I may be biased, but there are a lot of awesome things about content marketing and those who practice it well. Content marketing can drive real results for your company and generate quantitative and qualitative ROI. It connects your brand to your audience, enables your sales team to nurture and close leads that grow your business, and even gives your HR team the fuel to attract, hire, and train new employees.
And don’t get me started on content strategists, creators, editors, and distributors. These folks — who are clearly geniuses or magicians — take simple thoughts and transform them into full-fledged articles, graphics, videos, long-form content, and more that actually communicate those ideas — and they get them in the hands of the right audiences at the right times.
But one aspect of content that often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is the editorial workflow. It’s like Cool Content Marketing’s older cousin who is definitely still part of the family and isn’t quite as popular but has paid off all her student loan debt and is doing pretty well for herself.
Your editorial workflow may not be the most exciting element of your content marketing strategy and efforts, but it’s absolutely one of the most important.
An editorial workflow is the process your content marketing team uses to develop content, from strategy and ideation all the way to publication and distribution. It’s your trusted go-to system for managing those ideas as they’re developed, outlining the role technology plays in your process, and keeping track of everyone’s tasks and responsibilities along the way.
Unlike your content marketing strategy, documenting this editorial workflow isn’t a necessary step. Your workflow is simply the process your team agrees to use to nurture a content project from its conception to its final form and get it in front of your audience.
A good editorial workflow is transparent and efficient. It’s not an arbitrary system of hoops to jump through and stamps of approval you need to gather in order to pass “Go” and collect $200. In fact, if your workflow slows you down, wastes your resources, or leaves you with final content projects that miss the mark, then it isn’t work(flow)ing.
The right workflow simplifies your content process. It outlines the journey of every piece of content you create, and it identifies who is in charge of each of those steps. And because that process is established, your team doesn’t have to spend unnecessary time and energy playing catch-up.
Instead of worrying about the fine details of how your content is produced, your team can focus on the parts they’re best at. Editorial workflows empower your creatives and marketers to take ownership of the roles they play in driving your company’s content efforts forward.
It takes some trial and error to nail down a process that works for your team, but keeping an open mind and embracing a spirit of collaboration will make it easier. So will borrowing elements from other content marketers’ tried-and-true workflows. Take a look below at the Influence & Co. team’s editorial workflow:
This is a simple dashboard view of some current projects. We built and use custom content marketing software, called ICo Core, to manage our content, and the dashboard visualizes our process and general workflow. On it, you’ll see our content moves through a few key steps before it’s completed.
Once an article opportunity is created, we flesh out a general summary and identify its place within our strategy. If we use our traditional knowledge sharing process to gather insights for an article, we then draft questions, send those questions to the thought leader, and move the new opportunity into the first phase: “Awaiting Answers from Client.”
Not all articles use the Q&A process, and that’s totally fine. Our workflow isn’t a rigid, restrictive process that forces square pegs into round holes. Some articles and thought leaders work best using the knowledge sharing process, and others (like me!) prefer to just jump in. Whichever route the article takes, our workflow is set up to manage it.
From the first steps, the article moves into the writing phase. We either write in-house pieces or tap our network of freelance writers and content creators to help develop our content. Again, the workflow is flexible to meet the needs and preferences of our team.
After the content has been created, it moves into the first round of edits, during which our editors review the content with a comprehensive lens. We edit for format, flow, structure, tone, voice, and SEO.
Once it’s been created and edited, it’s passed back to the thought leader for review and approval. If it needs more work, another round of edits is performed. If it’s approved, it moves on to our final editors, who pass through each line with a fine-toothed comb to polish the content and get it publication-ready.
But the content process isn’t finished once an article is written, edited, and approved. It has to be distributed and analyzed, and you’ll notice that our workflow includes those steps, too.
Throughout the process, our team members can use ICo Core to communicate, assign tasks to each other, view our progress toward our goals, and more. It visualizes and centralizes our workflow and allows each of us to focus our time, energy, and creativity on the parts of the content process we enjoy most.
Establishing your own editorial workflow will take time. You’ll probably experience some exciting wins and some frustrating misses as you refine your approach. As you develop your workflow, remember these two things that will make the process easier: Limit the number of cooks in the kitchen, and stay flexible.
Start by identifying who your key players are, and be mindful of their strengths. Separate those you must include in your process from those who don’t need to be involved, and build a workflow around your essential team members: your thought leaders, strategists, writers, editors, account managers, distribution specialists, etc.
And remember to stay open to change. Yes, one of the benefits of a workflow is the predictability; your team knows what’s next and can prepare for their roles in that process. But things will change. You’ll integrate new content projects; welcome new team members; grow your responsibilities; and vet new partners, vendors, and tech platforms — and that’s awesome. Simply adapt as you go, and you’ll find your editorial workflow can be one of your team’s greatest assets.
I love cloudy days, office supplies, and rewatching the same sitcoms I've already seen a dozen times. When I'm not looking for ways to elevate content, I'm looking for opportunities to tell stories about my dog.