written by
Dayana Mayfield

Content Operations: How a Platform Can Stop the Chaos Inside Your Marketing Team

Content Marketing Content Collaboration 10 min read

Your team is devoted to driving sales or MQLs using content marketing. But while you're busy creating content, you might have neglected your content operations.

Table of contents

Everyone at your company is asking you for content. Demand gen marketers need more gated assets for ads. Sales teams want a new one-pager. Somebody else needs a brochure. These needs are bound to happen, and that's fine. The problem is that content teams start to handle their content marketing strategy in the same ad hoc way that they satisfy requests from other departments.

Maybe at some point, your content operations were smooth. But it's certainly not now, is it? In this post, we're covering everything from common problems to real solutions.

Content operations, defined

Are you wondering, what is content operations? We've got you covered.

Content operations is the set of processes, people, tools, and methodologies that come together in the execution of content marketing.

If you're executing on content marketing, then you have content operations. Whether you think you do or not. It might not feel militaristically organized, though. In fact, it might feel incredibly messy.

Why content operations is hard to do well

Healthy content operations isn’t easy to achieve. I'm not going to pretend that you can change your content operations overnight.

The shift often requires:

  • Hard conversations with marketing leaders and other executives
  • The re-allocation of resources
  • Addressing company culture issues, such as content continually being de-prioritized
  • Figuring out where there are gaps blocks
  • Getting leaders from multiple teams on the same page

Content marketing versus content operations

You might be wondering...what’s the difference between content marketing and content operations? We’re not making up words here. There is a monumental difference.

In essence, content marketing is the what and content operations is the how.

  • Content marketing:
Content marketing is the practice of creating free content, tools, and resources to attract an ideal audience, some of whom will purchase a business’s products or services.
  • Content operations:
Content operations is the people, processes, and tools in place to implement content marketing effectively.

6 common problems with content operations

Let's do a quick health check. Are your teammates (and your goals) trapped in a big mess?

1. The content marketing team is bogged down with the content needs of other departments

It's only natural that other teams and departments will ask your content team for...you guessed it...content. Once they learn that professional writers are on board, they'll request all sorts of materials: brochures, one-pagers, case studies, content partnership articles, advertorials, and more. There's nothing wrong with this, but there has to be some sort of gatekeeper.

2. Individuals within a team aren't following the same strategy

A content strategy is your guiding light. It determines everything that everyone does. People arrive at a content team with different philosophies and different work experiences that contribute to their prioritization of one strategy over another. One content marketer might believe in turning your blog into a digital publication. Another might prioritize middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel content only.

Neither of these strategies is wrong, but they're not the same, and they might not even be what your company needs to grow.

3. Content promotion is a big fail

In the clamor to create content, does promotion get lost? Do you create content partnerships with other brands in your industry? Do you build up employee's personal brands to serve as promotion channels? Do you make use of aggregator sites and SEO-driven social channels like YouTube and Pinterest?

Not all of these content promotion tactics will be right for you, but if you're not doing the promo that is a fit for your audience and your brand, you're in trouble.

4. A lack of design or technical resources slows down the machine

A common problem with content operations is this: there are lots of writers on the team but not enough designers, editors, approvers, and implementers. Content will get stuck "in review" or "in design" for weeks — maybe even months.

No need to be ashamed, it happens to the best teams.

5. The content marketing manager is too busy to manage content

Here's another sign that your content operations are a drag...your content marketing manager can't actually manage content. They get so busy creating content for their own KPIs or for other departments, that they themselves become the biggest blockade of all. When the person who is tasked with moving things along transforms into a block for everyone else, then content can't possibly meet its goals for MQLs or acquisition.

6. Technology that slows people down

Technology is not at the heart of most content operations issues. Typically the heart of the matter is over-ambitiousness and strategy confusion.

But the wrong technology is definitely a symptom, and it can cause all sorts of nightmares, like day-to-day task confusion and massive time waste.

The benefits of great content operations

When you have effective content operations in place, you can experience a lot of benefits.

Improved productivity and collaboration results in:

  • Increased content marketing ROI
  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Lower employee turnover
  • Higher search rankings than the competition

How to choose the right content operations platform

It’s so important to use *ONE* platform for content collaboration, publishing, and promotion

Content teams need tools that bring them together, not separate them into little silos, with content creators and managers working in different platforms.

Having a cohesive platform that writers and publishers can use reduces the need for manual content entry and saves time for everyone involved.

Inside of a content ops platform, you should be able to create editorial briefs and assign them to writers.

You should also be able to optimize your content while writing. This way, writers can adjust the post for SEO and readability to reduce the amount of back-and-forth edits.

It’s also helpful to have a media library, so writers can pull from your assets again and again.

With one click, you should be able to distribute the content to your website, email newsletter, social media profiles, and other promotion channels.

When implementing a content operations platform, one team dropped from 3 hours to 5 minutes to publish a single piece of content on the digital channels that matter most to them.

If you're looking for similar results, here's what to look for in a content operations platform:

  • Reduces the need for manual tasks like content entry
  • Includes SEO optimization tool
  • Allows for content submittal by guest writers
  • Includes different user types (guest writers, contributors, publishers)
  • Helps you manage your content calendar
  • Publishes content directly to your website
  • Helps you manage content promotion
  • Offers content analytics

More tips for healthy content operations

The right software is essential. But there’s even more you can do to improve your content ops.

You know what bad content operations looks (and feels) like. You know what you're up against to change it. Now let's take a journey to the promised land — the incredible "after" state in which you'll find yourself when you successfully overhaul your ops.

Work within clearly defined roles

If you're struggling with your content operations, you most likely need to address the roles of your content team. Is everyone working without clear leadership? Is the content marketing manager out of the loop on the status of current assets? That's a sign that you have content creators doing management work.

I know it's not a cool thing to say, but without structure and clear roles, content marketing gets downgraded to randomness and lawlessness.

Be transparent

Transparency is key in content operations. It's not enough to have a task management tool that helps people to track their own tasks. They should also understand the current projects and goals of the entire content team. A content calendar tool can help with this, as well as weekly standup style meetings.

The right processes + the right people + the right strategy + the right tools = content operations that allows your team to thrive, not just survive.

Follow a documented strategy

Your strategy must be written down. Most content marketing teams are not following a documented strategy. Putting your strategy down in writing requires people to nod their heads in approval, making it seventeen thousand times more likely that your team will be on the same page with their day to day actions.

Your documented strategy should include:

  • The effective quarter(s)
  • The target persona(s) and company type(s) for that time period
  • The channel(s) of priority
  • The overall strategy in terms of funnel creation, revenue model matching, focus of content (entertain a specific niche audience or solve problems for a user type)
  • The goals and KPIs for content overall in terms of traffic, signups, sales, and or MQLs
  • The goals and KPIs for individual content pieces or campaigns in terms of traffic, signups, sales, and or MQLs
  • The name and summary of the large asset(s) that will be created in that time period
  • The direction or need for any smaller pieces of content (you don't need to name these smaller pieces yet, but you should know what they are for, such as 3 SEO optimized blog posts for X persona that will link to X gated asset)
  • The number of allowable pieces of content that don't fit the above (how many "random" ideas or needs for other departments or content partnerships will you satisfy in that time period?)

Fill your funnel based on your company's revenue model

The way that your company charges and sells makes an enormous impact on the kind of content you create. Every company needs content for their entire funnel, but the proportions will be different.

Lower-priced offers require more top-of-funnel volume. Enterprise B2B sales require more bottom-of-funnel content and much less top-of-funnel content. The funnel gets filled with cold outreach, conferences, trade events, and other sales activities.

Set realistic expectations based on resources

Healthy content ops never bites off more than it can chew. Your content management workflows must match reality. (Sorry, big dreamers but we need realistic timelines.)

When teams try to cram too many assets or posts into one month or quarter, they often sacrifice quality, strategy adherence, and content promotion. Plus, everyone gets pissed off.

Prioritize both short term *and* long term content promotion

Your content operations should leave plenty of room for content promotion.

Content teams find that anywhere from 25 - 50% of the team's time as a whole should be devoted to promotion.

Not only should you carve the time out — meaning new content creation gets slowed down or resources get bulked up — but you should also prioritize the promotion of content in the short term and the long term.

  • Short term promo -Sending content to your email list, scheduling posts to go out in social media, emailing your content partners when you've published something (so they can share it too)
  • Long term promo - Building your email list, building employee's personal brands, building partnerships with non-competing brands in the same industry, social account growth, and high-quality community management

Limit the amount of content you create for other teams

If your in-house content writers can barely find time for their own task of increasing traffic, you've got a big problem on your hands. To solve it, you need monthly or quarterly caps on content creation for other departments' needs.

Additionally, other departments should submit a request to your content marketing manager, who can then prioritize and allocate resources accordingly.

Keep improving

Because your content operations affects the execution of your strategy, you should do a health check-up quarterly. Seriously, taking a hard look at your content ops is just as important as quarterly strategy meetings or KPI reviews.

The updated content process (all in one place)

With the right content operations platform, you should be able to manage the five key components of content marketing in one place:

  1. Brief and assign
  2. Review and edit
  3. Publish content
  4. Promote content
  5. Analyze results

The right processes + the right people + the right strategy + the right tools = content operations that allows your team to thrive, not just survive.

Tired of terrible content operations? Check out what you can achieve with StoryChief.

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