''I’ll do that when I’ve got a funny five minutes,'' my mum always used to say, referring to a job that needed doing but wasn’t urgent and could wait for a rare moment of downtime. Similarly, if less optimistically, a colleague of mine used to refer to a mythical period known as ‘Q5’ – that non-existent three months that it would take to either (a) clear the back-log of tasks in your in-tray; or (b) for the company to hit its sales targets.
Working in content can be like that too. There are times when it’s head down, all hands to the pump, as the days pass in a blur of deadlines, publication schedules and distribution tasks. But there are, just occasionally, those ‘funny 5 minutes’. A time to lift your head for a moment, take stock and address some of those backburner activities that are important but not urgent, not yet.
It’s an idea to keep a list of these tasks, so you’re ready to strike when the moment comes. Here are some to start you off…
Work your internal experts
Are there people internally you could cultivate to contribute content ideas or expertise? Are you communicating enough with the experts you already use (showing them the fruits of their previous efforts)?
Revisit your tone of voice guidelines
Does the guidance still feel relevant? Are the tonal values still aligned with the latest brand positioning? Could you usefully add in some more examples of on-brand language, e.g. for new channels, or use cases that have been adopted since the guidelines were last updated?
Do you have a style guide?
This can just be a rough-and-ready doc that details how you refer to industry terms, product and service names, terms of art, words and phrases related to your world that you do/don’t like to use. Does it need creating? Or updating? Does everybody who needs to, know about it?
Review your top-performing web pages
If 10% of your pages get 90% of users’ attention, they ought to get the bulk of your time too. FAQs, Help content, case studies, product pages… now’s a good time to look at these important areas, and review them for tone, scannability and accuracy of information.
Optimise your key conversion journeys
Now’s also a good chance to take a step back and review the language and logic of some of your key conversion journeys – sales funnels, bookflows, email sign-ups, quote forms and more. Looking hard at these small but commercially essential elements – and applying insights from the likes of persuasive copywriting, nudge theory and retail psychology – can yield significant returns.
Get ahead on your social output
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn… wherever you’re active socially, the challenge is always on to keep up the momentum with great social posts and ideas. Some social content has to be topical, but you can keep content production sustainable by getting ahead with posts that are either evergreen – they won’t date – or planned-topical – i.e. you write them in advance of events and milestones you know are happening.
Check out the competition
Conducting out an informal review of your competitors will give you lots of valuable insights about how your rivals are shaping up, what you can learn from them and what you need to be worried about. Turn your thinking into practical recommendations – both quick wins and longer-term fixes.
Brainstorm some ideas for the calendar
Ideas are the fuel of content marketing. Why not have a brainstorming session with a different set of people to the usual crowd? Include those from outside the content team for a fresh perspective.
Try and break your website
Play with the site for an hour and write down anything that’s confusing, hard to find, or isn’t where you’d expect it to be. Check for broken links and funny formatting too.
Sign up for you own email newsletter
What was the process like? How prompt was the response? Was the confirmation email welcoming? Notice any obvious fixes?
Start a content inventory
Compiling a list of all of your key content in a single spreadsheet might sound arduous, but it can save you essential time and budget later on. Once you know what you have, it’s easier to identify gaps in your content offering, eliminate out-of-date content, and position new content to better fill those gaps. And if you’re planning a site redesign or migration, it will be much simpler to see where pages can be repurposed or edited for migration, as opposed to written from scratch.
Review your workflow and signoff processes
Think back to the last chunky piece of content work your team produced. Draw a map of the process, from ideas and briefing through all the phases of review and signoff. Are the right people involved at each stage? Are there obvious inconsistencies? Do you need more (or less!) support from certain stakeholders? Draw up an action plan to streamline the process.
Take a look at your current document version control process
Things often get saved every which way when it’s busy. But what’s the best way? And how can you make sure everyone is on the same page, literally?
Think about creating a Snapchat filter
If you haven’t before – especially if you’re hosting or sponsoring an event.
Update your company’s Wikipedia page
There are pretty robust guidelines about how to do these and it's easy to get blocked if you get it wrong, so it's worth taking a look at other successful efforts.
Review your sustainability and CSR content
Make sure it's up to date and inspiring, not a snorefest.
Do you need one? Or if you have one, is the language human-sounding… or robotic?