Why you don’t (yet) need a uniform content development process [Rose-Colored Glasses]

The pandemic has caused organizations (finally) to worry about building a strategic content development function.

As a result, I see more and more content marketing executives faced with the challenge of solving how content flows through the company. It is important that companies finally learn what it means to act like a media company.

It will not be easy.

Organizations are a mess of contradicting agendas, values, priorities and goals. And the effects of these conflicts seem to be particularly severe in terms of content.

Why? Because content is communication. If parts of the company do not communicate well internally, the company cannot communicate well externally either.

If teams don’t communicate well internally, the company can’t communicate well externally – and that hurts #ContentMarketing, @Robert_Rose says of @CMIContent. Click to tweet

Who owns which content?

I recently spoke to a marketing director who plans to launch an initiative to clarify the company’s enterprise content strategy in 2022. The effort stems from an issue many companies face – a lack of agreement on who should drive content development for certain parts of the customer journey.

The marketing team did not feel responsible for creating content to cross-sell new products and services to existing customers. However, the Account Services team felt that this type of content should be a core part of marketing.

Since nobody owned the initiative, random actions with customer content occurred.

Existing customers received mixed messages about what new products were available when and why they might be interested. And every team was frustrated with the results.

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The aim is to create a function out of content dysfunction

When the marketing director looked into the issue, he found that the content development process was head-to-toe dysfunctional. But engaging with corporate-level content was overwhelming.

In some of the other affected areas, executives disagreed on which part of the process was causing the most problems. The chorus “it’s not my team” echoed through the figurative corridors.

I advised the marketing director to look for ways to create a function within the dysfunction.

Don’t try to dictate a content approach for the entire trip, I suggested. Instead, remove the dysfunction from the content process for one part of the customer journey at a time.

Don’t try to prescribe a #content workflow for the entire customer journey. Try to remove dysfunction from one stage of travel at a time, says @Robert_Rose of @CMIContent. Click to tweet

Marketing teams often look at content from a life cycle perspective. They think, create, produce, activate, manage and measure it. The natural tendency is to create a process that solves part of this life cycle.

Usually discrete teams take care of every step of this life cycle. Creators take care of the creation of content. Design teams package and manage the content. Channel managers activate and promote the content. It seems to be easier to solve in a team than after the customer journey.

Spoiler alert: It is not. The creation process for awareness content could (and probably should) be very different from the creation process for customer service content.

It can be more productive to look at the content development process in isolation. For example, ask: “What is the brainstorming, creation, production, management, activation, and promotion of X?” (Where X represents a specific part of the customer journey, a content platform, or a specific channel).

Yes, this approach keeps the silos. But it’s an opening move for building a functioning process within a dysfunctional organization.

Once you’ve developed a process that works for X, you can move on to the next part of the customer journey and resolve the dysfunction there.


More process, but less complexity

The key to this approach is not to get tangled up in the nature of things should work vs. like them to do work.

The way one team handles content development might work well for them – and not at all for another team.

The way one team handles #content development might work well for them – and not at all good for another team, @Robert_Rose says of @CMIContent. Click to tweet

For example, in the aforementioned company, a marketing professional gathers ideas for website content in a table that lists the priorities, which parts should be created and translated for a global audience. The spreadsheet lives on a server so everyone can find it. The approach works well for the global marketing team and translation agency. But someone on another team wouldn’t know where to look for that table and wouldn’t understand how or when to prioritize.

Could this process be better? Could be. Maybe not.

A pragmatic approach to content development is not all or nothing. It’s not about getting rid of all the variations – or even every dysfunction.

The goal should be to eliminate enough dysfunction to communicate effectively.

Remember, the more information you create to communicate with other teams, the less you create to add value to your audience and customers.

It is your story. Say it well

Pink glasses is a new weekly column where Robert Rose shares his view of the challenges in content marketing. Every Friday he offers arguments, justifications and rhetoric to help you advance the practice of content marketing in your company.

Subscribe to work day or weekly CMI emails to receive rose-colored glasses in your inbox every week.

Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute


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