written by
Dayana Mayfield

Stop the chaos inside your marketing team with content operations. Here's how.

Knowledge 9 min read

Your team is devoted to driving sales or MQLs using content marketing. But while you're busy creating content, you might have neglected your content operations.

Everyone at your company is asking you for content. Demand gen marketers need more gated assets for ads. Sales teams want a new one-pager. Somebody else needs a brochure. These needs are bound to happen, and that's fine. The problem is that content teams start to handle their content marketing strategy in the same ad hoc way that they satisfy requests from other departments.

Maybe at some point, your content operations was smooth. But it's certainly not now, is it? In this post, we're covering everything from common problems to real solutions:

Table of contents:

Content operations, defined

Are you wondering, what is content operations? We've got you covered.

Content operations is the set of processes, people, tools, and methodologies that come together in the execution of content marketing. It's the "how" that powers the "what" of content marketing.

If you're executing on content marketing, then you have content operations. Whether you think you do or not. It might not feel militaristically organized, though. In fact, it might feel incredibly messy...

6 Common problems with content operations

Let's do a quick health check. Are your teammates (and your goals) trapped in a big mess?

1. The content marketing team is bogged down with the content needs of other departments

It's only natural that other teams and departments will ask your content team for...you guessed it...content. Once they learn that professional writers are on board, they'll request all sorts of materials: brochures, one-pagers, case studies, content partnership articles, advertorials, and more. There's nothing wrong with this, but there has to be some sort of gatekeeper.

2. Individuals within a team aren't following the same strategy

A content strategy is your guiding light. It determines everything that everyone does. People arrive at a content team with different philosophies and different work experiences that contribute to their prioritization of one strategy over another. One content marketer might believe in turning your blog into a digital publication. Another might prioritize middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel content only.

Neither of these strategies are wrong, but they're not the same, and they might not even be what your company needs to grow.

3. Content promotion is a big fail

In the clamor to create content, does promotion get lost? Do you create content partnerships with other brands in your industry? Do you build up employee's personal brands to serve as promotion channels? Do you make use of aggregator sites and SEO-driven social channels like YouTube and Pinterest?

Not all of these content promotion tactics will be right for you, but if you're not doing the promo that is a fit for your audience and your brand, you're in trouble.

4. A lack of design or technical resources slows down the machine

A common problem with content operations is this: there are lots of writers on the team but not enough designers, editors, approvers, and implementers. Content will get stuck "in review" or "in design" for weeks — maybe even months.

No need to be ashamed, it happens to the best teams.

5. Content marketing manager is too busy to manage content

Here's another sign that your content operations is a drag...your content marketing manager can't actually manage content. They get so busy creating content for their own KPIs or for other departments, that they themselves become the biggest blockade of all. When the person who is tasked with moving things along transforms into a block for everyone else, then content can't possibly meet its goals for MQLs or acquisition.

6. Technology that slows people down

Technology is not at the heart of most content operations issues. Typically the heart of the matter is over-ambitiousness and strategy confusion.

But the wrong technology is definitely a symptom, and it can cause all sorts of nightmares, like day-to-day task confusion and massive time waste.

What you're up against when you improve content operations

Now that we've addressed all the messy crud, let's begin to understand what healthy content operations should actually look like.

But first...let me say that the following elements of healthy content operations aren't easy to achieve. I'm not going to pretend that you can change your content operations overnight. The shift often requires:

  • hard conversations with marketing leaders and other executives
  • the re-allocation of resources
  • making people toe the line (getting people to implement a strategy they may not love or agree with)
  • addressing company culture issues, such as de-prioritizing content in favor of the demands of other teams
  • figuring out why strategy went out the window in the first place
  • getting leaders from multiple teams on the same page

What healthy content operations looks like

You know what bad content operations looks (and feels) like. You know what you're up against to change it. Now let's take a journey to the promised land — the incredible "after" state in which you'll find yourself when you successfully overhaul your ops.

Matches your company's revenue model

It's really funny how many posts there are in Reddit or marketing groups by entrepreneurs asking for marketing advice without explaining their price point or business model. In their quest for free advice, they detail the product and the target market, but they often forget to mention the revenue model!

That's because a lot of entrepreneurs think that how you charge doesn't necessarily affect how you market. Unfortunately, a lot of content marketers make the same mistake.

The truth is, the way that your company charges and sells makes an enormous impact on the kind of content you create. Lower-priced offers require more top-of-funnel volume. Enterprise B2B sales require more bottom-of-funnel content and very little or possibly no top-of-funnel content (the funnel gets filled with cold outreach, conferences, and trade events).

Realistic expectations based on resources

Healthy content ops never bites off more than it can chew. Your content management workflows must match reality. (Sorry, big dreamers but we need realistic timelines.)

When teams try to cram too many assets or posts into one month or quarter, they often sacrifice quality, strategy adherence, and content promotion. Plus, everyone gets pissed off.

Works within clearly defined roles

If you're struggling with your content operations, you most likely need to address the roles of your content team. Is everyone working without clear leadership? Is the content marketing manager out of the loop on the status of current assets? That's a sign that you have content creators doing management work.

I know it's not a cool thing to say, but without structure and clear roles, content marketing gets downgraded to randomness and lawless.

Is transparent

Transparency is key in content operations. It's not enough to have a task management tool that helps people to track their own tasks. They should also understand the current projects and goals of the entire content team. A content calendar tool can help with this, as well as weekly standup style meetings.

The right processes + the right people + the right strategy + the right tools = content operations that allows your team to thrive, not just survive.

Follows a documented strategy

Your strategy must be written down!

Super sorry for that exclamation point, but it was warranted.

Most content marketing teams are not following a documented strategy. Putting your strategy down in writing requires people to nod their heads in approval, making it seventeen thousand times more likely that your team will be on the same page with their day to day actions.

Your documented strategy should include:

  • The effective quarter(s)
  • The target persona(s) and company type(s) for that time period
  • The channel(s) of priority
  • The overall strategy in terms of funnel creation, revenue model matching, focus of content (entertain a specific niche audience or solve problems for a user type)
  • The goals and KPIs for content overall in terms of traffic, signups, sales, and or MQLs
  • The goals and KPIs for individual content pieces or campaigns in terms of traffic, signups, sales, and or MQLs
  • The name and summary of the large asset(s) that will be created in that time period
  • The direction or need for any smaller pieces of content (you don't need to name these smaller pieces yet, but you should know what they are for, such as 3 SEO optimized blog posts for X persona that will link to X gated asset)
  • The number of allowable pieces of content that don't fit the above (how many "random" ideas or needs for other departments or content partnerships will you satisfy in that time period?)

Prioritizes short term and long term content promotion

Your content operations should leave plenty of room for content promotion.

Content teams find that anywhere from 25 - 50% of the team's time as a whole should be devoted to promotion.

Not only should you carve the time out — meaning new content creation gets slowed down or resources get bulked up — but you should also prioritize the promotion of content in the short term and the long term.

  • Short term promo -Sending content to your email list, scheduling posts to go out in social media, emailing your content partners when you've published something (so they can share it too)
  • Long term promo - Building your email list, building employee's personal brands, building partnerships with non-competing brands in the same industry, social account growth, and high-quality community management

Puts a cap on content creation for other teams

If your in-house content writers can barely find time for their own task of increasing traffic, you've got a big problem on your hands. To solve it, you need monthly or quarterly caps on content creation for other departments' needs.

Additionally, other departments should submit a request to your content marketing manager, who can then prioritize and allocate resources accordingly.

Implements supportive technology

Content teams need tools that bring them together, not separate them into little silos, with content creators and managers working in different platforms.

Having a cohesive platform that writers and publishers can use reduces the need for manual content entry and saves time for everyone involved.

How to choose a content operations platform

When implementing a content operations platform, one team dropped from 3 hours to 5 minutes to publish a single piece of content on the digital channels that matter most to them.

If you're looking for similar results, here's what to hunt for in a content operations platform:

  • Reduces the need for manual tasks like content entry
  • Includes SEO optimization tool
  • Allows for content submittal by guest writers
  • Includes different user types (guest writers, contributors, publishers)
  • Helps you manage your content calendar
  • Helps you manage content promotion

The right processes + the right people + the right strategy + the right tools = content operations that allows your team to thrive, not just survive.

Because your content operations affects the execution of your strategy, you should do a health check-up quarterly. Seriously, taking a hard look at your content ops is just as important as quarterly strategy meetings or KPI reviews.

Tired of unhealthy content operations? Check out what you can achieve with StoryChief.

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