Great content doesn't create itself. Maybe you and your team get lucky every once in a while and knock it out of the park, but consistent quality comes from having a repeatable, and teachable, process. Web content workflow management is exactly what that is.
Content workflow is a sustainable project management process by which content creators, led by stakeholders, turn an idea, story or topic into easily consumable media that provides real value to the consumer. It includes all the tasks on the way to completing content, from concepting to defining roles to documentation.
By codifying the procedure of generating ideas, writing text, selecting imagery and creating visual media you create consistency and relevancy. By formalizing the approval process, translations, legal reviews, scheduling, publishing, distribution and promotion that come with new content, you create accountability and a streamlined system.
Content workflow can be used for one-time website building or revision as well as ongoing content creation for blogs, newsletters, social media or any other type of content you traffic in. Content is genuinely what makes the web go ‘round, it's so vital to get it right that we've developed a content planning tool to help you get there.
Content is rarely a one person job and an effective website content creation workflow typically involves multiple members of your marketing team. Here's a content management workflow diagram that breaks down the management system for building out solid content.
Another way to think of content workflow is as a content management process. To publish content you need a point person, or project manager, to develop and execute a plan. A well laid plan will systematically remove friction, obstacles and bottlenecks and help identify opportunities for optimization.
Here are our best practices and methodology for creating an optimal content workflow.
Without goals you can't reasonably create a workflow. You have to know where you're heading in order to define the rest. Well-defined goals allow you to build a content workflow process that best supports that direction from the start. Understanding what compelling and SEO-rich content requires, i.e., quality, consistency, topic coverage, word counts and article lengths, for starters, helps you estimate and allocate the appropriate resources. Be aware of the constraints you're working with as they'll be the limiting factor against which you'll ensure that those goals and requirements are attainable. We'd recommend starting out with a list for each of these 3 factors to help guide your content marketing strategy and workflow.
Create a list of every step in the content creation process – all of them – including ideation, outline creation, content gathering, writing, graphic design, proofreading, editing, approvals, translations, scheduling, publishing and promotion. Once you've ID'd the steps that satisfy all of your stated requirements, put 'em in order. Note which steps need to go before or after others to avoid any unnecessary backtracking or revisions. For example, don't translate the piece before the copy is approved, don't get all the graphic design done before the writing is OK'd. Avoid wasting time by making approval workflow part of the content production workflow.
Delegation is the name of the game and identifying key stakeholders for the entire process is important, as someone's ultimately got to be the decider-in-chief. They'll be responsible for ushering content along the process and ticking things off the checklist you previously made; interim and final approvals, conflict resolution, vote tie-breaking and any other high-level decision-making tasks that need attention. Of course, allowing too many cooks in the kitchen, or too many stakeholders giving input, can spell disaster. Ideally, select one person who has the final word for any piece of content, maybe including input from 2-3 other stakeholders if needed.
Cliché alert: teamwork makes the dreamwork and identifying who on your team can cover the various tasks associated with the content operations is important. Plus, knowing who you do have also forces you to address who you don't have and take the steps to bring them onboard. Keep costs in mind here, particularly if you're bringing new people in that require additional resources and training to get up to speed. Content isn't free and neither is the expertise to create it, try to keep your entire team as efficient and agile as possible. In other words: multi-task where possible.
Depending on the size of your team and content needs, it's often beneficial to diagram or map your workflow using symbols to represent key personnel, tasks or phases in the content assembly line. Put them in order and draw connectors between them to indicate flow. Getting this sort of bird's eye view of how your work flows really helps pinpoint any snags or potential bottlenecks and sharpens your content strategy. In a perfect world this would be linear and, save for the project manager, avoid circular patterns that have content returning to the same person over and over which could represent poor order or redundancy.Learn more about Slickplan's Diagram Maker.
Sounds obvious, but it's important to understand where the lifecycle of a piece of content begins and ends. Ask yourself where does this content really begin; in the brainstorming phase, as a request from a director or from the SEO manager? Likewise, you should also know when you're well and truly done working on it. After you schedule your content for publication, do you plan to promote it on social media or other channels? If so, you may want to consider adding these steps to the overall workflow, especially if they occur for everything your team creates.
Diagram, diagram, diagram. Are you sensing a pattern? Diagramming how a visitor will potentially move through your site helps you improve the overall user experience, giving you the ability to better support your content, purpose and audience. Having an easy to interpret visual diagram allows you to see and edit the various actual user paths through your site from page to page. One of the best parts? By diagramming, you can uncover and fix unexpected dead ends, excess clicks and other navigational issues.
We've already talked about delegating a project manager/stakeholder but you also need to assign tasks to the rest of your content team with an eye towards grouping and reordering tasks where you can. This will reduce handoffs between people and make it easier to cover more without interruption; a lean, mean collaboration team. Naturally, you'll likely need to play around a bit with the groupings and orderings with some real life trial and error as things don't always work as outlined on paper. Worth noting, don't feel locked into the first plan you create, if it's not working, just adjust. Optimization is the goal, take as many iterations as you need to get there.
Revisions come with the territory of producing content. Rarely, if ever, will a first draft be the draft you publish. Therefore you want to make revisions part of your content development workflow. If the changes have little or no effect on future steps, they can likely be grouped and addressed all at once. If, however, something needs to be locked in, like copy for a translation, do not proceed to the next steps until it's approved. If people know to expect revisions, it also helps with managing expectations and creating more reasonable deadlines.
Developing a content workflow does more than just make your life easier, it helps you:
Whether it's web copy, blog posts or social media posts, Slickplan's Content Planner allows you to manage your content workflow from right within the app. Seamlessly gather, edit and produce your content, individually or with your team, easily and efficiently.
Label and follow content through its lifecycle with our pre-made statuses or create your own. When you change the status, key stakeholders are automatically informed and the project can move to the next step.
Use the dashboard to get a bird's eye view of all the content you have in process. From recent activity to which templates were used to individual page statuses, it's project management at a glance.
Effortlessly share your diagrams with team members and clients. Send a link or an email to grant access to your project's HTML view, which allows for easy reading.
Who's assigned to which pages? How far along are they? Content Planner has a dedicated column to quickly answer those questions and filter by writer. A big time saver for PMs overseeing large content teams.
A content workflow template allows multiple contributors to build consistent content across multiple pages. Just create a page template, assign it to individual pages and your contributors will be locked into creating content within those predefined layouts.
What might a typical content creation workflow template look like? Here’s an example of a common workflow for writing copy.
Base the knowledge hunt on the content brief
Get organized before you start writing
Deliver your first stab to the team
Ensure content aligns with tone and brand guidelines
Edit as necessary to sharpen and shape the piece
Back to the editor for a final ok
Get in your CMS and then get it out to the people
Blast your social channels and get it out to email subscribers
Building out these workflows across the board really helps expedite the website content planning and allows you to pump out more solid content in less time.
Get expert recommendations for effective content gathering. Find out how Slickplan can help you plan content and get better organized.