Herculean Content Efforts: How to Mount Them and Succeed
Someone in your organization has come up with the idea that you could really put your company on the map with a content sprint. A large-scale content effort mounted in a relatively short period of time. This would be great, right? You could produce maybe two or three blog posts a week, a weekly eBook, some other kind of downloadable twice a month, and maybe update all the website copy, too. And do that for something like six months straight. That would really establish your company, and your brand, and your position as a thought leader in your industry, says your CEO. Big smile! No problem, right? You can make that happen, can’t you?
You can, actually. But don’t start tomorrow by churning out a bunch of thin, mediocre content just to get it done. That will NOT get you on the map in the way that the CEO wants to get you on the map. That will just add to the more than 2.5 million blog posts — hundreds of millions of words — that get published every day, and it will not build your brand or any thought leadership for your company. To do this right, you need to produce a lot of remarkable content in that relatively short period of time.
No idea where to start? It can seem a little daunting, I’ll admit. We do these kinds of things for clients and know they require a lot of planning to execute. If you have to figure it out on your own, where do you start? Here are some tips to get you going, even if you only have a small team.
Create a strategy
In the same way that you need a full-blown content marketing plan, you should have a mini plan for this effort, regardless of how focused it happens to be. Answer these questions before you get started: What are the short-term goals for this effort? What results do you expect to achieve? How will they be measured? When will you measure? What will you consider success? All of this is important to establish BEFORE you get going. Otherwise, how will you know if all that work has actually accomplished anything?
Set the editorial calendar
An effort like this requires ideas and a full calendar. In this case, assign all your work as far ahead as possible, and don’t stray from the calendar. In other instances, you want to keep the calendar fluid, but in this instance, stay the course. Publish when you planned to publish, and be a drill sergeant about it. If you need to throw in something unplanned or newsy, put it on a different day of the week — don’t substitute and throw off your whole world.
Choose your team
The team for this kind of an effort is critical. You need a few different types of people, and a strong leader.
Maybe this is you or someone you assign, but this role oversees the whole operation. This person has to understand the goals and be able to give ultimate approval to all the material produced by the rest of the content army. He or she needs to be a leader, be decisive, a multi-tasker, and be willing to make changes (including the hard ones involving people) when they are required.
Thinking of using in-house writers? Awesome if you can make it happen, but if this is work you are assigning to people in ADDITION to their regular job duties, you better figure out how they are going to manage it all. A more reliable solution for a large-scale project is to use freelance writers, but make sure you prepare. Now is not the time to experiment, if you can help it. False starts with writers who whiff on the assignment will really set you back. Either use reliable sources or choose specialists for the job who you can vet in advance. Sometimes these folks aren’t easy to find. My advice is to start the search for the right writer as far in advance of the need for actual writing as possible. This gives you time for a test before you launch your project.
Notice the use of plural. If you are truly generating mass amounts of content, consider who will manage the writers, and then assess and edit that writing when it comes in. Think about dividing your content into logical sections and assigning a couple of editors to coordinate assignments and edit the work. It then all filters up to your project manager for a review (not necessarily an edit) before publishing. But a mass amount of content can be overwhelming for just one person to manage and edit — unless you make it his or her only job.
Establish process and chain of command
Once you have great people in place, make sure they know how the process will work before you start the machine. The process needs to include an understanding of the deadlines, the importance of meeting them, the chain of command for content approval, and what happens (and who to go to) if something goes wrong (because it will). The bigger the project, the more that can… and will… go wrong. Good process allows you and the team to handle whatever comes your way.
Provide feedback and don’t be afraid to make changes
Mangers on all levels will keep this project running smoothly by providing feedback, and doing it often. Have a weekly meeting — or have it more often than that — but make sure people know what is working and what isn’t, and what needs to change to make the content machine run smoothly. Editors need to provide feedback to writers so that they can adjust copy that isn’t hitting the mark. The project manager needs to offer feedback to the team when a process runs off the rails. The team on a large-scale project needs to be bold about making changes when there is a problem of any sort, and make them swiftly. Stay vigilant about those meetings and maintaining the level of quality that is established at the beginning of your project. It’s easy to sit back once things seem to be running smoothly, but that’s where those things that can go wrong, will go wrong.
A large-scale content project can seem like a Herculean effort to plan and mount — and it is. But it’s not impossible with the right plan, people, and process in place.
Need to generate some ideas for your big content effort? Download our checklist, “10 Ways to Generate New Content Ideas.” Still feel like you need a bit of help getting started with your upcoming content sprint? Get in touch — we’ll get you going.