December 10, 2020 6:38 pm
When you’ve spent years in media newsrooms
– as most of us here have – some ways of working stay with you.
Working for online publications, newspapers
and magazines has taught us a number of approaches that help us in agency life,
creating content for our clients. Here are lessons that anyone can apply to their
content marketing too.
1. Be reactive – but also plan: You know certain things are coming up, so have a proper plan for
them – an announcement from your company, new research, an industry event or
dozens of other cues. But also be prepared to tear up plans. React to news,
whether new developments from your company or what’s happening more generally
in the market. Who else tore up content calendars in March 2020 when it became
clear the year would be dominated by COVID-19?
2. Time your publishing: Ever see someone set live 10 posts on social media at the same
time? It’s not good. Timing is key but don’t listen to those articles that tell
you the optimum times to publish on different platforms. It’s all about your
intended audience. When are they active online? In which time zone? And
over which channels – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, your website…?
3. Cut to the chase: Every journalist knows the model of the inverted pyramid. Get to
the point and front-load your most important information. This then leads to
contextual information and recaps. People talk about storytelling. You’re doing
that, but this isn’t usually the A–Z of a fairy tale.
4. Have a stable of writers: Good publications use a mix of staff writers, freelancers and
guest experts, the latter not professional content creators but people with
unique things to say, with your help. Follow a mixed approach, also drawing on
employees, your agencies and customers. Your in-house team might feature
professional writers and editors, as will your agencies (cough), but others
have valuable and valid things to say. Don’t just look to the C-suite for
5. Legal – with a single sign-off: Follow the lead of every great publication and consider legal
issues up front, knowing what you’re willing to say or not. Don’t be the person
at the end who tells the content team, “This is signed off – I’ll just run it
by Legal.” Have a single person who knows at the beginning of the content
creation process that they will be responsible for sign-offs. At a newspaper,
this is part of the editor-in-chief’s role. Have your own EIC.
6. Team work:
They say it makes the dream work. Pah. More likely it makes
your content workflow work. Make sure everyone knows what your process is:
from ideation and planning, through creation, quality control (that’ll be
editing), design, publishing (including to third-party platforms), audience feedback
and metrics informing future content. Know everyone’s role across each item of
content, including the different roles your people from (4) play, especially
for those you don’t communicate with every day.
7. Soup of ideas: We’ve mentioned the content soup
before: you never start with a blank slate because you’re always nurturing a
‘soup’ of ideas and first drafts, bubbling away for the right time, to be
knocked into shape for what you need. Tip: some parts of the soup never get
eaten – and that’s fine.
8. Move on: Keep
in mind an end to the content process. Most journalists will work to daily or
even shorter-term deadlines (we envy those with monthly or longer-term
deadlines). When you’re done, you move on. Ninety-five per cent is good enough.
Equally, you might have heard one of our team talk about the “tale of the
12-month white paper”, when a particularly large company – not one of our
clients – painstakingly edited a report for a year, eventually signed it off,
and then scrapped it because the subject matter was out of date. Life is too
short. Make your content good, then move on. Be prolific and consistent rather
Bonus observation: While some of this sounds far away from how companies have usually
worked, and even some marketing departments, the last decade has meant there
has never been more content talent to tap, for every vertical and every
imaginable niche. Professionalise your content creation and see the difference
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