How to scale your content process to match your business

Written by Alan Black

You’re always correcting the same style and tone points.

Your team bristles at every little tweak.

And nothing gets signed off without a back-and-forth rally that wouldn’t be out of place on Centre Court.

You’ve not got the wrong people. You’ve got the wrong content process.

We can help with that.

Map ‘as is’

Does all your content spring from a highly detailed strategy, backed by a week-by-week plan?

Or is it based on what the COO reckons your customers might find interesting?

Who decides what you write? What are the criteria? Who briefs the writers? When will the first draft be ready?

You need to go through every step of the content’s journey – from the germ of the idea, all the way through to refreshing content once it’s been live for a month.

You can’t have too much detail. Or too many Post-Its.

Mural is good for this kind of collaborative work. Their sequence diagramming template is a simple way to map a process.

Pro tip: if you can, bring in a facilitator for this part. They’ll prepare the templates you need, make sure everyone has their say, and generally take any heat and discomfort out of the discussion. Oh, and they should be able to help you see some issues you hadn’t identified on your own. What’s that? You’re wondering if we do this kind of thing? Talk to us and we’ll explain how it works.

Vote for pain

So, you’ve figured how your content gets produced.

But where are the problems? The roadblocks? The headaches?

Gather your team and ask them to vote on which parts of the process cause the most pain, which feel fine – and which could be fine with a little work.

Then take your list of pains and figure out what’s behind them. Again, we’ll turn to Mural – their cause and effect template is a great way to find the reasons that lie beneath.

Map ‘as it should be’

You know what’s working well, what needs fine-tuning – and what’s fit for the bin.

You’ve also figured what’s causing pain.

Now you get to create the process as it should be.

This, of course, is the tricky bit.

Arm yourself with the Mural sequence diagramming template again, and get at it.

Even then, you’re not done.

That’s because processes aren’t like other things us humans create, like books or buildings.

The best processes are never really finished.

Pro tip: an external consultant will help you understand your options, and bring experience of what works well – and not-so-well – for others. Us? Consult? Of course we do.

Create exemplars

The briefing form.

The style guide.

The tone of voice manual.

The training course for new writers.

The template for every case study, white paper or report you’ll ever write.

You don’t need many exemplars, but they do need to be – what’s the word? – exemplary.

Automate

The ‘as it should be’ map is your system. Go back to it.  Make sure it has clear ‘what to do if…’ questions with corresponding next steps. If it doesn’t, add them.

Draw a decision tree if that helps.

Then – and here’s the important bit – automate the living daylights out of your new system.

First off, put checklists in your document templates. If you’re not sure where to start, set aside a week and read The Checklist Manifesto – if it’s good enough for a surgeon, it’s probably good enough for you.

Then, set ‘perfection’ as your default. For example, make it physically impossible to slot a job into the system without a corresponding written brief, deadline and budget.

Go further. Set up workflows, perhaps using a tool like Podio. Or use an app-connector like Zapier to act on triggers (like ‘new job created for Zach’) by carrying out an action (like ‘add time to Zach’s schedule’).

If you’re serious about scaling, you need to be just as serious about automation.

Coach, don’t correct

When you see your team struggling, don’t fix the problem for them. That means no more amends.

Instead, give advice and direction.

Become a ‘commenter’, not an ‘amender’.

Your people

This is the most complicated one of all.

And the one most managers miss.

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is a cliché because it’s true.

Guess what? There’s a Mural Team Charter template for that.

It won’t fix every content team issue. But it’s a good start.

Do you need a content operations overhaul? Did you know we consult?