.
Elise loves playing with words. She spends her working hours blogging over at HireWriters, and guiding writers to run a successful freelance business. In her spare time, she dabbles in Warhammer and stand-up paddleboarding. When no one is looking, she bakes a mean Tarte Tatin and stuffs her face with soup-filled dumplings.