Struggling with creating quality content at scale? Even if you’re working with competent content marketers, as your efforts expand, the lack of a content operations strategy can jeopardize the team’s ability to deliver their best work.
The result? Slower content velocity, costly revision rounds, and a content strategy that never catches steam.
In this post, we’ll cover how developing a content opreations framework can prevent that. Plus, we’ll share our own contentOps framework.
But first, what do we mean when we talk about “content operations”?
What Is Content Operations?
Content operations (ContentOps, for short) covers the people, processes, and technology necessary to produce content consistently, efficiently, and at scale. But “managing content operations” doesn’t mean optimizing each of these elements in isolation.
Instead, contentOps is about understanding how to best combine these elements to materialize the content strategy.
At this point you may be wondering - “so, contentOps and content strategy aren’t the same thing?”
Exactly, they’re not. While content strategy focuses on developing a strategic plan. And contentOps focuses on how to best implement that plan.
For example, content strategy is concerned with:
- Underlying strategic goals (quantitative or otherwise)
- Content publishing frequency
- Formats & channels
Meanwhile, contentOps is concerned about:
- Content velocity
- Resource allocation
- How to keep track of KPIs
Why Marketing Teams Need a Content Operations Framework
Proper contentOps are essential to running a funcional and ROI-positive content program. In short, having a proper content operations framework will allow your team to:
- Establish and preserve content quality standards
- Understand their place in the “content supply chain”
- Forecast their own progress
- Have clear points of reference for specific stages of the content lifecycle
- Easily pinpoint bottle necks in the content production process
- Understand why and when they should pivot
- Properly gather data that they can feed back to the content strategy process
But, what does a real ContentOps framework look like? In the next section, we’ll share the contentOps framework we recommend to our startup clients.
Our Content Operations Framework
In this section, we’ll cover the content operations framework we recommend to our startup clients. It’s also an adapted version of how we work internally.
- Governance & processes
- Time management
This section’s purpose is to offer a blueprint for sustainable ContentOps at your startup. If you need case-specific help, book a consulting session with our creative director.
Governance & processes
In some cases, we find that new clients have been operating with a defective governance model. Usually, this model is either:
- A siloed and very vertical model, where one member of the team (usually senior leadership) has complete control over the content program, with no ideas, feedback, or cross-functional goals penetrating it.
- A “too many cooks” model, where content is used as a token to solve all potential business issues. This could eventually turn into a productive approach to content, allowing it to have a wider impact. But, with limited resources and ever-shifting goalposts, the result of this approach is that everything eventually gets de-prioritized.
There’s a better, third way, and it looks something like this:
There are 5 types of contributors involved in this process:
- Non-marketers - Product specialists, support representatives, salespeople, and anyone else who can contribute insights on the type of content that the market demands. These stakeholders intervene in 3 stages of the content production process. They bring diversity and a richer perspective to content strategy. They provide domain-specific feedback for blog posts that concern their area of expertise. And they bring ideas for keeping pieces competitive.
- Content leader - This person owns the content strategy and is ultimately accountable for the program’s success. Usually, this stakeholder “shares their seat” with one of our content strategists, who helps set the goals and direction for the content program.
- SEO specialist/s - This person/people concentrates SEO expertise and provides support along the content production and optimization process. That doesn’t mean that the entire team shouldn’t be knowledgeable or involved in SEO. But the specialist/s takes care of SEO-specific tasks.
- Writer/s - This role is rather self-explanatory. While writers may be aided by AI tools (more on that later), they’re still essential to the content production process. Whether it’s for content structuring, research, and output editing. Aside from just producing the content, they’re the first output QA mechanism in this workflow.
- Editor/s - In this context, an editor should combine strategic insight, brand knowledge, SEO expertise, and a second-nature understanding of writing best practices. They green-light and publish the content. Sometimes, the role of greenlighting the content is shared with the content leader.
This task distribution keeps a healthy democratic content ideation process while giving the content team the predictability and ownership they need.
For the sake of simplicity, we excluded two important steps from this example.
- Content distribution
- KPI tracking
Depending on the structure of the team, these tasks may be in the hands of the stakeholders we mentioned, or they may not. So we kept them out of the example.
Often, teams think of tools first and processes second. But, while your tools do shape your processes, you should have an autonomous view of how your team should work, and bring tools in to optimize specific steps.
You can divide your content stack into three categories:
- Research - This category includes SEO & social listening tools.
- Progress tracking - This category includes everything from task management & content calendar platforms to data-gathering tools.
- Workflow optimization tools - This category includes everything from automation platforms to AI “writers”.
Without proper research tools, you’ll have a limited perception of search trends and user needs. So these are the types of tools that are worth investing in.
Progress tracking tools include everything from your task management platform to your data dashboards. They’re the tools that your team uses to understand what’s going on, and whether it’s working.
Your workflow optimization tools, on the other hand, help you speed up processes. “SEO writing tools” abound in this category. The problem is that, when used to speed up key steps, they usually produce low-quality material. This material translates into:
- Wasted time and budget
- Brand damage
- Unsustainable growth curves
This cocktail of excessive spending and disappointment severely hurts leadership’s trust in SEO.
Wondering how to best implement AI for SEO? Check out our AI SEO strategy.
You should keep your stack controlled, and understand how each tool affects:
- Content velocity
- Content ROI/impact
- Team efficiency
If a tool doesn’t impact any of these factors, drop it. If a tool has a significant impact on all three, consider if investing in a higher-tier plan could yield even better results.
Usually, we plan content production on a monthly basis, almost in parallel to our content strategy review. However, several factors within your company or team may delay your content production.
That’s why we recommend combining fixed dates and trigger events. This combination can be solidified through your task management tool.
Fixed dates may include:
- A monthly strategy meeting where you lay out the calendar for the rest of the month
- Publishing dates
A trigger event could be:
- An SEO brief being ready.
- A blog post being done.
These events may come 1-2 days earlier/later than expected, but once they occur, they should trigger a response from the next person in the workflow. Think of it as “passing the torch”.
Of course, trigger events are limited by fixed deadlines. But adding a dose of flexibility encourages responsible time management and prevents your contentOps house of cards from falling if someone suffers a delay.
Additionally, it’s good to have an estimate of how long each step usually takes. For instance, if SEO brief creation takes 1 working day, and the content piece should be ready “ten working days from now”, the writer and editor only have 9 days available. If it takes the writer 8 days to produce the piece, but the editor needs 3 days to edit, your content piece will go up late.
There are 4 ways to solve this. You can:
- Move your content meeting a week sooner, so your SEO briefs are available 5 days earlier.
- Look for ways to speed up the writing process.
- Try to speed up the editing process.
- Extend the deadline, so the article has to be ready 15 days after the brief.
Each option has its pros and cons. Speeding up editing and writing can come at a high cost. But depending on the content’s topic, depth, and extension, it may or may not be viable.
As a content leader, you should be aware of what option would benefit your brand the most.
Your contentOps framework shouldn’t be some deck that you show at a meeting once and everyone forgets. It’s a tool that will benefit your entire team consistently. Keep the framework visible, and have it permeate how tasks are planned & assigned.
And don’t forget to document processes, hacks, and standards. A style guide is just the beginning. Your expectations should be clear, updated, and properly outlined in an accessible document.
Aside from keeping your team efficient, documentation will speed up the onboarding process for new collaborators.
ContentOps Best Practices
In the previous section, we exposed the contentOps framework that we believe in. But good intentions aren’t enough. When trying to implement your new contentOps framework, don’t forget these principles:
- Your team will make or break your contentOps, so hire carefully
- Don’t “set it and forget it”, iterate intelligently
- New trend? New need? Start by changing what doesn’t work
- Your contentOps’ purpose is to make your strategy a reality
Let’s take a closer look.
Hire the right team
This isn’t so much a best practice, as a necessary condition. As we mentioned in the introduction, a good content team can succumb to the weight of poorly designed processes. But a robust content operations framework won’t work if your human resources aren’t up to the challenge. So having a reliable content partner or team is essential for your contentOps framework to work.
Set it and don’t forget it
Your contentOps framework should change as you:
- Understand your team’s needs
- Adapt to new business requirements
- Finetune your strategy
- Expand your content production to new channels and formats
So keep your documentation in editable files. And don’t forget to notify the team about updates that may affect their workflow.
Additionally, “keep the door open” and welcome feedback from the team.
Prioritize changing what doesn’t work
Let’s say you have a meeting where your CMO proposes that you double your content production, and pursue new formats. You may excitedly go to your current workflow chart, and add steps and stakeholders to adapt to a bigger and brighter content production schedule.
Instead, you should start by analyzing your current workflow and looking for bottlenecks and roadblocks that would prevent you from scaling and diversifying your production today. That way, instead of building castles in the sky, you’ll reverse-engineer better processes from what is failing you right now.
Strategy is king
The purpose of contentOps is to be able to follow through with the strategy, at speed and cost-effectively. That’s your main success criterion. Never lose sight of the direct relation between strategy and operations.
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