Charged content p. 2: 18 techniques for Marketers that boost content production


Content professionals have a tendency to get stuck in their unfortunate patterns that make collaboration hard. If the content process isn’t working for you or the team, it’s time to redefine work standards.
Here are 18 performance tips for Marketers on any of the 3 structural levels.

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💬 From part one, you learned why content production is dirty work for many brands. 

Everybody expects stellar audience engagement, but few want to reform their content process for the better. 

I explained why creators and reviewers aren’t in sync, what problems hurt their content efforts, and which excuses stop marketing departments from improving their game. There’s more.

Part two suggests how specialists, managers, and directors can change their work ethic to unify for the production of satisfying content that gets traction. Let’s get practical.

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The irresponsibility behind content problems

Your brand doesn’t have to run like the New York Times. 

Yet, you know that unless you spend thousands on digital ads, your best bet is to acquire customers through stellar content that they will remember you for. 

I hope you are that reader.

Only 43% of professionals out of 1200 people surveyed by SEMrush in 2020 are satisfied with their content game where 75% of them use it to generate leads.

Dig deeper, and you’ll learn that 78% of participants have a content team of… just 3 people, where there’s one full-time writer.

The report supports the problem of in-house mismanagement that hurts content production,  covered in part one of the series

From my experience of working with startups, agencies, and mammoths such as Visa, Selena, or Avis, I concluded there that:

  • Creators (writers and specialists) lack inspiration and mentored growth, while reviewers (managers and directors) keep their hands away from content production because their heads are bombed with other problems
  • Avoiding responsibility keeps us comfortable but is not a winning strategy (ask about my life). Shareable content comes from the synergy between specialists, managers, and directors working under one goal

Today, you’ll discover techniques used by the best creative teams I’ve met.

Content productivity tips from big agencies

The following 18 actionable techniques for each level of the marketing department. 

They answer recurring problems in creative work that I’ve been tackling with clients over the years.

What you’ll read about communication works, any decent advertising agency will approve. Send it in for an opinion. 

I’ll repeat it again. Creative work demands responsibility.

Without it, blog entries take over a week, and a simple, 30-second ad ping-pongs for a month. There is a philosophy that can gradually change that.

You can improve your content workflow by solving immediate problems in your influence while respecting the usual collaboration rules colleagues have. Start with yourself as you might underestimate how much you can change.

If you find this list valuable, please share this link with employees in need, use this advice in your review meetings, or pack this into a growth workshop.

Editor’s note

Before you say this is basic

You might not know it yet, but the mind is rigged to look for a complex answer. I swore to live in line with the Occam’ Razor principle, which shows me day by day that the simplest answer bring wonderful results.

The sharpest Marketers I’ve copied (my friends at Databox, 25wat, or OnePitch) to get my career anywhere don’t rely on growth hacking gimmicks first. Their power comes from a strong foundation of soft skills that shine through in content marketing projects.

As you scroll through the points below (I can see you), think of your proficiency, asking:

→ Is this true for me?

→ Am I really good at this?

→ What can I learn from this?

→ How can I help my pals be better at this?

Specialist level

📋 Tips apply to PR, Social Media, and Marketing Specialists, Content Writers, and Copywriters.

For beginner Marketers, every content project still feels as big as a bank heist in the works.

When they are assigned a vague goal, they tend to slip into a state of confusion, not knowing what’s the optimal way to reach it.

Professionals on that level are still youngbloods, figuring out how to be efficient. This set of tips addresses what they should master to become a reliable contributor whom the boss regularly asks for advice.

1. Clock in to save time

Without a time cap for content writing and design, we’re stuck perfecting until it’s minutes to midnight.

Try measuring production time with a tool such as Toggl.

Keep on asking for feedback from your reviewers, and soon enough you’ll know how much time goes into acceptable, very good, or overworked content. You’ll improve your deliverability, creative proficiency, and availability for ad-hocs.

Do you research for 3 hours? Give it 1.5.

What about writing 2 pages in 6 hours? You can go down to 4 pages in 2 hours if you stop stressing out about every sentence.

You just have 8 hours per day.

If you’re looking for even more time at work, measure what you’re doing and cut down.

2. Start with an outline

Getting stuck mid-page sucks, yet it keeps happening until you plan your writing first.

Structure all content forms like an essay to see a tremendous improvement in work speed. With a list of rough arguments on the side, your brain will unfreeze.

Knowing what the content is for, define in detailed points: what’s the message for the audience; what’s their problem; what’s the thesis; which facts support it; what advice you have; what are the key takeaways; what’s the next step for the reader.

Bear with the process and you will have a rewarding outline that speaks whenever you’re stuck.

If you do it enough times, you’ll know from intuition what the next 3 paragraphs should be before you hit space again.

3. Know your mission

You want to write for the audience, but you get through the decision-maker.

Beware. Grasp what the bosses want to communicate to avoid a review pitfall.

Editors may have a keyword, a sentence, a phrase, or statistics they need in. See, in their mind, these elements will make or break your work.

If you’re expected to use “America’s finest”, “frictionless”, or “swaggerin’ in 28 countries”, there’s a reason for it whether or not you find it valid.

Don’t disobey until you’re 100% sure you can change minds.

Your best bet is to receive specific content examples the reviewer appreciates adapting their style.

4. Multi-deadlines will save you

If your teammates cannot contribute on time, address that now.

Regardless if you’re the project owner or not, should you need input from others, you need to manage their timing for them.

Set several deadlines as Madison Square agencies do.

If a booklet is due for next Friday, you have at least 4 valid deadlines.

No. 1 is for the turnover day for the project. Set the second one 2 days earlier for the Editor to review the copy.

Set no. 3 four days before for the graphic designer to approve their work with enough time for patching up.

No. 4 may be a deadline for information gathering if you need input from several figures.

This practice will expand your project-management intuition as you become a trustworthy creator who owns the work.

5. Know what people like

Quick: name 4 preferred media platforms. Why them?

You must like what they communicate. How does that work? Exactly as your content should.

Remember that people study information with the intent that often they don’t recognize. On our services of preference, we look for advice, opinion, or entertainment.

User-engagement grows as brands deliver the three as the media do.

The question of “what exactly we should publish” remains, with the answer being whatever the best competitors run, but with a taste of originality.

Collect top-ranked content from other brands in a spreadsheet with eyes on shares in social media and on the web with BuzzSumo for competitive research.

If you still struggle with inspiration, imagine that you’d have to present at TEDx.

What would you talk about?

In any conversation, there’s at least one likable statement to make – Copyblogger’s content will show you the way.

6. Compromise now

When you’re not the decision-maker, being right is rough.

My clients always seem to request an edit. Is the work that bad? No.

They pride themselves in providing their input, even if they don’t own the idea. It’s how egos work, and you’ll be better off accepting that.

Creators show the same pride in their protectionism of their work, but we forget that we lack the authority over the final product.

Do you want to debate a CEO for hours about subjunctive moods if the message is still on point?

It’s not worth it.

Don’t argue over any changes to your content with the reviewer, unless they’re harmful to the brand.

Even if your team loves your copy, that doesn’t entitle you to take the reviewer’s place. Don’t resist, but be useful.

That’s how you make people listen in.

Managerial level

📋 Team Leads, Content, PR and Marketing Managers will learn most from this bit.

Imagine that strategic management skills are the hardest to find among Marketers in 2020.

Managers that I’ve met struggle with hyperactivity that comes from being involved in many micro-decisions about design, content, software choice, or sales consulting. The result?

That stolen time prevents them from doing their actual job of streamlining work.

Sure, most Managers have to roll their sleeves to do their daily chores. But they can’t do that at the expense of their team being misdirected, because there’s no one available to connect the dots.

Here, you’ll learn how professionals of that level can become better mediators that keep the department productive.

1. Brief it

Think about how you usually delegate content work.

If you cough out a generalist request full of buzzwords and with no structure, your teammates will bombard with questions.

Facts will also slip by, people will be excluded, and the content won’t face up to expectations.

Avoid the dread of commissioning projects by using a repetitive structure of a brief. It’s good for you.

A content brief serves as an agreement in writing, pushing you to set clear expectations that people account for.

It’s also your shield for when the performance review comes.

Add or remove elements on the grounds of what your teammates ask about. Content Marketing Institute has a superb idea for the brief’s content.

Act as a creative director and include competitive content for inspiration, but explain how your team can embrace it.

Stick to a briefing routine and it will teach you to communicate your expectations consistently so you can enjoy consistent results.

It’s like hiking prep. Plan the trail, pick the right jacket, and measure your food, and your trip will be lighter.  

2.  Interview the VIP

Grunt work writers may not have an office all-pass, but their content lands everywhere. If you’re the mediator, help your creatives define what the bosses demand.

A brief interview shows you and the team as caretakers rather than mindless doers even if you expect a “but” anyway.

Should you face any dissatisfaction from reviewers later, you’ll be able to prove they could express themselves. Ask for marketing campaign examples, if they have a clear vision, or content examples if they have a preference in tone.

At least scoop it out from their social media reshares.

In time, your team’s content work will see its approval rate spire, as you meet expectations with better accuracy.

3. Let the editor live

If you correct the editor, you either have an incompetent coworker, or you engage in self-indulgence.

If you’re not the editor, note they’re on board for a reason. It’s their job to define what combination of language and design engages people the most.

Unless your editor was a wrong pick, he or she knows better what blocks go together.

Your hands aren’t tied.

You can teach that person to spot what troubles you. Make a list of errors to avoid and phrases of preference supportive to the brief.

Armed in knowledge, your editor is a reliable ally who will make content blemishes poof away. 

4. Influence people

Why do you read newsletters? To expand your perspective.

Does your team lack ideas? Get them reading more yourself, as they’d rather slack off. You can start by writing one extra email weekly with content cut out from the best newsletters that fuel your brain.

Hear out your team on where they want to improve, tap into the best sources you can find, and send it away in an internal newsletter.

Don’t say it’s wasteful until you try.

The winning move here is to explain why the content is worth a read, with two or three takeaways for each item.

Be your team’s tour guide to the world of marketing creativity with these wholesome resources:

  • Daily Carnage: hand-picked online marketing bits focused on action
  • The Content Strategist: content engagement explained by professional writers — the masters of storytelling
  • Grow.co: for digital pirates hungry for an influx of users
  • Unbounce: always-be-converting

5. Have a “why” for each step

In copywriting, each sentence leads the mind onward.

Step by step — as with unlocking a safe — each piece of content guides the prospect by hand through the purchasing process.

The mind waivers around until we catch it with a bold slogan that centers it on our marketing.

Whatever the conversation is about, It’s our duty to answer “why” as the answer should reveal a reason to go on. Before you follow through with a content list for your team to produce, see if each synopsis stands the “why” test.

If a creative can explain his idea with passion, the content should be read-worthy. That goes for any content element as small as a CTA button and as big as a national TV campaign.

6. Give credit with care

Here’s a dark secret that creatives hold – ungratefulness is disempowering. Although they’d rather stay off the spotlight, they growl when someone claims the project as their success.

Feeling like pawns, they try less.

Call it the artist’s curse, but it’s for the department to deal with for team creativity to flourish. In your courtesy, you thank people one by one, yet people look for group recognition.

If there’s a call, a meeting, or a report coming up, name the appropriate authors to see their motivation bloom in time.

They should become proactive again, ready to deliver outstanding ideas on the fly.

Directorial level

📋 Are you a CMO? VP of Marketing? Here’s common-sense advice for you.

Now, I’ve never been a Marketing Director, but I met a few admired individuals in that seat in my work with 25 marketing departments. Consider what follows my humble (yet grounded) opinion.

These Directors are exceptional orators who know that what’s critical for audience growth is not the branding, not the product, not the tech stack, but a story of a fulfilled future that prospects connect with.

In fact, some sources claim (see how careful I am?) only 1 in 5 marketers know how to run an effective content campaign where 72% of them know content marketing surely lures in leads.

My agency friends in the business agree. Directors must expand their knowledge of brand positioning to make educated decisions.

Here’s what’s good to know.

1. Know human motivations

We know that diesel cars don’t sell well with eco-fanatics. How many reasons “why” you can list?

What about your product? If you’re able to tackle both questions, then please explain why we’re dumped under a pile products with weakling USPs.

What you believe people will like you must know by fact. Yet, again and again, Marketing departments publish content without conviction that it’s destined for success one day.

There’s a way to overcome all the scientific theories of motivation in favor of practicality.

Clarify your customer’s wants with regular focus group sessions to cut through any doubt about what exact information to deliver. It should come down close to this: 

  • I want to know (how this works;  what they think; why it’s this way…)
  • I want to be (faster; better; strongeeer…)
  • I want to feel (joyful; lighter; amused; touched…)
  • I want to experience (how life is like for)

You might wonder where the pain-points are in here.

They’re roadblocks in the client’s journey towards his or her “want” that we address for relation-building. To move ahead, they “need” something for now.

The production of great content in any form starts with the end goal in mind.

If we don’t know where we’re going, there’s no road to take. Remember this method:

Want > Need > Pain-point

2. Suggest rhetorics

Unlike others, you have a God’s perspective on what works in marketing and sales. At least you should have it from your experience of leading all these successful stunts.

As you know best what appeals to clients, share your vision in a communication plan that can include: 

  • USP of focus
  • Motive of engagement (entertainment, advice, opinion)
  • Mode of persuasion (ethos, pathos, logos)
  • A thesis with supportive arguments
  • Most successful content ideas backed by “why”

Does this sound like hard work? Sure. But winning marketing accepts no compromise.

Although there’s space for fluff in any content, people only act in our favor if we appeal to their interests.

That’s an area your department should master under your lead. Aristotle’s philosophy of rhetoric provides a sound foundation for any persuasive content. Big agencies use that, even if not in the original form.

For a light-meal introduction to rhetorics, explore Dr. Cialdini’s principles that top salespeople use daily.

3. Notice competitors

That’s not obvious at all.

I have met three established executives whom I’ve surprised with names of same-level companies of similar business models. They didn’t research that well.

One of them discredited horizontal analysis in product development as the company only strategized against unbeatable brands. Now their scalability is stagnant. “We’re not like them,” I heard.

Your brand won’t lose any greatness if you admit that competitors exist.  Behind every business, there’s an energized, people-powered content machine your department should study.

Reinventing the wheel in the name of originality is a curse that every creative confronts.

That works for artists, but for business people, it’s wiser to improve what already exists.

Before another content project, peak at stats for your competitor’s videos, blogs, and posts. You can reverse-engineer what worked for them.

To find similar brands, access industry directories on Crunchbase or Owler.

Profiles on both sites also list media publications that disclose competitive business advantages the CEO would love to hear about.

4. Understand that language is flexible

When executives drop by, they have their idealized tone of voice preferences.

Thinking in keywords, they swap key messages in ready-to-bake content into a pre-fixed set of 5 they want everywhere. What’s sexy in a press release surely will fire-up conversions on the home page!

Does this sound logical to you?

When a politician hires a publicist, she learns first that each audience needs a personalized message that’s grounded in context.

Every group has unique moods, problems, and wants that change in time. If you repurpose content — which is fair — know where the user is in the journey to tune the language.

Don’t copy/paste your thoughts unless you’re certain that the reader should hear “this” right now.

Imagine your client is you. Where are they? How well do they know you? What would be appropriate to say as to delight the mind?

If you can’t answer these, let your creatives work for YOU in peace while you explore how to pump out revenue from TikTok.

5. Let go or explain, really

Content professionals often hear “that doesn’t sound like us” with a shoulder shrug as the only explanation. 

As CXOs have their unquestionable taste in communications done “their way”, rarely do they not request revisions.

But the hardest struggle for content managers and writers is the lack of comprehensive feedback from Mount Olympus.

As a business heavy-lifter, you may question everything in the department. 

But if you can’t voice your preferences, you’re bound to waste more of your life on email tennis, because your hurried list of bullet points or like/dislike/change one-liners aren’t enough sometimes.

Please express your intent. If you flag a change, note why it stings and what you’d like as a replacement.

“I don’t like it” is a childlike cry that traps your team in guesswork when the road is wide open. 

6. Cater to the audience

Drop the royal “We” at once. Regardless of form, content should be only in 30% about the greatness of a brand.

We’re in a fight for attention with hundreds of contestants squeezed into one ring. Conversion magic comes from the 70% of content that sets your client as the hero.

As explained in the bestseller Winning the Story Wars, brands should aspire to be a mentor leading the audience towards a fulfilling life in a better world.

As content campaigns have their end-goals, your clients do too, and they hope your product will aid them in the journey.

If you ask yourself “how can we look cooler”, you are bound to explore narcissistic campaign concepts that will fill every sentence of an article, op-ed, or an e-book your creatives will shape.

Think why Forbes has several 100 lists or why the Oscars glorifies artists when in fact the gala promotes Hollywood. It works.

Put your people first, as every mind on this planet asks “what’s in it for me”.

Have your own marketing guidebook

Let’s assume you’ve been touched by the practical insights from this guide. Seemed really simplistic at first, huh?

I lasted through many battles to learn how critical it is to develop best practices that make us better professionals. I encourage you to put this advice into your own collection of work standards.

Don’t rely on your head, though. We barely remember what happened yesterday. Write it down.

In your guidebook, you’d like to focus on 3 growth areas: personal standards; team standards; and process standards.

Learn from each project you tackle and note down wise man’s tips that helped you get through.

Just after a year, you’ll have a rich, personal Wiki, ready to help you refine content marketing expertise as you become a matured professional.

Expect more from yourself than others, and you’ll have people looking up to you as a mentor.

Key points

  • In a 2020 content marketing survey of 1200 marketers from 39 countries, SEMrush concluded that 75% uses content to generate leads, 43% considers their results as “good”, and 78% of respondents have a content team of  3 employees
  • Content success can’t be put on specialists only — managers and directors need to work on their side to unlock the production process that they themselves clog
  • [wpdiscuz-feedback id=”kzvh5cj4oq” question=”Which of the 18 techniques could be best for your department to streamline content work?” opened=”1″]Specialists must prioritize work speed, managers have to protect their team from work overload while encouraging creativity, and directors should advise both sides how to produce effective communication[/wpdiscuz-feedback]

💬 Mike here. I’m a Copywriter and communication consultant who helps businesses talk with sense. Thanks for reading. Does this make sense? Think I’ve missed a point and want to discuss it? Start with “Hey, you…” below.

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