The site hasn’t published a new post in over a week. Timely topics and keywords never get tackled because no one can look up from what they’re already doing. Poor-quality content gets published because the team just needs to get something into the world.
The effects of those and other headaches for time-starved, burned-out content marketing teams ripple. What can you do to minimize or even prevent them? How can you help everyone stay on track so your content marketing hums along without speed bumps?
These five practical ways can help you stay ahead and on point with your content schedule. And I’ll share bonus tips to help individuals avoid disruptive procrastination and burnout.
1. Set a regular publishing schedule the whole team respects
This first point may seem elementary, but it’s crucial. Don’t just say, “Well, we publish a blog every few weeks. It depends.”
That’s not a schedule – that’s an estimate nobody can pin their hat on. Get specific and document it in your content marketing strategy. For example, detail how many blog articles will be published each month – tie a number to a time, such as “We publish one new or updated blog every week.” Get equally specific with all types of content you publish: videos, emails, social media posts, etc.
Your whole team should know and respect the documented schedule. Record it in your content calendar and keep the publishing cogs turning according to the schedule. That means deadlines are not nudge-able. They’re firm. A post must go out at regularly set intervals.
That said, it’s important to embed some flexibility into the schedule. For example, next week’s planned article needs to change because a subject matter expert is unavailable. What can’t change is the deadline for posting an article. This keeps your content schedule consistent but allows wiggle room for human needs that pop up.
2. Use a content calendar tool to its full potential
Your content calendar – and, by extension, the tool to create and manage it – isn’t just a calendar. It’s a living plan for how your content strategy will play out over time.
If you only scratch the surface of what your calendar can do, you’re short-changing your team. With the right tool and features, your content calendar can become the hub of your content marketing:
- Don’t just use it to record publishing dates. Document everything – topics, keywords, assets, goals, creators, resources, and more – anything that helps track your content creation process and helps your team put together all the pieces.
- Dive deep into your calendar tool to harness its full potential. Check out developer guides and videos and learn about all the features available. Teach yourself (and your team) as much about the calendar tool as possible, including further possibilities for automation and collaboration you haven’t touched yet.
I recommend Airtable over and over for managing topics, tracking publishing dates, and corralling assets like header images and document files. Its robust features include handy automation and collaboration capabilities.
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3. Batch content brainstorms and other tasks, too
Ever heard of batching? You group similar tasks and complete them in one fell swoop. It’s a great productivity trick and can help you get ahead with your content calendar.
For example, instead of researching content topics piecemeal, brainstorm a batch of content topics for the month at one time. I’ve relied on this process since 2016. One day per month, I block out a few hours to come up with all the content topics we’ll publish in future weeks. It goes like this:
- Batch content topics and set tentative publish dates. It gives a bird’s eye view of how your blog or website will look. Publishing dates can be confirmed later.
- Record them on the content calendar where the whole team can view them. They can prioritize tasks around the content schedule and execute their roles smartly.
With this system, you never have to scramble for new content ideas. A list of fresh topics tied to great keywords is recorded monthly on our content calendar. At any given moment, most of them are in production with writers, designers, or editors.
You and your team can batch a ton of other tasks besides topic generation:
- Emails: Instead of checking your email every 30 minutes, block out time to get your inbox clear once or twice a day.
- Editing: Review completed content pieces and give feedback all at once.
- Writing: Dedicate time for writing content so you can get deep into a creative mode with no distractions.
- Image creation/editing: Create all of the month’s header images in one chunk of time.
- Meetings: Choose one topic per meeting instead of bouncing around from subject to subject.
- Client calls: Designate a time to take calls with clients daily/weekly/monthly. Don’t schedule calls outside of that time block.
Here’s a great example of a schedule with task batching that goes from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., highlighting each task based on concentration level (light, moderate, deep):
If your team implements batching, make sure to communicate the designated times, so others aren’t trying to DM or call during the focused time. If you must, use do-not-disturb mode on your phone or create an away message on Slack to let people know you’re in focus mode.
4. Delegate smartly
The way each role is delegated has a direct impact on your content marketing. For example, does each team member have defined tasks within their role? Or do tasks – and who completes them – shift depending on which way the wind is blowing?
For small content teams, it might seem to make sense to keep roles amorphous and flexible, but you’re really just shooting yourself in the foot. Without clearly defined roles for each team member, tasks become muddled. Creative tasks start to feel like “creation by committee,” which ultimately can water down your marketing. (Ann Handley aptly calls this “hot dog writing,” as she shared in her newsletter:
“Extruded through so many messaging machines and opinionators and cogitators that you can’t tell what it was originally made of.”)
A well-defined role with well-defined tasks allows each person to take full ownership of their responsibilities.
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5. Document team references and guides
Do you see a theme emerging here? When in doubt, document. It saves a lot of hassle as your team gets in a groove with content production.
Document everything – style guides, call-to-action guidelines, processes, tool workflows, etc. Err on the side of specificity versus vagueness. When questions arise, your team can look at these guides first and refer to them as needed for consistency across your content and channels.
Plus, when you need to onboard someone new, all the documentation will be right there for them to digest and learn your processes.
Tips to help individuals progress smoothly
Along with strategies to get your team rolling like clockwork with content marketing, you and they can take personal actions to keep things going smoothly.
Are you available at all hours? Does your work bleed into your downtime? Are you checking your email at the dinner table? With so many of us working remotely, the lines between work and play are easier to blur.
It’s so important to set firm boundaries. My best tip is to strictly enforce a cut-off time for the workday. For instance, logging off at 5 p.m., silencing Slack notifications, and shutting down your computer.
Setting an end time makes you prioritize tasks differently during the day. You only have so many hours to accomplish what you want to do, so you’ll work smarter to get it all done.
Prioritize rest, nutrition, and movement
This is your gentle reminder that mental and physical health are intertwined. Care for yourself the way you would care for a loved one. That means:
- Prioritize getting a great night’s rest
- Eat at regular intervals throughout the day (and not just junk)
- Move your body daily, even if it’s just a mid-day stroll around the block
Don’t give up
Most of us know, as content marketers, it takes a while to see results from our efforts. Content marketing is not an instant payoff game. Instead, it rewards patience and perseverance.
Take this mindset and apply it beyond content. If you’re frustrated, missing deadlines, feeling overwhelmed, etc., don’t give up.
Take small steps to make positive changes in your daily routine – work and otherwise. Take a step back and look at the larger picture. What good could happen if you persevere? What if you saw your current roadblocks as opportunities instead? What if …?
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Get you and your team rolling along
If you are what you repeatedly do, then your habits truly define you. Taken alone, these small shifts in how you and your team operate might not seem like much. Taken together and repeated over days, weeks, months, etc., they’ll add up to major change for the better for you, your team, and your brand’s content marketing.
Which small shift will you focus on first? Whichever you choose, let this be the first nudge toward the bigger change you need.
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Tools mentioned in this article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please add it in the comments.
Cover images by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute