We live in a world full of deadlines. When it comes to getting your marketing collateral out the door — whether it be blog posts, emails, direct mail pieces or something else entirely — any hitch in the development process can throw your project out of whack, leaving you to miss carefully plotted deadlines.
What can you do? By implementing a thorough content development plan, you can do your best to avoid this issue entirely. Follow these steps to ensure you’re doing everything you can to create great, relevant content on deadline.
1) Establish a Creative Team
Why do projects often fail to hit deadlines or see the light of day at all? Oftentimes, relying on an inconsistent core team who isn’t as familiar with your brand messaging, design or the general work habits of collaborators can throw projects out of whack. Your first step to building a deadline-meeting machine is to establish a core editorial or creative team that will either directly work on or be kept in the loop of all creative projects.
An established core team will allow you to:
Set up a structure for feedback and criticism all members of the team will be familiar with
Get key members of your organization on board and involved with your brand’s messaging and editorial direction
Get buy-in on a consistent voice for your organization, as this builds familiarity among your content creators, leading to more beneficial criticism
Avoid needless “looking busy” edits (more on this in a bit)
Who ends up filling out your creative team should be determined by the size of your organization. A larger business should have a team built around a marketing point person or team, with other members sitting in key roles in other departments. This will allow you to get buy-in from all aspects of the organization.
A smaller or mid-sized business less likely to have multiple divided departments will build a team around existing content creators, designers and any key managers or executives who’d like to be involved.
2) Develop Quarterly Calendars
It may sound obvious, but an editorial calendar with deadlines makes it a lot easier to produce work in a timely fashion. This doesn’t have to be a year-long calendar; a quarterly schedule will allow you to plot out all your marketing content for a three-month period while also affording you the opportunity to switch strategies from quarter to quarter if you’re not seeing the returns you’d like. It’s worth noting, however, that it may take longer than a quarter to see real returns on any of your channels, like your blog. Any changes made in this period shouldn’t completely discard your current strategies, but instead focus on optimizing your content with more relevant keywords, for example, or other similar tactical changes.
A free service like Teamup allows you to put together these editorial calendars and share them with other members of your creative team. Below is an example of what one of these calendars might look like:
After clicking on a calendar item, you can include more details about each piece of content, like:
Plot out all your marketing content on this calendar: social posts, emails, direct mail, any special offers and so on. This will make it easy for any member of your team to check and see what has been produced and what’s coming down the pipeline.
Along with a calendar, you should also set some objectives for each quarter based off of your research. Examples of these might include:
Increasing blog visits by a predetermined amount
Generating a set amount of new contacts from marketing effort (social ads, blog posts, etc.)
Publishing a content offer
Keep track of how close you come to hitting your goals over the course of your quarterly plan, and use this calendar to refer back to what worked and what didn’t.
3) Appoint a Head Editor
When all else fails, you need one person who gets the final say over your marketing. This could be the highest-ranking member within your creative team, or someone outside of it (like a CEO) who can approach the project from a different perspective. This person’s goal won’t be to make direct edits, but instead to look at your content and make sure it is relevant to your company’s goals and values.
This will also help you avoid the less than ideal situation of developing content and putting it out in the world, only to have a higher up disagree with it and force you to recall it. By getting buy-in at a higher level, you better position your content for success.
4) Use Collaboration Tools
There are a lot of different ways to go about editing and creating your marketing content. Two popular ways of collecting edits include printing off individual copies of projects and passing them around the office, or sending Word documents via email. Both will have you, the creator of the content, cycling through various edits, seeing what lines up among your editors and potentially ignoring some suggestions. It can be messy.
Here are some tools you can use to make the content creation and editing process as smooth as possible:
Writing and editing — A free service like Google Drive can be a great way to write and edit copy in real time. Here you can post your content, then send a link for editing to the rest of your team. This will allow your editorial team to react in real time to edits others have made.
Multimedia — Dropbox allows you to share, view and leave comments on basically any multimedia project. Images, video or PDF designs — you and your team can access each and leave feedback on any project.
Discussion — Slack and similar chat collaboration tools help team members stay in touch and on target with projects, especially if someone if everyone isn’t in the same office at the same time or meetings are difficult to plan. Here you can upload images or video and receive immediate feedback from team members.
5) Structure Mini-Deadlines
All projects need more deadlines than just the final “hard” one. Plan for time to edit copy, review drafts and get final approval. For most content, you can try structuring your editorial process like this:
Initial draft reviewed by creative team
Another review by creative team
Any other necessary edits made
Sent to designer (if needed) for initial design
Any edits made
Sent to team and head editor for final review
By implementing a strict editorial process like this, you’ll be able to greatly minimize the odds that typos, poorly structured sentences or off-brand messaging slips through to your final designed marketing collateral.
A Note on Over-Editing
One final thing worth mentioning is perhaps the most understandable and annoying impulse we all have when it comes to creating content — over-editing syndrome.
We’ve all been there: you’re feeling good about a new brochure for your business, you’ve passed through all the editorial stages outlined above, yet right before you’re about to send it off to your printer, you have second thoughts about a sentence. Sure, it’s grammatically correct, but now it just seems off. So, you rewrite it, which changes the meaning of other sentences, so you have to rewrite those, too. Then you notice your design doesn’t match your copy as well as it used to and so and so forth. You’ve dug your project into a hole.
The line graph below shows how quickly too much editing can negatively affect the quality of your content.
So how do you fight this impulse? How do you know when to walk away? Trust your process. You’ve gone through all the proper steps already. The project has been approved by your creative team. Sure, every now and then you might catch an extra space or small punctuation error in a piece, but more often than not, you won’t. And if something does really jump out at you and make you wish you’d handled it differently, there’s always next time to make these improvements. Instead of striving for perfection at all costs, remember that you’ll have opportunities in the future to create new iterations of your content, optimized based on what you learned from earlier versions.
Remember, you’ve implemented this plan for a reason; don’t let any last limit anxiety lead you to miss your deadlines.