When it comes to the production of a product, we’ve all heard of the economies of scale. The more you produce, the easier and more cost-effective it is. However, the same isn’t necessarily true when it comes to content production.
Whether you are a large brand with an entire marketing department, complete with a content marketing team, or you are just a small start-up with one marketing employee, there will come a point at which the production level of your content becomes too difficult to control.
As the demand for content production, specifically high-quality content, continues to raise the issues associated with scaling are quickly becoming apparent to content marketers. But like everything, there is a way to cope.
Increasing your company’s level of quality content production is a necessity in today’s marketing environment. Mastering the skills to maximize this inevitability will enable you to produce quality content at a scalable level.
Below is a step-by-step guide to the content production process. These steps of scaling content production can be used whether you’re a brand, an agency, or whether you have small or large production assignments.
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Step 1: Identify what high-quality content means to you
There is a reason this is the first step – it is likely the most important one in the whole process. Identifying what you and your organizations’ expectations are for the quality of your content will provide the blueprint for moving forward with your content production process.
There is no right or wrong way to go about identifying what is important to your business, but a good place to start is with a questionnaire that thoroughly examines the following points:
What is the voice of your brand? If you don’t already have the answer to this question, then getting it will require a lot of in-depth thinking about who and what your brand is. What is your style? What is your personality? The answers from these questions alone can drive your brand style guide and help determine marketing initiatives for years to come.
Who is your target audience? Determining this question will likely go hand-in-hand with determining the voice of your brand. Develop “buyer personas” based on who the first and second target demographics are for your company.
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What is your content purpose? This may vary depending on if you’re creating a video, blog post, podcast etc., but is a vital question to consider before attempting to scale any campaign. You need to know how you will be measuring the content and what those expectations are before launching it. Are you looking to inform your customers? Entertain them? Generate website traffic? Social traffic? Improve backlinks? Increase sales? Essentially, what is the goal of creating content?
What are the details of your content? Once the objectives have all been considered and decided upon you can start the process of considering the specifications and scope of the content. For example, if you’re creating blog articles, how many words will each one be? How many articles will you need to create to reach your goals? These goals should be as specific and concrete as you can make them. This will ultimately ensure you’re getting results.
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Find examples for inspiration: It is likely that your content will fall into a similar category or structure to something that is already out there. Whether it’s a blog article, infographic, white paper, video etc. Look for examples across the web, even if they fall outside of your industry. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Seeing what successful campaigns are doing with design, reach and content will help you to establish concrete ideas of your own expectations.
Step 2: Write down what your expectations are
Once you have a clear idea of what your expectations are, who your audience is and the level of quality you are looking for, you need to write those expectations down in a project guide. This needs to be done for every project, as each project will have its own parameters and own goals.
A project guide is a blueprint and measurement tool for your project. It’s what you and your employees can look back on to help guide a project towards your goals. In this vein, the more descriptive it can be, the better.
Structure your project guides to clearly define things such as brand voice, target audience, type of content, length, keywords and other specifics you deem necessary. Remember, however, that this is ultimately just a guide and should not take away creative level details such as article titles, and creative direction.
This is a living, breathing document that should be easily accessed by everyone on the team and should be open to change as more project data becomes available.
Step 3: Create an internal quality assurance process and task manager
When you are scaling content, you are spreading the control of your work to each writer/employee that is undertaking the content production. To counteract the lack of control and to ensure your campaigns fit the guidelines and brand style you have established, develop an internal quality assurance (QA) process.
The members of the QA team will be the people responsible for cross-referencing the content, sending back any revisions and ultimately approving the content when it meets expectations. These individuals should be fully aware of the production process that got you to where you are. Ideally, they should be involved with the steps of developing your content production process right from the beginning.
Step 4: Find Content Creators
The most cost-effective strategy for scaling content is to find reliable freelancers that you can outsource your jobs to on a per-project basis. By doing this you ensure you’re not tying up employee resources without consistent workflows and with your established QA process you still maintain control internally over the final product.
Look for creative writers that have experience producing the type of content that you are looking for. Expertise in your industry is a great added bonus but not necessarily needed.
Once you have a list of potential creatives, choose the best fits for your project based on their abilities. There are a few ways you can test for this including:
Give them a paid, practical test that proves their abilities to follow direction and hit deadlines
Give them a small, paid, sample project to see how they deliver
Ask them for a list of references and examples of their work
Step 5: Create an organized tracking system
Once you have decided on your creative team, it’s important to be upfront in your communication with them. They should have a good idea about workload, payment, and expectations per project. Create an outline for each project that conveys, in detail, the expectations for each piece.
As an internal team, it’s important to set up a monitoring system that tracks work, hours and status of projects. There are many great project management systems out there that can easily accomplish this for you. This is also a perfect place for the internal QA team to voice their notes of the creatives work, as well as help to improve projects as a collective team.
Step 6: Review the content
If all the previous steps have been completed, then this step should be relatively easy.
After the creatives have submitted their content, have the internal QA team review these projects against the expectations that were set at the beginning. If there are any errors or discrepancies, send it back to the creatives for revisions.
Step 7: Assess the project workflow
In addition to providing feedback to the writers and creatives, it is important to look within your internal team to make sure that the production workflow is going smoothly. Keep a fluid source of information and project guide iterations in all areas of production to increase the efficiency for every additional project.
Without a doubt, the hardest part of the content production is developing an efficient workflow that supports volume and quality consistency. That being said, there is a huge opportunity for companies and content marketing professionals to set up internal processes for scaling content production up and down as needed. The steps provided here are a tried and tested method that has seen clients gain competitive advantages.
It’s understandable that there will always be quality concerns, especially when associated with high production levels. But establishing processes that effectively document and outline expectation, while also holding team members accountable will have you well on your way to producing large quantities of high-quality content.