Four Lessons You Should Learn from Publishers

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Content marketing would be easy if it didn’t require a steady stream of fresh, engaging, relevant content.  It’s not that developing great content is new.  It’s creating the volume and continuous development required that is new.

A number of companies confront this problem by hiring a staff of writers.  As their salary line goes up they may find that it is still difficult to keep up with content needs.   Skilled story tellers still need a story.  They look to subject matter experts, some of the most knowledgeable and busy people in the company, to provide stories or knowledge.  After resolving availability issues, subject matter experts often feel the need to explain their world to a writer so that the writer can tell a story.  This requires a lot of time for SMEs who have incredibly limited availability to begin with.

Unfortunately, this also doesn’t always work well.  What often happens is writers write about what is new and interesting to them even though it is foundational content well known by the audience.  The end result can become a story that is told eloquently but has no value.

Meanwhile, subject matter experts become frustrated and either continue to focus on educating writers, try to write a story themselves, or find a way not to participate.  Resources are sub-optimized, the quality of content suffers, and the demand for new content is not met.

 Think Like a Publisher

There are several reasons content marketing teams are told to, “Think like a publisher.”  An under-appreciated reason has to do with the operational challenges marketers experience trying to execute their strategies efficiently, with limited time, resources and funding.

You can learn from publishers how to address the problem of efficiently creating quality engaging content. You can do this regularly and at scale by applying a process that is quite different from a traditional corporate production process.  Publishers have developed a set of skills, structure and controls to do this.  Of the many lessons they have to offer four stand out.

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One: A Publishing Operations Process Dis-aggregates the Work Steps

The creation of content in volume is limited by the structure of the traditional “point production” process. Content is created for a single purpose. This makes it a sequential process. It also consolidates research, point of view development, writing, and delivery into a focused project that does not scale.

To reduce delivery times and scale production requires separation of the component work steps. These are executed when it is most efficient, by people best skilled for each task.   Content production work products should go beyond specific content deliverables, to include re-usable assets.

For example, interviewers with subject matter experts should capture as many insights as possible, not just for the specific content deliverables.  Then, story tellers should craft points of view from available captured knowledge. Writers can then convert the story and point of view into different content assets that are relevant for each use case.

Two: Acquire — “Subject Matter Expert,” Insights and Narratives

Interviewing subject matter experts has been about knowledge transfer, it should be about knowledge capture.  Instead of capturing content for a specific project the focus should be on capturing as much as they have; every insight, explanation, story, etc.

The objective is to acquire narrative inputs.   Subject matter experts should be asked to talk as if they are speaking to customers about buyers’ questions.   This captures the subject matter expert’s customer oriented language or terminology.  Interviews should be recorded and transcribed as source assets to make them easy to use and provide context.  Well-articulated answers to good questions can often be edited into effective stories with limited effort.

Three:  Build a Database of Content Source Assets

Continuous production requires continuous inputs.  “Content source,” represents captured knowledge from subject matter experts, curated third party content, event speeches, internal writings, or other acquired knowledge.   Content source also includes graphics, pictures, and video B role assets that support knowledge concepts.  All opportunities to capture or acquire content source should be exploited and positioned for use in a searchable accessible database.

Content source assets should be tagged for relevance.  The context for relevance is a documented content framework.  This defines the requirements for content to meet buyers’ expectations.  It includes: buyer personas, buyer roles, buyer questions by buying stage, buyer problems, competitive positioning, and other messaging drivers.

Tagging content source assets for relevance promotes reuse and minimizes redundant content source acquisition efforts.  Final assembly of points of view and finished content now becomes fast and efficient across multiple delivery formats.

Four:  Manage and Control the Production Process

Publishers think about content production the same way a manufacturing manager thinks about a manufacturing plant.  Content production requires planning, infrastructure investment and controls.  The content framework provides a context for content requirements.  An editorial calendar provides a schedule of content deliverables.

A production plan allocates resources to the multiple tasks and work steps.  Templates, editorial standards, and deadlines shape developers creative focus.  The discipline of maintaining the content source database ensures the continual acquisition of content source as inputs.  Process measurements to plan keep the focus on the production mindset.  Collaboration and team work become critical cultural attributes.

 Content Strategy Success  

A content marketing strategy will fail or be severely limited unless a publishing production approach is adopted.  Publishing production optimizes quality, relevance, speed of development, cost, and volume.  It is effective in addressing language requirements and customizing for regional differences.  The publishing process increases the ability to maintain content assets, extending their useful life from months to years.

The ability to share and reconfigure source assets into new content, especially across traditionally stovepipe operations in different marketing groups, training, agencies, and channel partners enables additional opportunities to increase efficiency.  Thinking like a publisher isn’t an option, it is a necessity.

There are other lessons you can learn from publishers at this webpage.