I’m a firm believer in this month’s theme of “Make Your Own Luck”. Yes, success can be defined as a lot of work plus a dash of good karma, but I’m of the opinion that to get ahead in life, you have to make your own luck!
This translates especially well into the world of marketing. You can be the most brilliant advertiser, writer, or strategist in the universe, but if you don’t set yourself up for success with a foundation of planning and organization, you’re destined to fail. Or at the very least never achieve the full potential for your clients.
There are tons of different ways to set up your content marketing plan as both an individual and as a company. In my first post of this 3-part series about Content Marketing + Content Strategy, I defined both niches and established the connection between them. However, it’s time to dive a little deeper into the individual aspects and in the spirit of making your own luck, let’s kick things off with the content marketing side of things.
To recap, content marketing is essentially the same as any other type of marketing; the only difference is content (blogs, press releases, videos, etc.) is the currency. Certain skills make this process a whole heck of a lot easier and much more successful in the long run. Here are a few tips for building the foundation of a content marketing campaign:
This is the first thing you should do before kicking off a content marketing campaign. Content Marketing Institute just posted a great checklist of what a true blue audit should look like, and it’s basically so you can see what you’re working with to get started. You’ll need to figure out the basics of the campaign, establish the target demographic, check out the competition, and outline the goals of the campaign. Once this audit is completed, it will allow you to make recommendations that meet your expectations, exceed your client’s expectations, and still fall within the budget and timeframe allotted. This is probably also the step where you whittle down the fantasy of what you’d like to do with the reality of what you can do. There are always going to be limitations (of time, money, etc.), so creating a hierarchy of tasks to focus on the ultimate goal is critical.
2. Create Your Team
Unless you’re a one-man-show, this is the time when you assemble your team.
Running a successful content marketing campaign requires both left-brained and right-brained tasks (and yes, I’m aware that that’s not really a thing. But bear with me). Content marketing relies more on formulaic thinking, while content strategy requires a bit more of a creative, fluid approach with a wide view of the entire campaign, not just the specific task at hand. Again, I’ll be covering more of the strategic side of things in the next post, but content marketers need to have an eye for detail, advanced editing skills, the gift of organization (and believe me, it’s a treasured gift), with the ability to focus on the individual task as a part of the bigger picture. You already know the strengths of your team. Make sure that you allocate them to the best of their abilities.
3. Standardized Workflow
Despite the fact that Facebook changes every day and it’s impossible to 100% keep up with the evolving algorithms that dictate search visibility, that’s no reason to not set up a few standard formats for your team. Having everyone working off of the same templates will decrease the time required to streamline content to fit into the specific channel requirements (which should have been individually outlined in the audit report), as well as lessen the chance of forgetting a key part of the content.
Some might argue that using standard templates for anything minimizes the agility required for engaging content. I disagree. Templates aren’t meant to be shackles; rather they provide a streamlined foundation to ensure each contributor is on the same page at all times. Standardization isn’t set in stone – you can always feel free to improve them as you go.
For example, say you’re working with 3 content writers for a specific campaign. Each one of them has a different method of blog content submission (one likes to email a Word document, one likes to share it on Google Drive, and one sends it in the body of an email). Forget editing each one for brand consistency and content quality at this point – first you just have to arrange them all to meet the blog’s guidelines. And look! One submitted their post without a title, one sent an image that didn’t meet the size requirements, and one didn’t include a meta description for WordPress. Sigh. Setting your team up for success is a two-way street. Use standard formats for content contribution and communication.
With this in mind, be sure that you review the formatting that’s best for the channel you’re contributing content to. Native blog posts (blog posts that publish on the client’s blog page) will not only sound different than guest blog posts (blog posts that publish on external sites), they should look different. Make sure that you stay up-to-date with content trends, formatting best practices, as well as the posting capabilities for each publisher (again – these should have been outlined at the audit stage).
Now that you have the initial planning stage completed, you’ll want to make sure you carry that organizational momentum throughout the project. Keeping the entire team on the same page and ensuring that client communication continuously flows to the necessary people can be a huge challenge, but a critical one. Here are some organization and workflow suggestions that have worked well for me:
1. Make Calendars
It seems pretty “duh” to say this, but just knowing when a campaign officially starts, ends, and all the dates in between will help immensely as you set up your marketing schedule. It’s easier to completely set up a campaign beforehand than try to hunt down deadlines when you needed them yesterday. This will also allow you to have a cohesive view of the entire campaign and adjust your timeframes accordingly.
One piece of advice I recommend for setting up calendars and establishing internal deadlines is to avoid over-planning – it’s essential to remain agile, but make sure you have always an idea of what’s coming to plan your time and avoid surprises as much as possible.
2. Create How-Tos
People may come and go during the lifespan of a campaign. How can you make sure the internal transition goes smoothly? Thunder Cat Frank Q. put together this awesome guide on how to ensure easy campaign handoffs, but one thing that I’ve found to be extremely helpful to get people up to speed is putting together some quick “how-to” guides for repeated steps during each campaign. For instance, you’ll find that different clients use a variety of hosting sites for their blogs, so having a step-by-step process for adding content to a particular client’s site only takes a few minutes and eliminates the potential for walking multiple people through the process multiple times. Establishing these steps at the beginning of the campaign means that new people working on the campaign grasp the ins and outs of it right away.
3. Establish Communication
Meetings are often the bane of our existence, BUT a good meeting is short, to the point, and answers the questions at hand in a clear and concise way. Decide whether weekly or monthly team check-ins are necessary and get them on your calendar for the duration of the campaign. Having these regular check-ins means that people aren’t constantly emailing, IMing, or chatting with each other for every small question and will save all non-emergency communication for these blocks.
All of this planning, meeting, scheduling, and organizing will help streamline things in the long run, but having the right tools for these tasks will prove vital for execution. There are approximately one billion different project and team management tools, so some are sure to speak to your needs more than others, but there are standouts that I recommend and use frequently.
1. Google Apps
If you aren’t already leveraging the Power of Google, you probably should be. They aren’t the biggest search engine in the world for no reason. Also, in all honesty, they’re already sucking everything out of you whether you like it or not, so you might as well enjoy what they have to offer. Don’t chain yourself to your office desktop – remain agile to work anywhere by utilizing the Cloud. Drive is fantastic for sharing and accessing documents anywhere, their Calendar syncs with everything… I really don’t need to sell Google’s usefulness. Just use it.
I’m a loyal Basecamp disciple. One of the things I like most about it is that you can see the entire history of each to-do without having to micromanage your team. You can see when a task is completed, what someone’s schedule looks like, and send updates to a specific number of people on your team, as well as keep track of shared files through their nifty labeling feature – no more lost files for your team! There are other project management programs out there, but as far as I’m concerned, Basecamp is the complete package.
Sometimes there’s just nothing better than a good ol’ fashioned checklist. I still use Post-It notes on a regular basis. No matter how many programs you invest in, no matter how many team calendars you create, sometimes you just have to cut down on the clutter and do what works best for you.
With all these takeaways, you’re going to be an unstoppable content marketing machine! However, if the idea of making a Basecamp project makes you squirm and the thought of a website audit causes you to cringe, then you just may be more suited for content strategy more so than content marketing. If so, you’re in luck! Next month’s final post of this trifecta of knowledge will wrap things up by exploring the ins and outs of content strategy and how it works with content marketing as a beautiful symphony. Don’t miss it!