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Project Management Tools for the Content Creation Process
Posted on April 16th 2013
Content Calendars That Scale
As corporate spend on content marketing continues to grow, and enterprises are becoming publishers, brands are facing an entirely new challenge in keeping their content creation process under control. I’ll be the first to point out that while Robert Allen’s quotation, “Touch paper only once,” speaks volumes about productivity, he wasn’t a content marketer. No organization can afford the risk of publishing content that hasn’t gone through a designated process of checks and balances, even when you’re dealing with an exclusively in-house team. Content marketing directors need a scaleable solution for keeping their editorial calendars in check, providing up-to-date insights on progress to senior management, and centralized document storage.
Organizational Challenges and Needs
I know a content marketer whose team grew from 1 to 6 members in as many months. At first, she used a shared Google document to store her editorial calendar and annotate assignments, but as the team grew quickly, the system became more of a liability than a tool. Utilizing a shared document as an editorial calendar was admittedly nimble and low-maintenance, but there were too many potential points of failure. Based on her experience, and my own time managing a high velocity of content creation, the ideal project management tool for a content marketing team of more than one will likely include at least several of the following capacities:
1. Support for Multiple Steps
Virtually every content creation process will require separate steps for creation, editing, review, and publication, which will likely take place over multiple workdays. The system needs to be complex enough to support the need for multiple components of a single step, each of which will have a separate deadline and assignee.
2. Nimble Task Assignment
Projects and duties can change quickly as companies pivot to optimize their content marketing strategy, so an ideal system will be nimble enough to allow the in-house project manager or program director to quickly assign and reassign.
3. Dependencies and Priorities
Mid-sized and large content creation teams may need a moderate amount of oversight, and this need will grow if your company is among those outsourcing to some degree. A system that requires tasks to be completed in a given order can minimize the attention needed from management throughout each process.
4. An Aggregation System
Whether it’s integrated into your project management software or not, aggregating your content marketing in a single, centralized, and ideally searchable, single location is crucial.
5. Workload Forecasting
While some content directors may prefer simpler systems, having the ability to estimate time needed to complete assigned tasks can streamline management, and improve your ability to assign “hot jobs.”
6. Billing and Time Tracking
It’s not necessary at every company, but a project management system that allows time-tracking, and provides instant reporting for billing or internal reporting by projects can improve communication between departments.
While this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s clear that the concept of project management in the content marketing realm is genuinely unique. Using traditional concepts of editorial calendars, or tools optimized for different trades simply isn’t an option in the era of real-time publishing.
How the Optimal Project Management Tool for Content is Different
While project management is a broad concept that can differ significantly between industries and specializations, the concept is the same. In a well-managed project, the operations and nitty-gritty are both streamlined to a point where the process can occur smoothly and without hindrance. Given the nature of content marketing, here are several reasons the first search engine result for “web-based project management software” isn’t necessarily the ideal solution for your team:
1. It Needs to Be Intuitive
Your project management software simply can’t hinder your team members from focusing on the optimal process. As copywriting and tech specialist Mark Sherbin recently pointed out, “your marketing software should enable you to cut IT out of the equation, to some extent.”
While many of the leading producers of project management tools for creatives have stated that fewer features are almost always optimal, the challenge is selecting a tool that’s both easy-to-use and ready to scale if your department budget suddenly doubles. Regardless, the following features will almost certainly be a strong benefit:
Simple Tracking of Task Progress
Instantly Recognizable Role Assignments
Options to Easily Sort Workload by Project and Team Member
If your company is searching for options specifically for managing your content marketers, whatever option you select needs to be simple enough to easily be utilized by colleagues from other departments.
2. It Ought to Encourage Collaboration
No project management tool should make communication between departments more difficult. Your ultimate solution should streamline, not complicate, the steps necessary to ensure your content assets are sufficiently high-quality. Agencies may need to select a product that offers limited access to outside parties for the purpose of approval and communication on projects in-progress. The following communication attributes can encourage teamwork and eliminate the confusion of conversations across multiple platforms:
Notifications as Task Dependencies are Completed
The Ability to Share Updated Documents and Files
Centralized, Real-Time Communication on Projects
Regardless of whether a given individual is assigned the bulk of their workload through your project management solution or your verbal approval on a single campaign, the software should serve as an all-in-one platform for communication.
3. It Should Be Indestructible
Whether you’re working with an exclusively outsourced team of freelancers, or a tight-knit group of highly accountable in-house professionals, one of the primary functions of an optimal project management solution is to mitigate the possibility you’ll find yourself running “fire drills” hours before a press release or white paper should be released. I can’t define what a process should look like in your content marketing department, but your project management software should support your need to define roles, limit permissions, and establish accountability across the board. Here are some features that could diminish risk:
The Ability to Define, Customize, and Edit User Permissions
Saved Templates for Consistent Processes Across Projects
Real-Time Notification and Alerts if Tasks Aren’t Completed
Even if your content marketing team is able to work as a seamless whole, software solutions designed to mitigate risk can prepare you for changes, team growth, and minimize the need to actively manage.
What attributes and features do you find critical to managing content marketing teams? Have you found any optimal solutions?