Why it’s time for a minimal viable workflow in content marketing

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

You might be interested in this article if you are a:

  • Chief marketing officer
  • Social media marketer
  • Content creation strategist
  • Content marketing strategist
  • Digital marketing or communications leader

As much as I’d love to say that doing will beat planning, and that may be true in some cases, we still need some kind of process and planning to make content marketing work.

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 fantastic distribution.

But a lot of content marketing workflows unfortunately look like this:

The first person produces whatever they’re producing, and then they ship it off to the next person. That, of course, is just a nice way of saying that they threw it over the wall. It’s now in the next person’s court. “You take care of it. No longer my problem.” Ugh.

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:

Say you have a few people who work together on a problem while also looking at the data that shows if they’re on the right track or not. There’s some structure and it’s orderly, but it’s not overly rigid.

I would recommend a good mix of people, but no more than a few. Here’s a good example of what makes up a well-rounded content marketing team for one workflow:

  • The content creator – this could be the person who gathers the content from the subject matter expert, writes it, and adds relevant links and assets.
  • The editor – this is the person who makes sure the grammar is correct, there are no typos and the story flows.
  • The 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.

That’s it. That’s the workflow. In a perfect world, all of this content creation will have happened 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.”

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

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. But it is still important to get to that shorter workflow. I call it the most minimal viable workflow.

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.

For me on this blog, it usually only includes just myself. I have an idea for a blog post. I write it. I publish it. Sometimes I ask somebody else to read it to make sure my main points are coming across and I’m hitting the right tone. Every once in a while, I hire a professional editor to edit my articles. But for the most part, I try to get from content identification to content creation to publishing and distribution quickly.

It’s really the only way to maximize the small amount of my time I have to begin with and to see what works and what doesn’t work.

I have high hopes that all my content resonates with my audience. But I also realize that not all of it will. Given that I’ve found the quickest workflow to produce content, it’s OK that that’s the reality of content consumption. I would likely feel a lot different had it taken me 69 hours to finish one article on here.

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. Here’s to content relevance and efficiency!