Content creation isn’t about single-handedly writing an article around a topic. It’s about teamwork.
The content creation process is about endless collaboration and communication. Being a content specialist doesn’t mean that you have only one task to do, which is to write a piece of content. Writers have to cooperate with a number of other specialists, such as PR managers, editors, SEOs, designers, and marketing managers. It can be a real hassle to coordinate efforts with all those team players.
At SEMrush we wanted to figure out the biggest challenges of content specialists. To shed some light on the current state of content collaboration and identify the most complicated tasks of content practitioners, we conducted research in partnership with the Content Marketing Institute. It’s interesting that all of these tasks aren’t performed by a single person, but often require the collaborative efforts of different team members.
SEMrush & CMI Joint Research — Most Frequent Collaborations of Content Writers
The research insights helped us to discover that better collaborative workflow may be one of the most important elements of a digital content marketing strategy.
We used the results of this study to identify the main bottlenecks for content marketing specialists across different stages of the content lifecycle. In this article, we describe the planning stage and explain how collaboration with other team members can help content producers do their job effectively.
Content planning tasks and collaboration
Effective content collaboration and communication are vital elements of a successful content creation process, especially when it comes to the planning stage. As part of the research, we interviewed more than 1800 respondents and discovered the most time-consuming and most challenging tasks of content marketing specialists at this stage.
Below you’ll find 6 steps of the planning and ideation process and our recommendations on how content producers should organize their working processes to perform their tasks effectively and solve challenges they’re facing at each stage.
Step 1 – Defining the ROI and goals of a content campaign
Team player to work with: Content Strategist / Project Manager
Quantifying the return on your marketing activities can certainly be tricky, especially when it comes to content. The reason is that it can be difficult to focus content specifically on sales. In fact, the definition of ROI may vary in different companies based on their business goals and content marketing KPIs, such as website traffic, conversion rate, engagement, downloads, etc.
A content strategist or a project manager is the one who knows the goal of a campaign and can help a writer define the key content marketing metrics for it. It’s interesting that when we asked about the most challenging aspect of being a content strategist, “developing an ROI plan of a content campaign” was the second most popular response, accounting for 25%.
SEMrush & CMI Joint Research — Most Challenging Tasks for Content Strategists
At the very beginning of the planning stage, a content strategist and project manager explain to a writer the main goal of a campaign, providing them with direction. By knowing campaign goals a content producer can craft their piece of content accordingly, set the right tone, and create an effective and powerful message.
A strategist helps to define which metrics really matter for that specific campaign. Instead of trying to track all possible metrics, which can be counterproductive, it’s worth focusing on a few relevant metrics. When you know exactly what results you want to achieve, it will be easier to define and measure the ROI of your content marketing efforts.
Pro Tip: To ensure that content performance can meet the expectations of your content strategist or project manager, ask them several vital questions before you start writing:
- What are the main goals? Why are you writing this piece of content (new clients, registrations, payments, etc.)?
- What metrics are you going to monitor?
- Who is the target audience and what are their interests?
In order to not forget or lose this valuable information, use a calendar, where you can add tasks, organize deadlines, and set goals for each piece of content.
Step 2 – Understanding who your target audience is
Team player to work with: Content Strategist
This is one of the first and most important steps in your content marketing workflow. By knowing your target audience and their pain points, you can produce more relevant content that your website visitors will want to read.
At this stage, a content writer and a content strategist work closely together. Professional strategists’ responsibilities include analyzing the market, identifying its opportunities, and conducting persona research. By sharing their knowledge, strategists help content writers to better understand their buyer persona, i.e. the target audience.
An experienced strategist knows that a target audience may change over time. That’s why they conduct market research on a regular basis (in most cases each year) to review their audience parameters, which is crucial for growing a brand’s audience.
Pro Tip: Before talking to a content strategist, prepare for the meeting and spend some time conducting your own audience research. See what language they use, what topics they write about, and what problems they face. Use Twitter and Quora, where you can find a wealth of information about your target audience. If you do research, it will be much easier for you and your content strategist to create a unified vision of what your potential readers look like.
Step 3 – Deciding what to write about
Team player to work with: PR Specialist
Although content producers and PR specialists are responsible for different tasks, they have many things in common when it comes to their end goals. Both aim at creating a compelling message that appeals to their target audience and can drive the desired behavior.
Collaboration between content and PR is especially valuable at the brainstorming stage. A professional PR manager provides new story ideas, relevant information, resonating topics or newsworthy events, around which a writer can craft a new piece of content. With each other’s help, content and PR teams can ensure a consistent and effective brand message; not to mention that a media relations professional can help you give your content additional boost.
When working together writers and PR specialists should try to create strategies that support and leverage each other for better results. While the former is responsible for writing a message, the latter tries to figure out how to communicate this message and pick the right angle for content writing.
Pro Tip: Save precious time on brainstorming by doing your own research. Search the web to discover the most trending topics, articles that are being linked to most often, and the most shared blog posts. Find out what people are writing about and what angle they are using.
Step 4 – Creating a content plan
Team player to work with: Editor
Without building a solid editorial content plan you will be shooting at a forest instead of a target. This is where collaboration between a writer and an editor comes into play.
While writers do research and produce content pieces, editors take a broader approach, guiding the work of writers and planning what will be published and when. An editor is responsible for guidelines that specify and distinguish your brand’s content standards. They help to maintain a specific style and voice in content so that every article or blog post remains recognizable and distinct from other content on the web.
A well-defined editorial plan includes several key elements:
- A list of topics you’re going to craft your content around based on your content strategy.
- Tone and format of a content piece aimed at a specific audience (e.g., how-to, guide, case study, infographic, ebook, white paper, interview, etc.).
- Assigned writers and editors responsible for a particular piece of content.
- Publishing dates and a timeline with tasks.
Pro Tip: Create a calendar, which both you and an editor can edit. In this calendar, you’ll be able to monitor your posting schedule, deadlines, writers responsible for certain pieces of content, and progress. It will allow you to avoid any “surprises” and ensure that your content marketing campaign runs its course without a hitch.
Step 5 – Optimizing content for search engines
Team player to work with: SEO Specialist
The competition between websites remains fierce. While quality content is vital for your content marketing success, it’s equally important to ensure that it’s properly optimized, so that search engine bots can easily find and crawl your content.
Even though today’s content producers are well aware of keyword research and link building, they often don’t know how to apply it in practice. When we asked content writers about the most challenging part of their effort, “finding a balance between the creative element and search optimization” was the top answer, with 47% of respondents mentioning it.
SEMrush & CMI Joint Research — Most Challenging Tasks for Content Writers
An SEO expert provides writers with valuable suggestions on how to choose the right terms to tailor their content around, optimize headlines, develop a smart metadata strategy, and build quality links.
Pro Tip: Don’t get caught in a trap by focusing too much on the creative element and make sure that your content meets your SEO recommendations. To maintain the right balance between user- and SEO-friendliness, you can use specific tools that help you check the SEO potential of your content and ensure that it complies with recommendations for optimized content.
Step 6 – Brainstorming ideas for visuals
Team player to work with: Designer
Any piece of content needs design. It makes written material more digestible and eye-catching.
It’s good practice when writers and designers brainstorm ideas for visuals together. They are two sides of the same coin. While writers know the topic, purpose, and potential readers of content, designers can turn the idea into beautiful graphics.
However, the collaboration between two creative personalities can sometimes be challenging, as each of them has their own vision. To make the brainstorming process smooth and productive, it’s important to ensure good communication between content and design teams. They need to learn how to understand and listen to each other. It’s worth using terms that all team members understand. Also, each of them should give specific feedback, receive feedback the right way, and avoid vague comments and suggestions.
Pro Tip: When working with designers, an online marketing calendar is an indispensable tool in your arsenal. You can track the implementation of tasks, see who is responsible for each task, and attach files to keep all important materials in one place.
Using tools for boosting results and efficiency
As you can see, content planning is a complex process that requires not only writing and editing abilities but also solid managerial skills. To manage and juggle all the tasks, an increasing number of content practitioners start using various tools for streamlining their working practices.
SEMrush & CMI Joint Research — Tools for Automating Content Marketing Tasks
We at SEMrush have a huge marketing team with content specialists on board, so we are well aware of what it takes to create a good, optimized piece of content. We designed our tools for content professionals with their needs in mind. SEMrush’s toolkit for content marketers provides tools that enable you to find ideas for your articles and blog posts, optimize your content for search engines, distribute it, track your results, and conduct a thorough audit of your content.
The tip of the iceberg – Discover more insights in the full study
The workflow described covers just a small part of the global content marketing process. The content lifecycle includes many other stages, such as creation, distribution, performance tracking, and auditing, with different content personas responsible.
During the SEMrush and CMI Research, we asked about the specific challenges of each persona at each part of a content strategy workflow to understand the cross-functional challenges across the whole content marketing process. You can see all the collected results of this survey in the full research.
Guest author: Tanya Vasileva is a Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush — a leading digital marketing toolkit for SEO, PPC SMM and content marketing professionals worldwide. She writes about marketing, analyzes SEMrush data and interested in marketing strategy.