Editorial Planning: How to define Structures and Processes

René Neubach | February 22, 2019 | Content Marketing

Editorial Process

Content creation does not happen by chance. Effective content is the result of long-term planning and efficient production, revision and approval processes. When it comes to online content in particular, precise forward planning and clearly defined workflows are of vital importance. Because only those who plan with sufficient lead times are agile enough to pick up on unpredictable events in the short term.

The digital Content Marketing environment is hyper-dynamic. The data situation concerning practically all topics you can think of changes every minute. So does the audience’s information need in many areas. The only predictable factor is the unpredictability. But this does not necessarily mean that you can only operate reactively and in a just-in-time kind of way. Quite to the contrary. A volatile environment like online Content Management – more than others – requires long-term planning, clear responsibilities, efficient structures and pre-defined workflows.

In the course of years of experience in content creation with our clients from diverse industries, we have developed 3 golden rules to be considered when designing editorial processes:

1. Plan ahead

Long-term planning horizons do not only reduce time pressure in the creative process, but also create buffers that enable spontaneous processing of unpredictable events and new information. Because: If you want to be relevant in the online sphere, you need to be flexible enough to quickly react to these kinds of news. Therefore, it is not only helpful, but necessary, to plan everything that is predictable with sufficient lead time.

According to our experience from client projects, a planning horizon of roughly 12 months is advisable – not considering industry specificities, of course. That means that at all times you should have planned your overall focus topics for the upcoming year. We define the term “focus topic” or “content cluster” as the meta-plane of subjects that are broken down into individual content items, articles and the like in the next step. These content items should be planned ahead for a period of at least 6 months. Speaking from experience, it is difficult to finalize your content plan for more than 3 months ahead. Therefore, it is our approach to

  • define content clusters – as mentioned above – for a period of 12 months.
  • pre-plan concrete content items in a flexible fashion for a period of 6 months.
  • finalize the planning of articles, content offers, eMails and the like – subject to unpredictable events – for a period of 3 months.

As an anchor point for revision and concretization of the continuous planning, we recommend a monthly or weekly editorial meeting of all responsibles who are involved in the editorial process. The meeting rhythm should be set according to the frequency of publications as defined in your Content Governance.

2. Use editorial Know-how

The person who has the vastest expertise on one topic is not necessarily the one who can deliver editorial content on it in the best quality. Logical, you might think. However, we can assure you that this is a frequent misconception in practice. Too often, what people say is: “It’s your area of competence – you write the blog article.” But preparing content in an attractive and publication-friendly way is not everybody’s talent. And it does not have to be. Find the content-lovers, hobby-texters and creative minds in your team and ask them if they want to take over the task of content creation. You might be surprised because: What people do well is what they like doing. And the other way around.

If you do not have enough internal resources, you should not have to renounce editorial competence in content creation. Professional Content Marketing agencies can supply you with the necessary editorial expert knowledge – either permanently or just until you managed to build your own editorial team within your company.

3. Demand Discipline

Usually the problem of marketing teams is not having too little work. And tasks that are assigned but whose output is never claimed will often not be completed. Therefore, it is important to install an instance which keeps an overview of all processes and collects the contributions from responsibles when they are due. According to our experience, it is advisable to determine a person or team that is in charge of project management. An interface function between domain experts, editors, graphics, marketing, social media agency, web development, etc. that carries the ultimate responsibility for a smooth workflow.

Generally speaking, the success of your content strategy depends to a large degree on the work of the project manager. Consequently, it is particularly important to trust a person with this function, who is skilled in process organization and structure development. And also, here it is essential to note: If you cannot provide these competences and resources internally, you are advised to seek help from an external partner. Otherwise, your content initiatives often end before they really started.

The externalization of process management and/or content creation proves particularly beneficial in the initial phase of implementing a Content Management strategy:

  • Outside perspective of a neutral third party
    All too often, operational blindness adversely impacts the judgement whether or not a particular piece of content might be relevant for an audience or not. An outsider’s perspective can help to open your eyes to overlooked potential.
  • External “consciousness”
    Speaking from experience, the external “consciousness” is often more effective than the internal. That is, an outsider who makes sure deadlines are kept and demands discipline, so that a functioning editorial process can be guaranteed.
  • Reduced workload
    Particularly at the beginning, developing and implementing a Content Marketing strategy can be work-intensive. Content partners can help by designing processes as efficient as possible and supplying scarce resources externally.
  • Learning potential
    In case you lack editorial competence in your team, working together with an agency can be beneficial also in terms of knowledge transfer. In the long run you might be able to reintegrate editorial tasks because you have built the necessary know-how to professionally manage content creation within your own team.

In conclusion, there remains one thing to be stressed: It is not only the substance that counts when creating attractive content. Yes, the content basis is of integral importance – there is no question in that. But it is only half of the story – at best. The other half concerns the structures and processes that deliver your content to your audience.

 

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