Pam Moore recently published a great article on content marketing. In it, Pam talked about the sheer amount of mediocre content that has been published causing a sort of content white noise. She talked about the need to rise above the white noise by creating high-quality, more relevant content in order to get better traction with content marketing these days. That article got me thinking about two issues that impact both content quality and reach.
First, Pam's right. These days content needs to be ultra targeted and ultra relevant. Having great personas is a start so that your content team knows what the audience is looking for. From that point, we advocate a data-driven content approach. Answer questions your customers or personas have with data you've collected. That data can be metrics and statistics that identify trends, or case studies and customer success stories that illuminate problems, and the impact of solutions.
But even if you have great ideas, and data to create content with, we frequently see two process-related problems that can kill content quality, and content reach. If content doesn't stay focused on the target audience and issue, it drifts off topic and gets lost in the white noise. If you don't have a multi-stage content review and copy edit, it won't be your best work. The content will be mediocre. Even if your content is the best, if you don't promote it properly, no-one will find it. In this article, I'm going to share how one document can solve these two big content marketing problems.
Our Solution: One Document
What's our magic solution? Are you ready? A checklist. We use a checklist that is 42 steps across 5 different phases of content development. This checklist comes into play after the content planning phase, when topics have been decided, and campaigns, and persona targets have been assigned to the content topics, and after the first draft has been written.
The checklist can be on a piece of paper, or on a web page, or integrated with your editorial calendar or project management software as a to-do list. But one of the keys to the success of this solution is its simplicity. We have much better luck if we use a list of checkboxes than if we turn each item into a task in a project management tool.
A simple checklist lets authors, collaborators, reviewers, editors, and publishers quickly see what was done, update what they're doing, and remember all the essential steps that must be taken at each phase of the content process. There's no learning curve. It lets people double-check themselves, and managers check up on their team quickly and easily.
An Adaptable Five-Phase Process
Our checklist applies to a five-phase process. Remember, these process steps start after content planning and the first draft of the content. The phases are:
Draft 1 Finalization. This is done by the content author or authoring team. It involves things like keyword research, finding relevant links to supporting external articles, and related internal articles. It also involves more mundane steps like spelling and grammar checking.
Content Review: This is done by technical reviewers and involves steps such as verifying that the content doesn't drift off topic and that it addresses the correct audience and buyer stage. It also involves verifying technical accuracy of the content and any linked content.
Content Finalization: The content is returned to the author or content team so that feedback can be incorporated.
Copy Edit: This is hopefully done by a dedicated copy editor.
Publication: These are steps taken by the marketing team, release manager, or social media team to promote the content and contain steps related to scheduling multiple posts across multiple channels, and other steps to maximize reach.
Many organizations have slightly different phases or different steps within a phase. Some may add SEO and keyword research as it's own phase or may move spelling and grammar checking entirely to the end of the process. Where this is the case, the checklist can be adapted. In cases where clients don't have a well-defined process, they build their process around the checklist.
Track Key Information Throughout the Content Process
While many of the steps in the checklist are designed to ensure content quality, we've found that tracking three pieces of information throughout the process is essential. They are:
Campaign the content is associated with.
The campaign ties the content back to the internal goals for the content. Those actions you wish to drive with the content. This allows the author and reviewers to examine the content through that lens and ask the question, "Is this content going to help achieve the goals set out for the campaign?"
By tracking buyer persona and buyer stage, we're ensuring relevance of the content to a particular target audience, at a particular point in the buyer's journey. That will ensure the content is relevant, and facilitate those actions that help achieve campaign goals.
We track these items as metadata in our editorial calendar associated with the content while in development. We use the checklist to ensure both the author and reviewers examine persona details, and buyer stage to validate the content is on target.
A Simple Solution That's Easy To Apply
The greatest thing about this solution is its simplicity. It's just a checklist. It can be in paper form, online, even on a to-do list in an app. But having it makes the content team go through all the steps to ensure content quality and proper promotion. You can get our checklist here. It's one of the easiest ways we've found to turn up quality and maximize reach for organizations that are serious about lead generation through content marketing.