Bottlenecks on a white background - content lifecycle bottleneck concept
PHOTO: Adobe

Producing high-quality, personalized and relevant content at speed is one of the main concerns for organizations today. According to HubSpot, roughly 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. 

Content demand continues to rise among customers, as are the channels where this content is being consumed. Brands are therefore searching for ways to increase the speed of their content production without getting hindered by pitfalls or bottlenecks that can impede content production and limit the experiences with which brands can deliver. 

Understanding the Content Lifecycle

Creating content is essential if brands want to keep up with demand, but that is only one part of the content lifecycle. The content lifecycle is the process digital content goes through from creation to retirement. It’s a dynamic process, especially considering that no two organizations or pieces of content are precisely alike. 

However, within every organization, the process will involve some level of idea and strategic development to creation, publication, distribution and analysis. 

For many organizations, the challenges can occur between creation, publication and distribution as depending on the size of the organization; the more approvals will be needed before anything can take place. 

Also, content doesn’t live in silos; there are people and tools involved in the content lifecycle too. It’s up to the content strategists and marketers to outline the right approach to creating content and delivering it to customers. 

Related Article: Content Modeling: What It is and How to Get Started

Understanding Why Content Bottlenecks Happens

The demand for content is there, but something seems to be slowing down the production process and the ability to meet this demand. According to Ryan Gould, VP of Marketing at B2B Marketing Agency Elevation, “a so-called “content bottleneck” can occur when you want to deliver a certain amount of content but you don’t have the people, tools or resources to effectively execute it.”

Content production issues can vary from the quality of content a company wants to create, to the volume of content they want to deliver. No matter the goal, a bottleneck occurs when the brand fails to produce this content. Jose Santa Ana, Product Marketing Director at San Francisco, Calif-based Sitecore, gave a short but encompassing content bottleneck definition. "A content bottleneck is any gap between the demand for content from consumers and the ability for the marketing organization to deliver that content," Santa Ana says. 

In many enterprise organizations, the problems being solved are unique to a specific customer persona. Consequently, these organizations will have various subject matter experts who are involved in the process. “It’s not an easy orchestration, hence why so many companies struggle to solve this complex issue. It’s also a labor-intensive practice,” says April Mullen, Head of Brand and Content Marketing at predictive email intelligence platform SparkPost

Mullen points out that content marketers rely on these SBEs to help them create the most effective content for their audience. “Many content marketers aren’t experts in the content they are tasked with producing, so the content can come across as lacking depth on the subject matter,” she said. 

The labor-intensive nature of content orchestration indicates that bottlenecks are primarily a personnel problem, but in fact, the causes can vary. Bottlenecks can also be caused by technical glitches or a lack of other resources that help content production. However, no matter the reason, Gould says that starting at the source can make solving issues easier. 

Bottlenecks are what stand in the way of companies hoping to produce content at scale. the trouble is, identifying bottlenecks is not always straightforward.

Identifying and Reducing Bottlenecks

"The [cause of] a content bottleneck is not always obvious. Often, the bottleneck isn’t simply a single problem in the content lifecycle, they can arise due to an array of snags woven throughout the lifecycle. A common example is content duplication due to content silos, where content is scattered across multiple platforms [and therefore lost or forgotten] instead of being managed in a centralized location," Santa Ana explains. 

The causes of bottlenecks may vary, but here are some tips for overcoming them.

  • Rise above content siloes: According to Santa Ana, a strong first step toward bottleneck-free content production would be to "move the content creation and management out of channel silos, to a place in front of or above your channels, depending on your content model. This approach acknowledges the omnichannel nature of the content you create and manage."
  • Map your content lifecycle: What are the stages a piece of content goes through from creation to retirement? Who are the people involved in the process? How long does each step take? By answering these questions, you can get an idea of your content lifecycle and determine which areas are impacting your production the most. Part of mapping the content lifecycle includes the content creation workflow. Gould recommends organizing your workflow using a project management tool. Doing this helps to streamline daily process management and makes it easy to identify where content is stalling.
  • Treat content production like a publication: “The most successful content marketing programs are those that treat their work like a publishing model,” says Mullen. This means publishing content at a regular cadence and for marketers and other creators tasked with creating content, finding ways to collaborate with stakeholders to produce more high-quality content and get the best “story”. 
  • Produce different types of content: Many brands run into roadblocks in producing long-form content for their audience. This type of content, in particular, requires careful effort and the input of subject matter experts to be effective. Instead, brands can modify the type of content they create by producing shorter pieces, more interactive types of content or producing content in different formats. 
  • Readjust expectations: Team personnel are critical for significant content production. Rather than expect 1 or 2 individuals to produce the content that a larger department typically produces and risk burnout, instead, scale back expectations or hire additional staff or freelancers to pick up the slack. 

To keep producing at the pace required in today’s modern environment, brands need to find ways to reduce bottlenecks. Understanding your specific content lifecycle and identifying the exact causes of your bottlenecks can make content problems a thing of the past.