How To
10 min read

What are Content Operations?

Kristen Ferguson

June 2, 2022

In this digital marketing world, creating quality content is key. Not only that, but creating consistent content that connects with your audience and potential customers or clients is equally as important. But it can get overwhelming. This is why having a content operations system built into your company is crucial.


If creating content for your brand is causing burnout for you or your team, then it’s time to implement some content ops. In this guide, we’ll discuss why content operations are important and discover some key elements to creating a successful content operations system.


What Is Content Operations?

people sitting down near table with assorted laptop computers


A content operation consists of the processes, people, and technologies necessary to plan, produce, distribute, and analyze content strategically.


Content Operations Is A System


Processes, systems, workflows, and SOPs are all incredibly important when it comes to any department of your business, and it’s no different when it comes to your content creation. So what is content operations? It’s simply a system to ensure that the content creation for your brand runs efficiently and effectively. 


How To Scale Your Content Creation

No matter the size of your brand, scaling your processes starts with a system. There is a lot to think of when it comes to digital marketing content - relevancy, quality, quantity, keyword research, SEO (both tech and on-page), writing, editing, analytics, etc. On top of that, your company is likely made up of multiple teams, some of which will have a hand in the content strategy and creation process. 


What we’re getting at here is that without a content ops system, there are too many opportunities for important steps to fall through the cracks making it impossible to scale, or worse, produce lower-quality content. 


Creating A Repeatable, Scalable Content Creation Workflow

Whether you have a team or are a solo entrepreneur at this stage of your company, creating a repeatable, scalable content creation workflow is crucial. This is where content operations come in. Let’s walk through how to build a successful system for you and your team (current and future).



Content Ops Is A Process, Not An Outcome 


Blogs that drive traffic. Sales pages that convert. Social media captions that inspire engagement. These are outcomes. The good news is that content ops are the process that will lead to these results.


Content operations is a series of processes that help you create and manage content at scale. It's the process of defining the people, workflows, tools, and technology that help you create, manage and distribute your content. 


Why Is Content Operations Essential For Consistent Success? 


There’s a difference between simply creating content and creating content that is backed by a successful and proven content strategy.


This section should talk about why a content operations framework is essential for businesses that want to scale and create a successful content strategy. 

How Does Content Operations Help Manage Costs?


When systems aren’t in place, time is wasted. We all know, especially in business, time is money. Ensuring that your workflows and processes are optimized will keep costs optimized as well. 

How Does Content Operations Help You Work Faster?


On the same note, implementing templates and repeatable strategies allows your team to produce quality content faster. Take keyword research for example. Without a streamlined keyword research process in place within your content operations, team members can easily spend too much time on it. And with so many tools from Ahrefs to Moz to Ubersuggest, creating blog content can quickly become time-consuming and overwhelming. 


How Does Content Operations Help You Create Quality Content?


You may have in-house writers on your team or maybe freelance writers are contracted to create content for your company. Either way, creating quality content that embodies your brand and your voice is important. Having a system in place will act as a guide for the writers to create quality content. 

How Quality Content Operations Drives Business Results

Because content is king, content operations will drive business results. The more consistent, quality blog content you create, the more long-tail keywords you’re able to target. A good content and SEO strategy will drive more traffic to your site.


How To Build A Successful Content Operation


Step 1: Identify your goals and create a content strategy

Identifying your goals is an important part of this process because it keeps the content and team focused. If the content ideas don’t align with the big picture goals of the company, then it’s a “no.” Only when goals and milestones are identified can a well thought out content strategy be created and implemented.


Step 2: Use an editorial calendar to organize your content 

Ultimately, implementing systems and processes in your business results in having highly organized operations. Creating an editorial calendar will allow you and your team to take your big-picture content strategy and break it down into actionable steps from “research” to “publish.”


Step 3: Create templates for briefs, guidelines, and outlines

The goal in setting up a successful content operation is to produce content as quickly and efficiently as possible without sacrificing the quality of the content. Templates, guidelines, and outlines allow you to accomplish this. It helps your team (whether in-house or freelancers) to consistently produce content that is on-brand, written in your voice, and with the same cadence.


Step 4: Hire writers and editors that can help you scale up 

We are also going to talk about hiring writers and editors. Having a streamlined process for hiring the right people is crucial in being able to scale a high-performing content operations machine.


Why You Should Start With Content Strategy And A Production Calendar 

A production calendar is a realization or visual overview of your content plan. So after your content strategy has been developed based on your company’s goals, milestones, and marketing strategies, a calendar will ensure that the strategy is successfully implemented. 


Your content calendar is a collaborative tool that shows the entire editorial team what is being published and when. You should use the calendar to make sure you have content for all holidays, events, launches, and evergreen themes (e.g., best of, top 10, how-tos, etc.). 


The key to success here is to ensure that the calendar stays current and updated so that all stakeholders are on the same page and can meet deadlines.

 

Lastly, like any operations system in your business, having a process in place to “check-in” on the system and ensure it’s updated is critical. Having outdated steps is one of the most common downfalls to keeping a system running smoothly and without error.



Build Out Standardized Briefs, Guidelines, And Outlines 


Having a standardized process to create briefs, guidelines, and outlines is an essential piece of the operations process so that writers and editors remain on task and in line with the mission of your company when creating content. 


Here’s a quick framework to understand so that you are able to provide writers with everything they need to create a piece of content for you.


Briefs

Briefs should include the goal, the target audience, and the desired result of the piece of content. 


Guidelines

Guidelines should include information about the brand voice, tone, and any other style rules.


Outlines

Outlines should include an introduction, sections (with headings), and a conclusion.



How To Hire Competent Content Writers

Building up a process for hiring writers is necessary, especially if scaling your content strategy is a current focus for your business.


Where to hire writers

There are many online resources available to us to find freelance writers. The first step is to make sure the resource is a reputable one like these options:


- Upwork 

- Contently 

- Fiverr 

- LinkedIn 


And don’t forget about networking. Asking for referrals from fellow business owners is a great way to find someone who already has a proven track record working with a trusted colleague. 


How to hire quality writers

When hiring a writer on one of these platforms, it can be overwhelming sifting through the high volume of freelancers and/or proposals. But there is a way to narrow it down:


  1. Make sure the person took the time and effort to complete their profile complete with verification and portfolio examples.
  2. Check their reviews to see if they’ve had any issues with companies in the past.
  3. Review their portfolio checking for things like quality of work, grammar, the ability to write with the brand’s voice, etc.
  4. When communicating with them through the messaging system, take note of things like how long they take to respond and their communication style. 


These are a few ways to ensure you’re hiring the right person to write your content consistently, and this process of hiring should be documented in your content operations process.


Tips For Finding High-Quality Content Editors 


Again, whether hiring an employed editor or a freelance editor, vetting their work is important. You should be sure to ask for examples of prior editorial projects.


When hiring an editor, you want to find people with a strong opinion about content quality and who know how to edit for your audience and voice. You also want to find someone who is detail-oriented and process-driven.


But how do you find the best content editors?


Similarly to finding high-quality writers, hiring editors for a trial piece of content is a great way to be efficient with creating content without committing to a long-term contract. The best way to be sure an editor is a good fit is to see their work for your company for yourself. 


Focus On Creating Repeatable, Scalable Workflows 


The importance of repeatable, scalable workflows

At this point, it’s no secret that creating processes and workflows that encourage a team environment where multiple people can accomplish a single goal is crucial. Ensuring that the workflows can be repeated over and over again will lead to scalability. 


Ultimately, the more scalable the workflow, the more your company succeeds. Not to mention, a team working together and repeatedly creating high-quality content is a team that will be encouraged, feel successful, and cultivates a winning culture.


Examples of repeatable, scalable workflows

So what are examples of repeatable, scalable workflows? The details will depend on factors like which tools and resources your company uses, how many stakeholders there are, etc. But here are a few examples of what a successful workflow might look like on a high level:

 

  • Create outline -> writer -> editor -> post processing -> publishing 
  • Keyword research -> create outline -> hire writer -> edit -> on-page SEO & format -> publish -> repurpose to social media
  • Content strategy -> add to content calendar -> send to writing team -> edit -> on-page SEO & format -> publish -> repurpose to social media -> add to content calendar for review/updates

man writing on white board


How to create repeatable, scalable workflows

Most likely, there will be some trial and error involved in creating a successful repeatable and scalable workflow. This is because “doing” is a part of the process. And every business is different. As your company grows, the workflows will change. However, the key to success is to have workflows in place whether you have a team of 1 or a large enterprise.


According to Notion, here’s what to consider when creating a workflow for your team.


1. Identify inefficiencies & assess your team's needs

2. Pick the right tool for the job

3. Build a better process with your team using the RACI framework

4. Document everything about your process

5. Don't forget to assess the results


You can read in more detail about these steps in Notion’s blog post, but in summary, you need to consider the people, the technology, and the step-by-step tasks that are all involved in your content creation process. And after all is said and done, assessing the results so that you can refine your workflows over time is key.


Why Should I Build A Content Flywheel? 


What is a content flywheel and what does it include?


A content flywheel is a way of turning the mechanism of your content strategy into a machine that creates momentum for your business. It should help your business create relevant, new knowledge that people want to share and read. This means it should include steps like researching trends, researching keywords, and even getting your customers involved.


Take the company Databox for example. They ask their customers questions and use those questions to create highly valuable content that speaks directly to their target audience. 


In order to reach your target audience, sometimes writing content on topics that are related to but maybe outside of your company’s scope of expertise is necessary. Incorporating subject matter experts from internal and external sources will allow you to continue creating high-quality content.


How to create a content flywheel

The content flywheel simplifies the content creation process at a bird’s eye level. Hubspot’s flywheel model differentiates itself from a funnel model. In the flywheel model, the center of focus is the customer and their experience while a funnel model focuses on the customer as the outcome.


Hubspot’s opinion is that “companies that choose to use the flywheel model over other models have a huge advantage because they aren’t the only ones helping their business grow — their customers are helping them grow as well.”


We can take this model and apply our content creation elements to it. This process should be cyclical and repeatable. 


Hubspot’s model includes 3 high-level components:


  1. Attract
  2. Engage
  3. Delight


Let’s plugin content strategy and creation into this model:


  1. Attract - Use SEO & Keyword research content on your website to drive traffic. Use tools like Answer the Public or refer back to the Databox method of going straight to the source to ensure that the content you’re creating is relevant and on-trend.
  2. Engage - No pun intended, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Your long-form blog content can be repurposed into social media captions, short-form videos, etc. This kind of content will help engage your new audience.
  3. Delight - This is where brand identity comes into play. Ensuring that your content exudes your brand’s personality will give the customer an experience to remember. Focus on content that is shareable in order to start the flywheel from the beginning with new customers.



How To Scale Up Your Content Operations 


How to scale up by increasing the volume of content you produce

Optimizing your contention operations will create a well-oiled machine allowing your company to produce more content than ever before. 


Scale-up by increasing the size of the team to help you produce content

When you have a smooth process in place, scaling the size of your team to help your product content becomes easier. You’ll know your content ops is successful if you can hire new team members with ease.


Scale-up by focusing on improving your workflow

As mentioned above, continually refining your workflow will allow your company to grow and scale exponentially. Trial and error are inevitable, but the end results are rewarding.


woman placing sticky notes on wall
creative business team working on content operations workflows together with sticky notes on a whiteboard


Takeaway: Content operations is an important process that helps create a scalable, profitable content strategy. 


If the right system with the right steps is in place, your content operations process will help you create a scalable and profitable content strategy for your business.


To summarize, having an effective content strategy will:

  • Help your teamwork faster saving time and money
  • Allow you to hire writers and editors onto your team with ease
  • Ensure that all content creators are creating high-quality, on-brand content written in your voice.
  • Keep your content in line with your company’s mission ultimately driving business growth and success


The important thing is to get started with developing your content operations framework. Your growing team will thrive in an environment where expectations are clear and they’re set up to succeed along with your company.


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