Two pug dogs having a tug of war with a chew toy in the grass - Working at odds concept

Are Your Design Teams and Content Teams Working at Odds With Each Other?

5 minute read
Kaya Ismail avatar
To understand the challenges that these content teams undergo and also provide tips for brands to improve their content workflows, we spoke to the experts.

Creating content for an audience usually takes a few teams working in sync as part of one unified marketing effort. Most of the time, this will involve design and content teams. However, it’s not uncommon for these teams to experience challenges when working together, especially as it relates to their workflows. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 32% of marketers think their content creation workflow is only fair or poor. 

To understand the challenges that these content teams undergo and also provide tips for brands to improve their content workflows, we spoke to the experts. 

What Is a Content Workflow?

In order to get teams working together in sync, one of the first actions is to determine a content workflow. “A content workflow is a repeatable, scalable series of steps that includes ideation, creation, editing, revising, polishing, organizing, tagging, describing, optimizing, distributing, publishing and reusing content,” explained Emily Kolvitz, head of content at Bynder.

Whereas some companies don’t view a content workflow in such detail, some often forgotten steps are critical to success. Lindy Roux, vice president and managing director of Tendo Communications, defines a content workflow as “the process by which content is planned, ideated, created, reviewed, approved and distributed.” But it goes deeper than just planning, creation and distribution. “We add one more step to that flow — optimization — because we believe it is important to review and optimize content as part of an ongoing cycle.”

Related Article: 7 Steps to Create a Successful Content Strategy

Overcoming Collaboration Challenges

When issues crop up between design and content teams, it usually means there's a communication problem. “Often the design team and the content team are working from different briefs (or, worse still none at all!),” Roux says. 

A lack of communication can occur in multiple ways, including when teams don’t take each other’s needs into account. “Sometimes design happens before the content requirements are known, leading to the need to shoehorn content into a specific template,” Roux added.

Kolvitz echoed the communication problem. “The biggest challenges can be communication and not operating as one entity. Take our internal requests, for example — they go through a creative and content request process that’s under one form, so all the creators are always in the loop. We’re all working from a shared space, and know what’s coming down the pipeline,” she said.

Learning Opportunities

Getting the design and content teams on the same page helps to alleviate some of the problems. However, technology also plays a role in how design and content teams collaborate. Jeff Eaton, partner at Autogram, said, “The collision of CMS-powered content models and pattern-oriented design systems is a significant source of friction for the clients I advise. On paper, they’re perfect complements — modular approaches to building consistent messages — but for many projects, the reality is a bit like mixing tools with imperial and metric measurements. Design and content teams put hard work into their respective systems, but gaps, mismatches and misunderstandings emerge when it’s time to stitch them together in a usable CMS.” 

For Roux, the system in use can make or break things and can lead to problems such as “either team or both teams having a poor understanding of the capabilities (and limitations) of the publishing platform,” she said. 

Learning to Speak the Same Language

To get everyone working together effectively and avoid missteps, everyone must be on the same page. Karen McGrane, founder of Bond Art+Science, said, “doing the work to build and maintain a common language is probably one of the best ways for content and design teams (not to mention engineering teams) to work together.” 

Something as simple as different terminologies and taxonomies can have a considerable effect. “Communication breakdowns occur when people use the same word, like “module” in different contexts, or when teams don’t have a shared understanding of the purpose of a pattern like a “hero.” That’s also why I recommend that teams don’t rely on pre-determined vocabulary from an existing framework or a methodology like Atomic Design — the work to build your shared vocabulary is the foundation of successful collaboration,” she added. 

Collaboration shouldn’t only be a one-time thing either. “We’ve worked with organizations to facilitate more collaboration early in the planning process, and along the workflow, to drive more seamless content experiences,” said Roux.

While some companies may choose to focus on one area as the primary driver, the collaboration between both teams delivers the best results. “Putting one discipline in the drivers’ seat can minimize the inconsistencies, but doesn’t necessarily deliver a system that works well for everyone. The most effective teams have brought those disciplines together and focused on the creation of a shared system of communication — one that reflects the symbiotic relationship between content production and visual presentation. Making that happen requires negotiation and trust; it can be tricky in politicized organizations, but the resulting systems are stronger for it,” said Eaton. 

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