Jessica Barker

What is content creation without a workflow? Quite likely, a flurry of email attachments passed back and forth beneath a cloud of frustration. It probably involves confusion around creative direction, due dates and task ownership as well — which today’s marketing teams simply can’t afford. 

In a world where attention spans are fleeting and competition is fierce, the need for a well-oiled content marketing machine has never been more keenly felt. 

With the right content marketing workflow in place, you can experience unparalleled efficiency and consistency in your content output. A workflow that actually works gives you powerful ways to optimize productivity and elevate content quality. This not only streamlines your entire production process but also helps foster collaboration within your teams. 

Let’s explore the role of creative content workflows as related to your overall content marketing success, and how to establish your own structured approach that stands the test of time (without reinventing the wheel).

What Is a Content Creation Workflow?

For marketers, a content creation workflow is a systematic and collaborative process that outlines the steps and stages involved in producing and distributing content. The tools and tactics underpinning a successful workflow help to simplify the assignment and execution of tasks while supporting visibility, collaboration and communication.

A well-defined workflow allows you to track and increase productivity, align your efforts with broader marketing goals and scale your content creation efforts. It’s a living, breathing thing, too, meaning you can scale and tweak an existing workflow to optimize your content creation process.

Why Do Marketers Need Structured Content Workflows?

If you’re wondering why your existing content marketing doesn’t work or why it’s so complicated to get a deliverable out the door, your content creation process probably lacks structure and clarity. 

A content workflow guides teams to accomplish the right tasks in the right order while keeping their efforts on brand, on time and within budget. It serves several important purposes:

  • Streamlining the process of creating content: With a clear set of steps and guidelines in place, team members can easily collaborate, communicate and coordinate their efforts, saving time and minimizing confusion. This helps prevent unnecessary delays and ensures every piece of content is delivered on time.
  • Aligning production efforts with available resources: By mapping out the entire content creation process from ideation to publication, marketers can forecast the financial and human resources required for each stage. Better content planning allows for better budgeting, resource allocation and ROI.
  • Supporting high-quality content: By establishing clear criteria for content evaluation and review, marketers can ensure every asset meets the desired quality requirements. A good workflow will feature easily accessible briefs and brand guidelines at the start, with quality assurance checks along the way. 

Ultimately, content workflow management empowers your content team to deliver quality marketing collateral without slowing down production or busting the budget. 

Because each marketing team operates differently, there are several ways to tackle workflow design. Let’s take a look at two of the most common formats.

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Task-Based Workflow vs. Status-Based Workflow

Task-based workflows and status-based workflows represent two distinct approaches to managing production processes. Each serves a different purpose and offers its own advantages in creative project management. The key difference lies in their focus and organization.

A task-based workflow centers around the completion of specific actions or tasks. This approach emphasizes progress and the sequential completion of individual phases within a project. It’s most effective when the content creation workflow involves a series of well-defined tasks. And it’s a great choice for any project manager who wants to easily divvy up the work and track progress along the way.

A status-based workflow is designed with a focus on the current stage of a project. This approach is primarily concerned with the overall progress of the project as it moves through various phases — content idea development and production to review and revision. It provides a high-level overview of what’s happening and how far along projects are, allowing for better big-picture coordination.

The best choice in your content creation process will depend on the nature of your projects and teams. Task-based workflows are ideal for projects with clearly defined steps, while status-based workflows suit those with complex interdependencies and multiple contributors. But the good news is that it’s possible to strike a balance and incorporate elements of both approaches.

Certain content marketing platforms enable users to combine task-based and status-based approaches, providing a comprehensive solution that enhances flexibility and adaptability. Armed with this powerful combo, marketers benefit from the precision of task-based workflows and the holistic visibility of status-based workflows.

Steps to Build a Creative Content Workflow Process 

Setting up your production workflow is an important part of creating a strategic marketing process. Whether you’re part of a small but mighty marketing team or a global enterprise, a structured content workflow can significantly enhance the creativity, productivity and efficacy of everyone involved. 

Let’s dive into a series of actionable steps marketers can follow to build the most effective creative content workflow.

1. Establish the Goals and Audience for Your Workflow

As a marketer, you know your target audience and campaign goals like the back of your hand. But when it’s time to build a workflow, turn your attention to the audience and goals for the workflow itself. What are you trying to accomplish with this new and improved process? Which stakeholders does it need to provide value to?

For instance, your writers and graphic designers will need to know what projects they need to accomplish and when. Your CMO will need a way to see performance metrics at a glance. Once you flesh out these important elements, you can build a workflow that ticks all the boxes.

2. Determine Your Content Types

Next, identify the specific types of content that your workflow will support. Do your teams create SEO-driven blog post copy? How about social media content calendars? Will it be important for your workflow to enable website content ideation, with certain team members submitting ideas for others to approve? 

Don’t worry too much about one-off custom projects. Focus on the bread-and-butter of your content marketing for now and make sure those content types are supported by your workflow.

3. Fine-Tune Your Content Creation Process

After steps 1 and 2, you know your “why.” Now, it’s time to consider your “how” (step 3) and “who” (step 4). More specifically, how your content creation process needs to happen, and who is responsible for making it happen. (You may need to consider these two elements simultaneously.)

Outline the necessary steps for each content type you need the workflow to support. For an eBook, this may include topic pitching, research, outlining, copywriting and formatting. For a video, you may need scripting, voiceover recording, storyboarding and video production. 

No matter what you’re creating, you’ll probably need to carve out space for quality assurance checks and rounds of revisions along the way. 

Also, don’t forget about the steps that come before and after the content production itself, like content strategy development, keyword research, publishing, performance tracking and reporting. Reflecting these in your workflow will prevent important tasks from slipping through the cracks. Depending on what tools you use to set up your content creation workflow, it may be able to double as a multichannel content calendar that shows when you need to publish or post each content piece.

4. Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities 

With an understanding of what needs to happen to get your marketing collateral together, be clear about who is responsible for each part of the process. Clarify who will handle tasks like strategy development, ideation, writing, editing, design and distribution. Also, identify who will take care of the administrative side, from setting up a project and attaching the content brief to assigning production staff and providing the final stamp of approval.

If you have a large team, it may be obvious — the writer will take care of written content production, the content marketing strategy expert will oversee the strategy, and so on. But if you’re on a smaller content marketing team, find ways to group related tasks and assign them to specific people.

Clear delineation of tasks will prevent confusion and allow you to draw on the strengths of the individuals on your marketing team.

5. Organize and Automate Your Workflow

Now that you know the why, what, how and who, you should be ready to document your entire content creation workflow for each project type, from start to finish. As you put the pieces together, focus on efficiency and clarity.

While a step-by-step guide document or a Google Sheet can provide your team with general parameters, they won’t allow you to make and see task assignments or status updates for real, in-progress projects. Research content management tools and collaboration platforms and choose one that aligns with your workflow management needs.

In a survey by Zapier, almost all (94%) respondents reported undertaking “repetitive, time-consuming tasks” day to day. According to the same survey, 1 in 5 workers agree that “automation increases the accuracy and efficiency of their work.” And — marketers, take note — 2 in 3 agreed that automation “allows them to focus on more creative tasks and projects.”

So, look for a software solution that automates repetitive tasks and allows you to create or modify projects in bulk. This way, you can free up time for strategic and creative endeavors.

6. Measure Performance and Update Your Workflows Accordingly

With the right content workflow software, you’ll have access to meaningful insights about your marketing team’s performance. You’ll be able to see things like the number of words your copywriters can produce in a given month, the time it takes to get from an idea to a social media post or the volume of projects you have in play for a specific campaign.

Use this information to make tweaks across the who/what/how. For instance, if you find that having two rounds of review causes delays, try a new workflow with just one consolidated batch of feedback. Or if your graphic designers constantly ask around for branded templates, find a way to auto-attach the right templates to the right projects. 

Small changes like this will make your content creation process less clunky and more efficient over time.

The Value of a More Comprehensive Workflow Process

Building a creative content workflow is an ongoing process that requires adaptability and continuous improvement. But if you want to reap the benefits — streamlined communication, consistent content output, greater efficiency and quality, to name a few — it’s worth the effort.

And it can be a little easier when you embrace content management tools that offer the best of task-based and status-based workflows, with automation and collaboration tools baked in.

The end result will be a robust and flexible system that not only optimizes your marketing team’s operations but also nurtures creativity and innovation within the content creation process. 

Stay agile, keep refining and watch your content marketing flourish.