Financial workflows, admin workflows, HR workflows, and Procurement workflows are common business jargon. Content marketing or content workflows are relatively new concepts in the marketing industry. What is content marketing? Content marketing is the process that involves planning, developing, and sharing content with the target audience and prospects.
The popularity of digital marketing platforms has shifted the spotlight to content marketing. Marketers are expected to churn out new and innovative marketing content that connects instantly with the target audience, generates brand awareness, and drives revenue. Having a streamlined and standardized content publishing workflow is a must to ensure that content marketing engages the target audience.
What is Content Management Workflow?
Content Workflow refers to the sequence of steps undertaken to produce marketing content. A typical marketing workflow includes information, people, tasks, and tools required to create the content. Content planning, creation, and publishing together make up the content workflow process. More specifically, content workflow determines how content is requested, sourced, created, reviewed, approved, and delivered.
A content workflow may be simple or complex depending on the type of content you are creating, marketing objectives, budget, and scope of the project. Taking the definition of content workflow, a bit further, we could say that content marketing workflows also define the roles and responsibilities, and documentation for each step of the content creation process.
A typical marketing workflow requires inputs and efforts from disparate sources, which include people, managers, writers, editors, SEOs, and designers. Production of content includes planning, writing, SEO review, approval, publishing, quality checks, and distribution. Content creation can never have an endpoint, the need for content will always be there.
Content requirements are usually triggered by new products or new services or new search terms, or new marketing topics/trends. Content creation requires out-of-the-box and innovative thinking to come up with content that engages the target audience.
As a marketeer, it is essential to know what the competitors are focusing on so that you can come up with a content strategy that differentiates your product/service offering from the competition. You will be surprised to know that 47% of buyers view at least 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative. According to HubSpot, video is the most preferred and popular form of content marketing, beating other forms like blogs and infographics.
Now that we have understood what content workflows are, let us explore the different types of content workflows. Common types of content workflows include:
- Web marketing content like articles, blogs, press releases, landing pages, white papers
- Sales collateral which includes promotional material, solution sheets, specifications, etc.
- Case studies
- Social media posts
- Content that supports email campaigns
- Content that complements paid advertising
Each of these types will have different components in the workflow. For example: consider a blog post that includes technical details about the product/service. Such a blog would require additional review layers to validate the technical information included in the blog. Similarly, content that includes data sheets or specifications, or sales collateral may include additional technical review or editorial review layers. On the other hand, content that does not include technical information requires lesser review effort and time.
Marketing teams that produce a wide variety of content may find it challenging to handle the complexity and variety of content workflows. Here is where content workflow software proves to be useful in simplifying and streamlining content workflows.
A well-defined content management workflow helps marketing teams:
- Ensure that content is accurate, legitimate, consistent, and timely
- Ensure that content outcomes and deadlines are achievable
- Enable employees to see where and how they fit into the larger scheme of content creation
- Overcome common content problems like inconsistencies, errors, and approval/review bottlenecks
- Ensure that content marketing teams are well aware of their roles and responsibilities
- Improve accountability within the content creation team
Active engagement of existing customers and wooing prospects can be effectively done with content marketing workflows. Content workflows play a key role in enhancing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Every content team that aims to deliver content on time and ensure consistency of content must consider content management workflows. Defining the content workflow helps break down the content process into smaller and more manageable tasks. When represented visually, content workflows help the management spot process bottlenecks easily and quickly.
The Risks of Working Without a Content Workflow
It is clear from the above sections that content workflows bring order and clarity into the content management process. What if the marketing team does not have a content workflow? What are all the risks they run into by managing content creation in an unstructured and unplanned manner?
1. Lack of Clear objectives:
Working without a clear plan of action or a well-defined content workflow the chances of failure of marketing or advertising campaigns are very high. People and processes are at the core of content workflows. Marketing content initiatives that do not include both these elements are heading towards imminent failure. Clarity in the objectives of the content marketing initiatives is a must for the success of the campaigns. A successful content marketing campaign must be clear on the expectations of the target audience, the USP of the product or service to be highlighted, offers and discounts that are being rolled out, etc.
2. Lack of clarity in process flow:
Without a clearly defined workflow that defines the sequence and dependency of tasks, the hand-off from one team member to another is messed up. For example: if the copywriter is not clear about whom to send their drafts to, the draft remains stuck with them and will not move further in the content creation process.
3. Scope for duplication:
content creation process that is not supported by clear-cut workflows lacks transparency about process flow. All the stakeholders are not clear about their roles in the process, as a result, duplication or wrong work allocations may occur. Duplication of work not only creates confusion but also increases marketing costs.
4. Resource wastage:
lack of transparency in the content creation process flow results in wrong work allocations. Work assignment is not based on skills and competencies but on resource availability. Without a content workflow, resources are not utilized optimally. This results in a waste of resources and a dip in job satisfaction.
5. Time and cost increase:
inefficient resource allocation and lack of consistency in process workflows lead to wastage of time and an increase in costs. Content creation becomes an expensive process ridden with bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
An unstructured and unplanned content creation process is prone to risks such as increased costs, resource wastage, inconsistencies, errors, and duplication. A clear-cut mapping of content workflow tasks against resources ensures optimal resource utilization and brings down additional costs.
Impact of Having Content Marketing Workflows
The content workflow can have a profound impact on the success of marketing content strategy. A few statistics to reiterate the importance of having content marketing workflows –
A 2023 report on State of Marketing by Hubspot reveals that 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
The report also reveals that 84% of the marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
Another 2022 report by Content Marketing Institute reveals that 90% of the respondents in the survey used short articles/posts (less than 3000 words) for Content Marketing purposes in the last 12 months.
Another Hubspot survey reveals that 56% of the marketers that leverage blogging say it is effective and 10% say it generates the biggest return on investment.
The above statistics make it more clear that digital content workflows are the mainstay of content marketing. The success of the content relies heavily on the content workflows. As much as 70% of the marketers say that SEO performs better than pay per click marketing strategies. A content workflow empowers your team to create quality content that can drive sales and leads. How do content workflows impact digital marketing efforts?
- Accelerates content publishing, hence, the edge over competitors
- Brings clarity on the team’s roles and responsibilities
- Increases bandwidth for content promotion
- Saves considerable amount of time on repeatable processes and templates
- Improves quality of content released
But, what if the content is not of good quality? How does that impact content marketing strategy?
- Increases time period for publishing an individual piece of content
- Brings chaos and confusion into roles and responsibility allocations among team members
- Increases inconsistency and error margins in content promotion
- Wastes time in reinventing the wheel at all times
- Brings down the ability to release high quality content
A striking feature of successful content teams is a digital content workflow that empowers and harnesses their creativity. Low performing teams are under the impression that innovating new content dictates new workflows, but, in reality, while trying to be innovative teams actually fail to optimize their workflows.
Why are Kanban Charts not effective Content Workflow Tools?
Kanban charts have been used frequently by information workers. Kanban format is based on project management, where each task flows from one state to another. It is a fact that these boards can be helpful for content marketing teams to track their projects closely. However, these boards are not as powerful as a well-defined and well-documented workflow. The statuses in Kanban boards are too broad to suit the requirements of content marketing teams. The capabilities of Kanban boards do not match up with the steps that entail content publishing on key channels, which might cause confusion within the team w.r.t the piece of content in a certain status or which status the project falls under.
A workflow template can solve all of these challenges faced while using Kanban boards. It is a much better option for creating content marketing workflows.
All about Content Workflow Templates
As discussed in the above section, a content workflow template overcomes the problems presented by the use of Kanban boards. Having a template for every important content that goes out or every important marketing channel is advantageous for the marketing team. Each marketing channel workflow has a different framework for handling content. For example, the blog content workflow might state that editing must be done by the content manager, while the YouTube content workflow might state that the content manager needs to get editing done by a freelance video editor.
In general, a digital content workflow must have the following phases:
1. Information phase – An overview of the channel chosen for marketing must be provided as the first thing on the template. This provides the content marketing team with information on the purpose of the channel and the goal metrics for each piece of content. The main points to be covered include –
- Goal of the channel or content type
- How the channel aligns with the company strategy
- Benchmarks for each piece of content
- Snippets of top performing content from this channel or format
2. Strategy phase – In this section, complete details on what needs to be done before a content moves forward in the execution workflow must be provided. The main points to include are –
- Criteria that the content has to meet
- How content fits into overall strategy
- Purpose of this particular piece of content
- Initiation plan for the content
3. Assigning phase – In this section, you need to list out what actions need to happen for assigning content. The points to be included –
- What skills/roles to be involved in each piece of content
- Location of the brief to be shared with collaborators
- Tools or processes to be used while assigning to collaborators
4. Publishing phase – All the activities associated with publishing, like reviewing, editing, writing metadata, etc, need to be included in this phase. What all to include in this phase-
- Who handles the reviewing and editing of content
- The tools that are involved in preparing to publish and publishing
- Specific steps and actions that need to happen before or during publishing
5. Promotion phase – The main benefit of having well-defined content workflows is that the team will get more consistent with the way they promote content. Important components of this phase include-
- Channels used to promote this specific content
- Skills and roles involved
- Tools and actions required during promotion
6. Analysis phase – In this phase, it is important to add all the information your team needs to know about the procedure for reviewing the success of the content and how/where to report it. Details to be included-
- Frequency or schedule of analysis
- Tools used for analyzing performance
- Results that are reported or stored
- Actions that are triggered when content meets or does not meet the benchmarks
The right content workflow software can streamline the content management workflow so that good quality content can be created.
Understanding the Content Workflow Lifecycle
A content management workflow is a series of tasks carried out by a team (mostly within the content creation team) to plan, create, and publish content on time to reach out to targeted audiences. How the complexity of the content workflow depends on various factors like objectives, type of content, budget, and the scope of the project.
A typical content workflow would consist of the following steps:
1. Research on Type of Content:
This being the first step, sets the tone for the rest of the content workflow. The complexity of the content workflow depends on the type and nature of the content. The content strategy decides the type of content that needs to be created. Identifying the buyer personas is the first step to deciding on the type of content. Uncovering customers’ pain points, challenges, expectations, obstacles, and fears help create buying personas.
Performance analytics on old content also provides insights into top-performing content and topics that the audience is enjoying. Keyword research is a great way to start researching content creation. The decision on the type of content should be based on its uses. For example, blog posts are useful for building relationships with readers and nurturing prospects, while e-books are effective in attracting prospects. Video content is a great way to create awareness and engage customers and prospects about a particular topic.
2. Defining roles and responsibilities:
Once the type of content has been decided, the next step is to identify and assign tasks to each person in the team. The tasks need to be identified and categorized into stages through the content workflow. Content strategist, content writer, graphic designer, subject matter expert, user experience designer, content editor, and email and social media manager are some of the roles in the content management workflow.
- Content strategist – In charge of conducting a thorough content audit and inventory and creating content briefs and style guides. Content strategists use various SEO tools for developing a content strategy.
- Content writer – The content writer will develop the main content based on the outline provided during the research phase and inputs from the content strategist.
- Graphic designer – The content strategist, copywriter, and graphic designer team up to decide on graphics and images appropriate to the developed content and overall strategy. The creation of graphics and overall design of the piece is the responsibility of the graphic designer.
- Subject matter expert – The factuality and overall quality of the content is reviewed by the subject matter expert. Updating or correcting the content is done at this stage.
- User experience designer – Testing and optimizing the user experience of the content is done by the UX designer.
- Content editor – The content manager will do the final approval of the content before it is published on the internal content management system (CMS). While uploading it on the CMS, internal links, images, and files are added, and SEO practices are applied to the final content. From the CMS, the content is published on the company website.
- Email marketing and social media manager – After publishing the content on the company’s website, the social media and email manager promote the content via social media websites and email lists.
3. Setting deadlines:
Setting clear deadlines for each task in the content workflow is an important step. For setting timelines for each task, the tasks must be listed. Holding an internal meeting is useful to brainstorm all the tasks in the content creation process. While listing the tasks, the time required for each task also must be noted. Other information like expertise within the team, duration of content projects in the past, and methods for estimating time for each task should be considered while deciding on the deadlines. Prioritizing the tasks before setting the deadlines enables efficient organizing. While setting the deadlines, it is advisable to have buffers in case of any unexpected delays.
4. Have a single reference source:
Having a trusted employee oversee the entire content production process ensures a smooth flow of the content workflow. Overseeing each stage of the content creation process is important for successful completion. Senior managers, senior marketers, or content managers are ideal for performing this role.
5. Track and control content workflow:
You need to use the right business tools that help you track and control the progress of the content workflow. Using content workflow software is a smart way to keep track of the content management process.
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Components of a Content Workflow
The content workflow is all about the people, processes, and tasks at the heart of content management. Choosing the people, processes, and tasks carefully is important for the health of the workflow. Let us look closely at the components of the workflow.
Mapping the entire content creation process, from entry to exit points of content creation, approval, publication, and optimization helps learn where the content slows down in the process. Transparency and visibility into every stage of the process help identify the places where changes are needed to improve the efficiency of the process. The quicker the content is generated and published, the more relevant and responsive it will be. The approval workflow is an important stage in the content management workflow. Creating a seamless approval workflow improves the quality of the content and ensures that every piece of content that goes out is valuable and on-brand. A trusted and experienced person must be put in charge of improving all digital marketing content that goes out.
The smooth running of the content workflow depends on the tasks that are created as part of the workflow. While designing the workflow, you must consider all the tasks that need to be completed for a piece of content to traverse from ideation to publishing. The type of content that is required determines the tasks in the content workflow. For example, video content requires tasks like storyboarding, filming, editing, review, approval, finalizing, and publishing. Whereas, publishing a blog post will not require tasks like storyboarding or filming. Tasks like repurposing and reuse of content must be included to make the content useful and usable across multiple platforms. Using workflow software provides visibility into the status of tasks in the process.
The content marketers in the marketing team play a crucial role in the effectiveness and timeliness of the content project. Smooth operations are possible when each team member delivers optimal performance. The ultimate goal of content creation is to maximize the value for the clients.
When each team member is aware of their roles and responsibilities in the content workflow, they work to their full potential. While creating new content processes we need to ensure that the right people are assigned to appropriate tasks and that each person is aware of their roles and responsibilities in the content workflows. The right assignment of tasks can be done by considering each member’s role and strengths related to content development.
In addition to assigning people to appropriate roles, establishing a clear communication network between team members. For example, when a content writer writing a blog post requires clarification while developing content, they should be able to easily communicate with the content strategist to get it clarified.
Task and Status Based Workflows Decoded
Content workflows can be classified into 2 main categories – task- and status-based workflows. Before choosing the content workflow for your organization, it is important to know what these 2 workflows are, their similarities and differences. Clarity in the types of content workflows helps you strategize the right workflow for your projects.
Task-based workflows are those workflows where each stage is a task that needs to be carried out before moving on to the next step. Each step in the task-based workflow needs to be described in detail and everyone working on the project needs to be clear on what is expected out of them. These types of workflows are particularly useful for new content teams, because whoever is assigned to the task is clear of what is to be done and what are the next steps.
Status-based workflows are mostly preferred by more experienced teams. Unlike task-based workflows, in status-based workflows each stage is defined by status and the stages do not include detailed descriptions of what needs to be done. It is easier to track status-based workflows, and they can be used in a wide variety of content types. Before choosing the workflow for your organization, knowing the attributes of each type, and the content creation process and their roles is important.
Developing a Content Management Workflow
Developing the right content workflow must be done after several considerations. While you map out the content workflow by covering every type of content to be created, you must bear in mind the following points for creating content management workflows are:
- How each content piece fits into the overall content marketing strategy
- What are the tasks that each team member must complete to create good content?
- Appropriate mapping of each team member against each task
- Resources required by each team member to complete their tasks
- Time required by each team member to complete their tasks
- What condition needs to be satisfied for the project to move to the next stage?
- What happens after the completion of a task? How is task completion communicated to the rest of the team?
- Ways to streamline the content workflow to avoid repetition, duplication, or redundancy
- What happens when exceptional circumstances occur, and the content project needs to be fast-tracked
There are several ways to map the content management workflow, the most effective way being flow diagrams. Visual representation of the content approval process ensures smooth flow as the process moves forward. Content approval workflows are useful for any business that works with a content strategy. While even a small business might benefit from content approval workflows, it becomes a must for growing enterprises.
A typical content approval workflow comprises the following components:
The workflow begins with the request for a particular type of content. The request can come from any source- leadership of the organization, marketing team, or subject matter experts. The workflow must be designed in such a way that various types of requests can be accommodated. The request for content is directed to the editor or content strategist who reviews it to ensure that it is aligned with the overall content strategy. If it does not fit into the strategy, it is rejected at this stage itself.
Once the topic is approved, the brief is passed on to the search engine marketing expert. At this stage, the right keywords are assigned to the topic, and the structural elements of the content are decided. In case the request is sent by the SEO expert, then this step is taken care of.
Once the topic is fixed and relevant keywords are assigned, the writer is assigned the task of developing content. If it is an article, then it should include details like a comprehensive brief, keywords, references, and a deadline. If this is a task for developing specialized content, then an additional step may be added for seeking clarity from a subject matter expert (SME) or the requestor.
Design and review of content
Once the content is ready, the next step is to enhance readability by adding visual elements. The graphic designer is responsible for adding visual content to the developed content. After adding the visual content, the editor reviews the complete piece. Any changes to the text or images are communicated to the appropriate person for editing. After the changes are incorporated, the content comes back to the editor for final approval.
Publishing and distribution
The approved content is then taken to the publishing stage and distributed to various channels as per the content marketing strategy. Community engagement experts are tasked with the distribution of content to various channels.
Benefits of using Content Marketing Workflows
Content management workflows are useful in increasing the output of the content creation process and improving the quality of content. A well-planned content workflow eliminates repetitive tasks and minimizes the time teams spend on organizing and tracking work. Some of the key advantages of using content management workflows are:
1. Helps manage complex workflows
Content workflows are relatively complex compared to other business workflows. Different types of content require different workflows with additional workflow elements. Different types of content workflows require different content marketing strategies as well. Using content workflow software helps the teams organize, configure, and visualize these elements with a no-code, drag-and-drop interface. Workflow software is highly adaptable and flexible according to changes in the process of scaling as the team grows.
2. Eliminates repetitive tasks
Workflow software automates repetitive processes in the content workflow. Complex content workflows entail back-and-forth communication between various stages of content creation, regular status updates, document creation, high-volume tasks, and notifications. Content management workflow automates all these tasks so that the team can focus on more important tasks like planning, writing, editing, and publishing content.
3. Improves collaboration
Successful execution of content strategy is a team effort. Input is required from many people for planning, producing, and perfecting the content. By integrating workflow software with email and messaging apps, teams can enhance collaboration and create a single source of truth for each stage in the content creation workflow. Seamless communication within the workflow enables timely notifications upon task completion or task updation or approval so that content is delivered on time.
4. Improves consistency across content workflows
Missing or incomplete information is a common challenge faced by marketers. Content management software allows users to apply rules that prevent content to move through the content process unless required fields/information is filled in. Standardized forms ensure consistency across the content management process.
5. Provide deeper insights
Content management software provides deeper real-time insights into the status of tasks through dashboards, reports, and multiple data views. Multiple sources for insights provide the team flexibility to always monitor work. Reports and analytics on created content can be created instantly. Content workflow software also helps the teams understand the cost aspects of creating content.
6. Better content planning and inventory
Content planning involves understanding existing content and gauging its performance and suitability for specific campaigns or new marketing activities. The software also provides a reliable and accurate inventory that helps maintain a content library.
7. Integrates content creation tools
Several content marketing teams use different tools to create and publish their content. Workflow management software integrates a wide range of content creation and publishing tools and platforms for seamless communication and collaborative experiences. Tools like content management systems (CMS), email and messaging, document sharing, calendars, e-commerce, and social media publishing tools can be integrated by workflow software.
8. Helps teams to stick to deadlines
Delays and rewrites are staples in any content production cycle. Sometimes writers miss the mark or deadlines which ultimately delays content creation and publishing. A workflow management system makes it easier to stay on target and be aware of deadlines.
9. Reduces wastage
Content management software helps manage waste by bringing consistency to information, improving collaboration, automating repetitive tasks, and integrating tools. Automation of repetitive tasks enables the team to focus on strategic tasks.
10. Organizes content requests
Content requests are received from several departments within the organization. Organizing and prioritizing a high volume of requests through manual methods can be a daunting task. Content management software helps in organizing and prioritizing content by creating a single point of entry for all content requests.
Common Issues with Content Workflows
The usefulness of having a content management workflow is evident from the above discussions. A streamlined content management workflow is an essential part of a successful content strategy. However, a poorly planned and implemented content workflow can be disastrous for the content marketing strategy. Common issues with content management workflows are listed below.
- Too many approvers slow down the publication process and cause unnecessary back-and-forth reviews of content
- Having very fewer approvers causes process bottlenecks
- Poorly planned workflow results in unnecessary task repetition
- Lack of clarity in task allocation can result in abandoned content
- Unclear deadlines result in content slipping between the cracks
- Inflexible workflows do not allow sufficient time for revisions and iterations
- Handovers, alerts, and notifications that are not automated cause delays in approvals
- Lack of standardization in the content management workflow results in shoddy content and delays
Content management workflows play a critical role in ensuring the quality of content. A report by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) states that 58% of businesses do not have a formal content workflow.
Best Practices for Creating High-Quality Content
Creating content workflows can be quite challenging without the right strategy. Every content team has its challenges, so the workflow template that suits one project may be a different fit for the other. Irrespective of the final workflow you create, the following tips can be used to enhance the content creation process.
Make the process transparent to newcomers – Onboarding is an essential part of content creation. Although the content workflow is transparent and efficient, new employees require some help to tap into it. Accurate documentation of the business process is essential to ensure that every team member is clear about their role.
Use of a content calendar to stay ahead of the curve – An editorial calendar helps the team plan and stay updated on upcoming tasks. With a visual representation of all marketing projects and content efforts, tackling content strategy becomes easier.
Clarify content approval requirements – You need to precisely state what is expected from team members, project managers, and co-workers involved in the approval process. This helps in pushing the content piece down the approval pipeline faster.
Having a Plan B – Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so deadlines must be set such that a buffer is set for taking care of possible issues in content creation. When spare time is crucial, optimizing the workflows is possible.
Monitor progress and send reminders – Content creation is not a one-time affair, but an ongoing and asynchronous process. So, it is important to stay on track while creating content, set up a system of updates and track status of each content piece in work. Timely notifications and alerts are more effective in tracking progress, than disturbing colleagues for updates frequently.
Content Marketing Workflow Trends for 2023
With the ever-expanding and evolving world of content marketing, marketers have their tasks cut out for 2023. There are several emerging and continuing trends in content marketing that can prove to be useful in shaping your approach and refining your content marketing strategy. Forbes Agency Council has come up with the top content marketing trends for 2023. Let us look at some of the top content marketing trends for 2023.
A/B testing of Website Content – A/B testing is a marketing experiment that splits the audience into groups to test several variations of the campaign. The use of this testing method was restricted to paid advertising landing pages. 2023 will see a rise in the use of A/B testing for blog posts to verify if it helps increase the conversion rate.
Marketing in the Metaverse – With the rapid increase in the use of virtual and augmented reality, marketers will go a step ahead to include the metaverse in their marketing strategy.
Podcasts – Audio marketing via podcasts is a key trend for 2023.
Video marketing – Videos will be increasingly used in marketing campaigns.
Adding shoppable links – Shoppable links will be a key feature of content marketing in 2023.
Content marketing workflows are relatively complex when compared to other business workflows. Content workflow software enables the marketing team to get more content and minimize the chaos in the content management workflow. Having a well-defined content management workflow also enables teams to deliver content on time by eliminating process bottlenecks and sign-off delays.
Customized content creation workflows are the need of the hour for creating quality and effective marketing content. Cflow is a cloud-BPM workflow automation software that provides custom workflow automation solutions for key business functions. Marketers can build custom content workflows within minutes using Cflow. To explore Cflow, sign up for the free trial.
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