Content marketing is a marriage between your expertise and a well-informed strategy. It’s a time-intensive process, and you might make the decision to outsource to a content marketing agency.
While outsourcing can save you time, your agency relationship isn’t something you let simmer in the background and check on quarterly. It requires consistent communication and close collaboration, which means you’ll need to be intentional about your time. And if your schedule is chaotic, you’ll need to get strategic about it, too.
We’ve identified the three areas of the content creation process you should expect to be closely involved in, along with suggested strategies for making them work with your schedule.
1. Brainstorming and Topic Ideation
Our content strategists keep a close ear to the ground for new, exciting insights into each of their clients’ industries. They come to brainstorming sessions armed with their own ideas for content, and they’re pros at translating clients' experiences into potential article takeaways.
That said, they aren’t mind readers. Your content marketing team needs to hear from you the areas of your industry that you are passionate about and are able to provide expertise in. Without clear direction, the approval process might take longer than usual, as you’ll spend more time going back and forth nailing down topics and clarifying your focus.
Our recommendation: Keep a running list of relevant industry news that you find interesting.
Many thought leaders dedicate time throughout their week to stay current on the news and what's going on in their industry. If you stumble upon an article that sparks your interest while perusing your favorite trade publication or scrolling through your LinkedIn feed, bookmark it or create a list of interesting links.
This provides a jumping-off point for topic brainstorming and helps your agency team quickly learn where to focus its attention. We use a similar system for each of our clients called a knowledge bank, in which we categorize and store client insights to streamline the content creation process. Maintaining an up-to-date knowledge bank of your own ensures you have a wealth of relevant information on hand from which you can draw insights or inspiration.
2. Knowledge Sharing
While we save our clients an average of nine hours per guest-contributed piece of content, we ask that they commit at least one hour to sharing their knowledge and expertise with us. This is where things can stall.
It might be tempting to delay knowledge sharing or give limited information for your agency team to work with because you feel like you don’t have time to answer questions about the approved topic. At best, this means you’re delaying the delivery of something you’ve paid for. At worst, this means your content will end up lacking original perspective and falling flat.
Content that provides value to your audience and elevates your thought leadership must be fueled by exclusive expertise and analysis. Your agency simply won’t get that relying entirely on third-party research.
Our recommendation: Repurpose previous content or collateral where it makes sense.
Sometimes we discover that clients already have material on hand that would be useful for knowledge sharing. They just haven’t connected the dots yet.
For instance, one of our teams had a client who was struggling to answer questions in a timely manner for a guest post. Eventually, the client admitted she was feeling overwhelmed by a presentation she had to give at an industry conference and was busy preparing presentation notes.
As it turned out, the presentation was over the same topic as her guest post, and her presentation notes provided much of the information our team needed to develop the piece. All she had to do was answer one question to make the article complete.
If you have relevant proprietary resources about you, your business, or your industry, consider sharing them with your agency. This will save you time because you won’t waste time covering information you’ve already documented somewhere else.
3. Content Editing and Approval
You’re in the homestretch at this point. Your knowledge has been packaged into a well-written, research-informed piece of content, and now you just need to provide feedback. You might think this is the easiest part of the process. And if you’re the only person who has to give feedback or approval, you might be right.
But when multiple people need to give their sign-off, things can quickly get muddled. There might be disagreements over suggested edits. Some team members might procrastinate because they don’t feel like reading a 2,000-word whitepaper. Regardless, it's important that everyone is on the same page throughout this stage so edits and approvals aren't taking weeks at a time.
Our recommendation: Use internal team meetings that are already on the calendar to discuss approval.
If you have weekly or daily meetings with your team, consider allotting 10 to 15 minutes of the agenda to discussing edits and approval, especially if more than one person needs to give the go-ahead before things move to the next step. This is a better way of holding team members accountable than passing the content along in an email chain and hoping it gets reviewed sooner rather than later. It also ensures your agency receives all of your agreed-upon edits at the same time.
If nothing else, you might find it useful to block off 30 minutes to an hour each week to check in with your agency. That time can be used to communicate updates, brainstorm, share knowledge, or discuss edits you’d like to make. Sometimes just knowing that you’ve designated time to work on content can make the process feel easier.
Prioritizing consistent communication with your content marketing agency can alter your perception of the relationship. It's no longer this “extra” task that’s been added to your plate that keeps getting pushed; instead, it's a natural part of your day-to-day and an acknowledgment of the critical role content plays in your overall strategy.
Ready to take the first step toward streamlining your content? Download our Knowledge Management Template to help you track all those great insights and ideas.
This blog post was co-written by my wonderful team: D'Markus Thomas-Brown, Matt Nestor, and Lauren Tellman.
Sometimes a rose is just a rose, but man, do I love it when it’s something else. I’m always looking to connect dots and uncover insights, but when my mind needs a break, you can find me bingeing true-crime docs, baking banana bread, or Googling “sushi near me.”