How to create a minimal viable workflow in content marketing

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Activity can feel like productivity. Unfortunately. That’s true for content  marketing and of course other projects as well.

But there is such an abundance of unnecessary tasks that content marketing teams have to do for one reason or another that  it’s definitely worth addressing in any kind of  content marketing strategy. Some examples that come to mind:

  • Finding a gazillion reasons not to publish.
  • Over planing content to the degree that it doesn’t get you to the publishing line.
  • Replanning. Example: A team has four different versions of basically the same calendar.
  • When politicing takes longer than the actual work. I get it. Office politics and organizational politics do need to be played. And I’ve played them. But some content marketing projects are so filled with office politics that they fall into the unnecessary task category.
  • Not spending your distribution funds wisely. Don’t just throw more money at a problem but figure out who you’re trying to target and how are you can reach them.
  • Everyone owns everything. There is a fine line between collaboration and everyone owning everything which can turn into nobody owning  anything.
  • Accessive workflows of any kind.
  • The use of outdated systems. Folders and sub folders on some lettered drive is what we did in 2005. There are more efficient systems!

Read next: Is your content performance culture ready for strategic writing?

Moving to a better workflow

Is there a way to get rid of some of those unnecessary tasks? Yes, of course. But here are the things to keep in mind as you are eliminating useless tasks:

  • Who is your executive sponsor and/or supporter? The only way to get rid of mandated tasks is to have somebody at the executive or leadership level support you. I was working with an organization that was continuing to make people follow a very time in-efficient workflow. When I brought it up to the CEO, the CEO explained to me why that was important to him but that he didn’t actually realize how much extra work that was. Once that was explained the waste of time overruled his initial reason for the requirement. The task was changed.
  • Empower team members to actually feel like that they can bring up when tasks are a waste of time.
  • Act on items brought up.
  • Question workflows constantly. Why are we doing this? What’s the goal of it? How does this help us?
  • Make updates. Make them now. Don’t wait two months to put them into affect. Because if you change it now you can change it again to something else or maybe even back in the next two months.

Finding ways to publish

Really, I see content marketing strategies working when they publish unique and useful content regularly and on all the relevant channels. And then the best content marketers evaluate results-short term and long term-constantly.

Based on the data they update and refine their content and distribution strategies going forward.

[Tweet “Always be testing.”]

So if a task doesn’t fit into that strategy it needs to go. Or at the very least it needs to be adjusted.

It’s much easier said than done because some of these task do make us feel very productive and sometimes we don’t have the authority – perceived or real- to actually cut or change a task. And then sometimes outside of our control other people add tasks because they have different objectives and that task actually helps their objectives but not necessarily ours.

Figuring out what the unnecessary task is and then determining how to eliminate them or adjust them is a necessary step. It’s all part of an ever-evolving digital marketing and content marketing landscape.

But process still matters

We still need some kind of process and planning to make content marketing work. I’m a big fan of using Trello cards and boards to make sure everything I need to do is accounted for.

The best workflow in content marketing has necessary steps that can be run through quickly, actually improves the content, ensures it’s unique and enables distribution.

[Tweet “For content to work teams have to work together.”]

The first person produces whatever they’re producing, and then they ship it off to the next person.  That can work when everyone agrees on the process. But it won’t work if people just throw things over the wall.

Examples of throwing it over the wall:

  • Sending an email that somebody may or may not have seen or agreed to address
  • Assigning a workflow software task to somebody without them agreeing to do it
  • Assuming that somebody else is taking care of it without even speaking to them

The lowest level of engagement in this kind of workflow is no action, and the worst is frustration. This kind of workflow can be frustrating for others on your team because there is no discussion, collaboration or innovative partnership. But it also can feel extremely productive for you because you’re checking things off your list. And you’re doing things, but everyone is unsure (even if not consciously) whether those are actually the right things to do.

The main problem is that it doesn’t necessarily accomplish what needs to be accomplished. There are too many vacuums of action and too many silos without enough communication to make it a collaboration to move things forward.


A collaborative content marketing workflow looks a little bit more like this. Teams know what the established workforce is, they know how to check what’s on their plate and they collaborate together to make sure things get done.

You can easily use a model like jobs to be done to determine who is responsible for what. For example:

  • Content creator – this could be the person who gathers the content from the subject matter expert, writes it, and adds relevant links and assets.
  • Editor – this is the person who makes sure the grammar is correct, there are no typos and the story flows.
  • Strategic director – this is the person who makes sure the content and the distribution plan align with current best practices and that the content has a chance to perform well. They also check everything against the strategy.

In a perfect world, all of this happens in the system that also will handle the publishing. So that means the writer writes in the content management system and the editor edits there followed by the director’s review, and then all they have to do is click “publish.”

Read next: To write and edit in WordPress can help with content performance and efficiency

And there certainly are other tasks that need to be done, such as designing and distributing. So you might need additional specialists to do that. But even in those cases, be sure to optimize the workflow.

How about additional approvers?

Early in any content marketing strategy and implementation, you might need a couple more people who want to read each piece of content before it publishes. This is a natural feeling and process, especially early on. Remember the days when we did news releases only, and many, many layers approved them? It took quite a long time to get them finalized.

So it’s OK in the transition that a shorter workflow takes a little bit of time to implement.

What is the smallest number of people you need to touch the content to get from content creation all the way to publishing and distribution? Chances are, it’s fewer than we think, and the reality is that it’s probably more than it should be early on.

But ultimately, to be efficient and effective in content marketing as part of our business strategy, we have to figure out what that minimal viable workflow looks like.

So, in the spirit of being efficient and relevant while involving the right people, I encourage you to find the best and minimal viable workflow for your organization.

After all …

[Tweet “Only content that is published has a chance to perform”]




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