Digital tools and social media technologies have changed every company’s communication strategy. Databases enable writers and editors to maintain single-source blurbs of boilerplate and standards of particular definitions or titles. Content management systems (CMS) enable writers and editors to update content and make it live on the fly. Social media outlets make customers and users part of the conversation instantaneously. Reusable content, speed-of-light publishing, and an unmanaged multitude of voices don’t always make for successful online narratives, however. The tools alone don’t make the process work, after all – that requires teamwork, measurement, and management.
Successful content creators maintain quality through teamwork. Unfortunately, many Web teams are pretty lean, especially in small firms, nonprofits, and educational institutions. On these tiny teams, Web experts often fulfill many roles to keep up a breakneck pace. But, every writer needs an editor, and every piece of content that lives on your Web site requires a review process. Even the boilerplate benefits from this process. If you have a content management system, you are ahead of the curve – most systems feature a workflow process that enables you to manage your content. If you don’t have a CMS, you’ll have to work a bit harder to identify roles and establish deadlines. But, this team-based review process is immensely beneficial, creating synergy between people as well as working the bugs out of your content.
Analytics and tracking can help you monitor how well your words are working. But there’s another old-school publishing device that can also help: an editorial calendar. Developing an editorial calendar forces you to think through your content strategy. It helps you define your audience, identify opportunities to hit particular topics or trends, and brainstorm about potential content areas where you can make your mark. In conjunction with analytics, an editorial calendar can help you measure what works, what doesn’t, what might need just a little tweaking to be effective, and what needs to be thrown out and never, ever used again. Lastly, an editorial calendar is a commitment – whether you plan a month or a year ahead, the calendar provides structure for your content and for your team.
Of course, neither teamwork nor measurement can be successful without effective management:
- Good content managers understand how their teams use different digital tools. For example, if your Web team uses a workflow process that is part of your CMS, reviewers and managers must participate in that process, and not lob bombs through email or worse, as hard-copies swimming in red ink. Of course, emergencies arise and sometimes it’s all hands on deck for the fastest turnaround possible. But, for the process to work, everyone needs to participate.
- Good content managers support strategic planning. If the Web team is using an established strategic or creative brief to build a page, product area, or sub-site, management must return to this brief when making any changes to content. Managers need to adhere to the editorial calendar when proposing content ideas and contribute to a timely review process. When management is out of kilter with the Web team, content projects frequently face two equally disastrous fates: they are forgotten and languish awaiting necessary review, or they are pushed through in a panic with proper attention and effort.
Every organization has unique digital editorial needs. Some will need to integrate social media streams into their core Web content as quickly and fluidly as possible. Some will need to establish and uphold a very particular and professional tone. Some will need to satisfy a wide range of constituents. The availability of tools and techniques is virtually endless, but tools are only one piece of the puzzle. Your digital editorial strategy should hinge on the ideas and efforts of your people, with a process that continues to support their creativity and the quality of their work. Ultimately, high quality content serves your users and customers and solidifies your brand and reputation.