Tools and templates: the mechanics of content marketing
Despite the fact that our team is constantly working towards deadlines, content marketing does not have an end date. It’s an ongoing juggling act of content strategy, creation, and distribution that requires us to keep anticipating the next project, and the next, and the many others after that.
Pulling that off requires more than just a good to-do list or thorough editorial calendar. Editorial teams need systems in place to keep track of their content at all stages—everything from who’s working on it, to how many rounds of editing it’s gone through, and when each team member should expect to see it. Thankfully, there are a number of tools and templates that can help you to successfully manage your content marketing workflow. (In addition to your trusty to-do list, of course.)
Stay on task with these project management tools
What does managing an editorial calendar entail? Often, the same components as managing a large project—you need to think about timelines, budgets, contracts, and briefs.
We’ll admit that there isn’t a single, perfect software suite for running your editorial calendar… yet. But until a machine is equipped to do that (and we’ll let you know when that happens), here are some strong contenders for systems that can help your editorial team run smoothly.
If you want a zoomed-out view of your content marketing production cycles, Trello just might be the ticket. One way to use Trello is to label lists with the various stages of content production. For example: researching, on hold, writing, editing, image sourcing, scheduled, ready to publish, published. Each idea or piece of content gets put on a “card” and assigned to a corresponding list. This gives you a visual overview of which pieces sit where in your overall editorial calendar.
To help manage each team member’s workflow, you can assign individuals to certain cards or lists. Trello also lets you create a color-coded system, attach documents, mark off completed checklist items, view tasks in calendar mode, add comments to cards to communicate in-software, and set deadlines all within one interface. The main downside? Onboarding your team to this system can be tricky if they already use other project management software—but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be good to go.
In yoga, asana refers to both the place a yogi sits and the posture in which they sit. Asana, the project management software, is meant to bring the same calm to your business by taking the stress and chaos out of your daily task management.
Asana is great for organizing your workflow—and they’ve even created a handy guide to make an editorial calendar within their software. It has the standard features of an editorial calendar, including tasks, subtasks, team member assignments, due dates, etc. But where Asana really shines is its Progress feature, which allows team members to update the status of a project, and let others know if it’s on track or falling behind. Asana is helpful if you like crossing things off your to-do list (who doesn’t love that feeling?), but it might not make sense for a smaller team or one-person operation. Additionally, because Asana is project-focused and deadline-oriented, it is a little inflexible when it comes to changing big dates that are already logged into the system.
Unlike the other project management tools, CoSchedule is exclusively made for marketing calendars. Whether it’s for content marketing, social media marketing, or long-term marketing projects, CoSchedule’s software is tailored for marketers and their needs. It has the standard features and then some—third-party integration, content performance analytics, custom workflows, social media management, and more. There is no free version of CoSchedule (although they do offer free trials), so this may only be worth the price if you have a big team to manage. It is fairly affordable, but it may only be relevant for your marketing team and not benefit other branches of your company.
The Holy Grail of free tools for content marketers, Google apps are perfect for sharing, drafting, and editing documents, files, and more. With them, you can draft blog posts, update your editorial calendar, create spreadsheets to track your efforts, store relevant images and videos, and avoid versioning errors within your team—a dream come true. Google Apps are so useful because they’re a) free and b) collaborative. They can be stand-alone tools for documenting your content strategy and performance, or they can be integrated with one of the software options listed above.
Streamline the editorial process with templates
Take it from a team that’s constantly briefing a network of over 6,000 freelancers: when you have several writer briefs you need to send out ASAP, templates are a necessity. Your editorial team should have multiple templates prepared for the variety of tasks you complete on a regular basis.
Creating templates, and then customizing the essentials later for each writer, will not only save you tons of time, but make it easier on the writers receiving the briefs, who can learn what to expect. For a content marketing manager (or Editorial Manager at Quietly), you should rely on the following templates:
Writer brief templates
A writer brief communicates the key elements of an assignment, task, or campaign, and lets writers know what exactly is expected of them on a project. Usually, a writer brief lists a brand’s mission statement, core values, and overall objective before describing and detailing the assignment, deliverables, and deadlines. A brief template should include the following:
- Overview/objective: a description of the overall project, outlining the big picture and specific goals of the piece. The primary objective of the piece may be to change someone’s opinion, to persuade them to buy something or register for a service, or to encourage them to perform another action.
- Target audience: a description of who the work is for. This could be a type of professional within a given marketplace (e.g. CEOs at SMEs), or a specific demographic (e.g. American women making over $50,000/year). The more detailed, the better.
- Brand specifications: existing brand guidelines, image guides, and other brand-specific instructions that writers need to know upfront. This enables your writer to get up to speed on a brand’s unique voice and style quickly, making your life easier in the long run.
- Content specifications: the subject of the piece, what it should feature, and what angle it should be approached from. Of course, writers will need to know what kind of piece they will be working on in the first place and how they should tackle it to ensure they’re meeting your expectations.
- Deadlines: this should include deadlines for when the work is due, the method of delivery (e.g. email, Google Docs, your own editorial software, etc.), and to whom it is due.
- Absolute don’ts: any rules of off-limit topics and language within the content the writer needs to know.
- Contact information: clear instructions on who to contact and for what. This will save you from unnecessary emails asking to connect with so-and-so and will help keep your projects on track.
You may want to choose brief templates specific to writers, designers, videographers, and other content creators, depending on the type of content you produce—but once you have the template, it should be easy for anyone on your team to fill out the necessary information.
Email automation has been popular for years. It can include anything from newsletter templates to standard email drip campaigns sent to your customers when they perform specific actions on your website. Tools like Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign make it easy to automate your email marketing campaigns and integrate them with your content marketing campaigns.
Many content marketers like to create content templates to ensure consistency in their content. Although every piece of content should provide unique value, and a story should never follow a template, the building blocks that form the most successful pieces of content are remarkably similar. At the very least, a strong piece of content needs a headline, copy, metadata, and images. Even for other mediums—like video and audio—there are fundamentals that need to be considered. You can create custom blog templates to make sure every required component is included:
- Headline options
- Content copy
- Author information/byline
- Meta description
- Focus keywords
- Social media copy for promoting across channels
- Image alt text
- Image selections
You could even create custom templates for different types of articles, such as how-to/tutorials or Q&A posts. The purpose is to help streamline the production process and create stronger pieces of content so that you’re not starting from scratch every time you brief a writer.
The mindset needed to manage your editorial workflow
It’s not hard to adopt the right tools or create time-saving templates to keep your editorial workflow running smoothly. What can be difficult, however, is prioritizing this when you have a million other things to do. But by investing a bit of time up front to implement better processes, tools, and systems, you can improve the quality of your content and workflow (and life) for weeks and months to come.
If you’re ready to take your content to the next level, but you’re not sure where or how to start, talk to Quietly today. We can help set your content marketing up for success.