As journalists, process is our stock-in-trade. Process is what drives a story from idea through publication. We have a process to find the story. We have a process to tell the story. We have a process to check the story. We have a process to publish the story. And, when we must, we do all that in a matter of seconds.
Companies have processes, too. Those processes guide business activities like developing and launching new products, expanding into new geographic markets, merging or acquiring competitors, preparing for shareholder meetings or kicking off new branding campaigns.
Most companies don’t have processes for content marketing strategies. So, they often apply the worse features of their existing processes to their content. And, you know the results.
Content that should take days to produce takes weeks or months to reach its audience, if at all. Content that offers fresh ideas or thoughts gets hammered into safe clichés by risk-adverse vice presidents. And time-sensitive content demonstrating a true knowledge and awareness of industry events loses its sense of urgency and becomes stale and a waste of the audience’s time.
To be successful, content marketing strategies need their own distinct set of processes that are designed to meet distinct goals, whether it’s thought leadership, brand awareness, personal branding, reputation management, customer engagement, customer loyalty, lead generation or sales.
To help with the process of setting up your processes, I put together a list of 50 questions under five components of a content marketing strategy for you to consider. It seems like a lot, but the more you figure out ahead of time, the more time you’ll have creating great content for your brand.
- Who is your audience?
- What is the general topic or topics of your content?
- Who is responsible for determining the general topic or topics?
- What is the point of view of your content?
- What is the tone?
- Who is responsible for coming up with the specific content ideas under the topic or topics?
- How many ideas should be generated in what period of time?
- Who approves the ideas?
- Who decides what content form or format should be used for the ideas?
- Who assigns the ideas to be created in the selected content form or format?
- Who is responsible for creating the content?
- What is the frequency of the content to be created?
- Does the content to be created require additional content elements such as photos, images, illustrations, infographics, charts, graphs, timelines, etc.?
- Who is responsible for creating the additional content elements?
- Do you have style or brand guidelines that should be followed?
- Do you have an editorial calendar or publishing schedule for your content marketing strategy?
- Do you have a production schedule for each piece of content to be created?
- Who is responsible for overseeing the editorial calendar?
- Who is responsible for tracking content production?
- Is the content optimized for search?
- Who is responsible for editing the rough draft of the content?
- Who receives the edited first draft of the content?
- How many rounds of revisions will you allow?
- Who makes the revisions?
- What is the turnaround time expected on revisions?
- Other than the assignment manager/editor and the content creator, who and how many people review the final draft of the content?
- What is the turnaround time expected on a review of the final draft?
- Who gives final approval to distribute the content?
- What is the turnaround time expected on final approval to distribute the content?
- Are all these steps incorporated into the production schedule for each piece of content?
- Do you have a content distribution plan as part of your content marketing strategy?
- What content distribution channels do you own, earn or buy?
- What content distribution channels do you need to own, earn or buy?
- What content distribution channels are most effective for each content asset you create?
- Are your distribution channels optimized for search?
- Are your distribution channels optimized for audience content preferences?
- Do you have a content distribution schedule that’s integrated with your editorial calendar and your production schedule?
- Who oversees content distribution?
- Who is responsible for physically posting, sending or distributing content?
- Do you have a quality assurance step in place to verify that your content has been posted, sent or distributed?
- What key performance indicators should you track given the strategic goals of your content marketing strategy?
- Do you have a system in place to collect, aggregate and analyze those content KPIs?
- Do you have the capacity and/or capability to perform that function in house?
- Does your system compare your KPIs to benchmarks for your industry?
- Who is responsible for measuring content performance based on those KPIs?
- How is that data prepared and presented?
- How often is that data prepared and presented?
- Who and how many people is that data shared with?
- How do you connect that data back to content ideation, creation, approval and distribution?
- Do you have a system in place to adjust content ideation, creation, approval and distribution based on that data?
For each of the 50 questions above, there easily are 10 more that I didn’t list. But the questions must be asked and answered in order to install processes that provide the foundation of your content marketing strategy. Without such processes in place, you’ll be assigning content that’s never created or creating content that’s never distributed.
When you visit a corporate blog that hasn’t been updated in months or a corporate YouTube channel whose latest video is from 2014, you’re witnessing a content marketing strategy without a process in place to produce effective content on a regular basis.
Be the brand that has a plan.
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