Why Throwing a Person at the Content Problem Is a Problem

This article is the fifth installment of a 6-part series. Read the first installment here.

Everybody hates content. 

Don’t get me wrong. 

Almost everyone loves to consume content

Some beautiful people love to produce content. 

But where the proverbial rubber hits the metaphorical road, and the reality of content production comes into literal focus, that beautiful, shiny thing we call “brand storytelling” becomes a big, fat headache.

Mixed metaphors, for the win.

In theory, you want to keep your blog populated with enough content, the right content, high quality content, timely content, and the right mix of content. In practicality, that’s a vision very few organizations realize.

The typical marketing blog is rife with problems:

  • Content’s rarely ready on time
  • There’s not enough of it
  • It talks down to the audience
  • It talks over the audience
  • It’s full of jargon
  • It doesn’t engage the audience
  • It doesn’t stand out
  • It’s misaligned with strategy
  • Content production requires unending revisions
  • There are way too many bottlenecks
  • And way too many fires to put out

Which leads to this pattern:

  1. Someone in charge of marketing brings in a writer to handle the blog. More and better content will fix everything! Yay, writers!
  2. New writer thinks they’re going to be writing a lot of content, but discovers quickly that the process of strategizing and managing and analyzing the blog is a full-time job, leaving very little time for their creative wheels to spin. Writer is miserable! Right person wrong seat!
  3. Content gets outsourced, or not produced at all, or produced off schedule.
  4. Writer gets frustrated and moves on to a pure copywriting position OR
  5. Person in charge gets fed up and fires writer and starts over by throwing a different person at the problem

Reality check: The perfect writer doesn’t exist AND even if they did, they aren’t the answer to all of your content problems. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love writers. Writers are the answer to a lot of problems. But they aren’t the answer to a great blog–at least, they’re not the whole answer. And everyone will be happier when we all face this reality.

So What Is The Answer? Glad You Asked…

The answer is: Team + Process.

Specifically, a well-structured team + an effective process.

Used to be that a business blog was a simple affair with few competitors and not a lot of data around what works and what doesn’t work. A great writer could accomplish a lot all on their lonesome. And often we did.

Not so anymore. Not alone, anyway.

Competition is fierce, and like everything else in our world, effective content marketing becomes more complex with every passing month. A great blog is:

  • Consistent
  • High quality
  • SEO optimized
  • Targeted
  • Engagement optimized
  • Aligned with marketing strategy and messaging
  • Unique
  • Engaging
  • And much more

It’s downright unfair to expect a single person to be a great writer, a great project manager, a great SEO expert, a great strategist, a great data analyst, and to understand and align with company strategy at the highest levels. It’s unfair and, goshdarnit, it’s a plain bad idea.

You wouldn’t expect a quarterback to coach the team, kick the field goals, and run defense, so stop expecting one person to do everything on your blog.

Here’s what to do instead.

Assemble Your Team

Right seats. Filled by the right people. That’s at the core of a great blogging team. 

1. Define the Seats

Who you need on your blog will depend a great deal on the size of your organization, the goals for the blog, and just how big you want this to be. Below are the key roles every blogging team needs.

  • A marketing executive or director. This person may not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the blog, but they should be heading up high-level strategy, and in the loop on how the blog is serving it.
  • A content strategist. The person responsible for understanding how content strategy and execution should line up with overall marketing strategy, and for making sure that it does.
  • A production manager. The person who watches the content pipeline and makes sure everyone has what they need to produce things on time. This person will wrangle subject matter experts and feedback, make content assignments to writers, and generally make sure everything stays on schedule. This person may also be responsible for staging and scheduling content to go live.
  • A writer or two or four. Having a couple capable writers on board helps alleviate bottlenecks and ensure that if one person is on vacation, somebody else is available who understands your needs and can fill the gaps without disruption.

Some additional key roles you may need:

  • A technical specialist or two or four. Digital marketing strategists, SEO experts, data analysts–these are all key roles for any blog with a high growth strategy that relies on data or SEO. This should not be the same people who are producing the content, but should coordinate directly with them to ensure their work is incorporated into content production.
  • Other content specialists. These roles may include editor, proofreader, social media manager, PR, or other roles based on the needs of the blog.
  • Subject matter experts. You may keep a list or develop this ad hoc–these are the folks with expertise your writers will draw on to produce content. They may also be credited with bylines in the resulting content.
2. Put the Right People In Them

For each role, develop a list of skills and traits the possessor of that role should demonstrate. In smaller organizations, one person may fill more than one role, but try to align skill types to avoid burnout. For instance, a highly creative writer is rarely a good skill match for the highly technical job of SEO. Giving this task to one person is usually a recipe for frustration. 

Likewise, the detail-oriented and multi-tasking qualities of a terrific project manager may not mix well with the strategic and proactive qualities you want in a content strategist.

In addition to roles match, make sure everyone on your team is a great fit for your organization’s core values, mission, and culture. One player’s bad attitude or poor alignment with your mission can spoil the entire team.

Document Your Process

A great football team doesn’t just assign roles and then sit back and wait for the wins. Everyone on the team knows exactly what they are responsible for, at what point they take that responsibility, and when those responsibilities change based on the current play.

Your content team should have a similar understanding, via a documented content production process.

That process should include:

  • When and how topics are generated and approved, and by whom
  • Who updates and maintains the content (editorial) calendar
  • How content assignments are made
  • How reviews and feedback are managed
  • What tools you use to manage and develop content
  • What modes and tools of communication you use for scheduling interviews, discussing topics, and providing feedback
  • A step by step overview of how drafts move from idea to outline to initial draft to revised draft, and who “holds the ball” at each stage, and when and how they pass it to the next player

Your process should be dynamic, based on variable factors such as content type. For instance, a blog’s purpose may include SEO, but may also include customer stories. The process for producing a research-based and keyword optimized SEO draft will be different from the process for producing an interview-based customer story.

Incorporate checklists into your process to ensure every step is completed correctly before hand-offs to another team member. This reduces frustration and increases the efficiency and flow of the process.

With all the hassles of the blog gone, you can focus your attention on that most critical element: Standing out from the competition.

In the final entry of this series, I’ll share with you my top 6 secrets to grabbing attention and holding it with your blog. Stay tuned!

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Why Throwing a Person at the Content Problem Is a Problem
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Why Throwing a Person at the Content Problem Is a Problem
Many companies blame their content marketing failure on the writer or any number of team members. This leads to problems piling on top of problems. This article discusses how content marketing can work when combining a focus on team and process.
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