Content marketing means new challenges for marketers, from longer-form copywriting to editorial quality control. Use our checklist to see if you're equipped to produce compelling content marketing...
With an explosion of content marketing comes a new set of responsibilities for marketers and content producers. Skills and ideas from journalism, publishing and the world of blogging are becoming essential good practice for marketers – and managers – who may have no training or experience in these areas.
Here are some checks to help you assess whether you and your content producers are set up to generate great content marketing.
1. Do you give and take useful, effective feedback?
Amends are an essential part of content creation. According to our State of Digital Copywriting survey, 1 in 10 pieces of copy is subjected to 5+ rounds of amends – and some content producers have to contend with up to 8 stakeholders feeding back on their work.
If you’re responsible for giving amends, make sure they’re specific enough to be useful. If you have trouble articulating what’s wrong, or you feel there are fundamental problems that go beyond a few edits, put down the red pen and pick up the phone, or talk to the writer in person. A conversation is a better way to solve problems than a general comment (‘it just doesn’t flow’) that’s open to interpretation.
Conflicting amends can arise if there are many stakeholders involved in a project. Manage your stakeholders – make 1 person responsible for collating all the feedback so that the writer receives clear instructions. You can also clarify roles – if someone’s reviewing the copy for product accuracy, let them know that they don’t need to pick up on grammar points or formatting.
2. Do you have an editorial content marketing plan?
Creating a plan for your content means that you’re working according to your own schedule, not just responding to demands from the wider business. It also makes your content production more efficient and drives up quality, because you can plan time and resources well in advance.
Month by month, draw up a plan for your different content channels, mapping out what you’ll be covering, what ideas you have and who’ll be responsible for executing them. As with your marketing plans, you can work around seasonal triggers such as Christmas, summer holidays and sports events.
Your plan should also include some slack to respond to last-minute content opportunities, so that you can stay relevant and topical during the year. We recommend roughly 70% long-term planned, 30% topical content.
3. Do you have an editorial QA process?
Quality and consistency of copy can make a big impact on how your brand is perceived. Mistakes and inconsistencies create the impression that your copy – and by extension, your business – is under-resourced, sloppy and not conducted according to a plan. Investing in a QA layer for all copy produced by your company can help prevent this.
At the start of your production process, make sure you have a written brief of some kind that defines the objective and what form the content will take. The brief gives you something to check against when you come to assess the quality of the finished product.
Ideally, all written work – including social media updates – should be seen by a second pair of eyes before going out into the public arena.
At the final stage, you do need to make a distinction between proofreading – which covers things like consistent use of capitals, grammar, spelling and typos – and editing, which deals more with the substance of what’s being written, changing words and re-ordering sentences, for example. Editing is usually a more senior task.
4. Is digital content best practice embedded in your company?
Many content marketers feel that people in their organisation just don’t know what good copy looks like. Make sure your writing staff and those who manage and approve their work know what they’re aiming for, and feel confident in achieving it.
Tone of voice should be clearly defined so that your writers know how to write on behalf of the organisation. Without clear guidelines, writers can drop into their own tone, or feel they need to fall back on marketing clichés.
Writing templates can save writers work by defining the structure of repeatable content, like blog posts or product pages, and helping even large and varied teams to produce consistent results.
High-visibility copy elements like sub-headings, links and standfirsts need a strategic approach. Headings need to act as clear, factual labels, signposting the content of the copy beneath them. Link-text needs to be specific and self-contained. The standfirst, which is the introductory line at the start of the piece, needs to help the reader decide whether to continue through the piece or click away. Make sure your writers are skilled in producing these ROI-heavy areas of content.
While professional journalists are comfortable broadcasting to the world under their given name, marketers and content managers may not be. Are your people comfortable putting their real names on blog posts, tweets and comments? Ask them. If they’re hesitant, you can set up some “pen name” accounts.