Having developed personas, analyzed content needs, developed a content strategy, and appointed someone in a managing editor/editorial lead capacity, the next step in content marketing is to establish a content workflow. This is the point at which content marketing gets tactical. It's the nuts-and-bolts process: content calendars, creation, approvals, style guides, templates, and tools.
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Get this part right and you'll be ready to run a newsroom, which, after all, is a big part of the concept of content marketing.
At the very core of establishing a content workflow is creating an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar not only establishes what content will be created, when, in what format, and for which content channel, it also tracks the connections for that content, including how content will be repurposed and amplified in social media channels.
The editorial calendar should contain a list of all content approved for publication. It should address the questions: how much content, how often, and specifically when it will publish. It should also include content requirements, responsibilities, and a schedule.
The editorial calendar should be governed by a master calendar that takes into account key dates and events. It provides not only an overview of what content will publish by day/week or month, but ties that broader schedule together with specifics such as holidays, trade shows, company announcements, events (such as webinars), or new product launches.
Don't forget to take international holidays into account if content is targeted to foreign countries. These key dates should also help inform the editorial calendar with ideas for content themed for the Christmas season, perhaps, or a major industry conference at which you'll release a white paper or present on stage.
The editorial calendar will also serve as an invaluable map for repurposing content. Say you're publishing a white paper or research report, how and when will that information be broken down and funneled into other channels such as your blog, a press release, or an update on a social network such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+? It should also serve as a reminder to collect appropriate graphic elements such as photos, charts or graphs, or multimedia content to enhance the written word.
The editorial calendar should also serve to funnel "real world" content into digital channels. If an executive is speaking at a conference or is making a media appearance, for example, capture that presentation on video, or as a slide deck, and share it on SlideShare.com or YouTube.
Having those holiday reminders in the calendar should be taken seriously, and they should be leavened with common sense. Seasoned editors don't publish their best material late on a Friday afternoon in summer when their target audience is beach-bound, just as a financial services company should hold back publishing on a bank holiday Monday. That's just common sense; you want your content to have the maximum possible impact.
Editorial calendars track what kind of content is created, when it's created, and how often (e.g., Twitter: twice daily; Blog: three times per week; Newsletter: twice per month, on Wednesday). They're also critical tools in tracking ideas for content, and what types of content need to be created. For example, a company striving to post four times per week on its blog may shoot for one originally authored piece, one commentary on current industry news, one guest post from an outside expert, and one round-up of curated links on interesting topics related to the business. Having specific goals helps to alleviate that "white page" syndrome when you know you have to create something, but you don't have a clue what that something should be.
Many editorial calendars also incorporate the production process into the mix, which is a great way to ensure content creation is on track. This can include who is responsible for individual content elements, the due date of a first draft, who conducts the copy edit, and a date (often with a specific time) for receiving and proofing the final draft, entering it into the CMS (or newsletter template, or blog platform) system, and when it will be pushed live, or published.
A follow-up to that can be outlining a process for promoting and disseminating the content on social media, tweeting, linking to, and otherwise amplifying the content. Whose job is that, and when will they do it? The editorial calendar should address this aspect of connect-the-dots content.
More tools of the trade
The editorial calendar is a must-have tool for any content marketing strategy, and one that can be adapted to varying needs. What follows is a list of additional resources for the content "newsroom" that range from nice-to-have to must-have elements of content marketing initiatives, depending on the organization and its goals.
Personas: Archetype characters representing the varying segments of a target audience.
Keyword list: Based on search engine optimization research, this is the list of words and phrases most critical to your business, products, and services when it comes to being found on the web. If you don't have an SEO expert on staff, any and everyone involved in content creation should receive foundational training in SEO, and how to appropriately use keywords (and other SEO principles) in content creation.
Brand brief: Most organizations with a marketing department have already created this (usually one page long) description of the corporate brand.
Style guide (writing): A very detailed and comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for written content. Very often, the grammar and usage portion of this guide is based on an existing, standard source such as the AP Stylebook, and adapted for the organization's content needs. This document should also address tone, voice, and writing style. Very often it addresses web elements, such as when a link is embedded in text, and whether it opens a new page or redirects the user entirely, etc.
For pointers, take a look at this style guide from Nokia. Notice how it encourages writing with a human rather than technical tone of voice to make communications warmer and more understandable. Providing concrete examples is always a great idea in a style guide. They're easier to follow than broader abstractions that can be wide open to misinterpretation.
Style guide (design): The visual counterpart to the writing style guide, a design style guide is a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for visual design. It should outline proper usage (and, when necessary, how to attribute credit for) photos, images, embedding videos, fonts, and color schemes. Issues this document should address include, for example, whether an image posted to the blog should be justified right, left, or center, how much white space should surround it, top and bottom, and whether all images require captions, etc.
Editing guidelines: A checklist to ensure that editors (and in many cases, copy editors) are thorough in ensuring high quality content. It's the editors' job to uphold all the style guide requirements, of course. Editors are also responsible for fact-checking, ascertaining that submitted content is original, validating hyperlinks, proofing images to ensure they're properly labeled and tagged, and a variety of other critical housekeeping tasks.
Graphics repository: A collection of ready-to-use images such as logos, executive portraits, and product shots the content team can easily find and deploy. Depending on needs, you may also want to make multimedia material available as well.
Submission Brief: An outline of expectations and concepts (often accompanied by a visual template) for outside or occasional content contributors. You'll be glad you have this once you've explained, in detail, how to submit an article to your blog or your newsletter for the twelfth consecutive time!
Maintenance Plan: This can be either a calendar or more general scheduling guidelines for removing and/or archiving outdated content, as well as assigning that responsibility to someone on the team.
Rebecca Lieb is an author, speaker, and consultant specializing in digital marketing, advertising, publishing, and media.On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.