I’m about to go out on a limb for something I truly believe in — even though it may be an unpopular opinion.
I’ve been a content strategist for more than 15 years, before we were even called content strategists. And workflow has always been a struggle. For every company, no matter the scale, no matter the project, no matter how many executives were standing at the finish line with huge bonus checks.
People always ask: We have great ideas. We have people who are capable of great execution. We know what we are supposed to be doing. So why is our workflow such a mess? What are we doing wrong?
The answer, more times than I’d like to count, is this: Fabulous content doesn’t get stuck in the horrible bottleneck of stakeholder approvals, compliance sign-offs or executive disagreement.
Where does quality content go to die?
The bottom of someone’s to-do list.
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You Need a Conductor
Every single content shop, whether internal or external, needs great project managers. Project managers:
- Shepherd content along the production line.
- Remind people about due dates and drop dead due dates.
- Align content with strategic concerns.
- Reduce workload on the creative roles on the team.
- Work with compliance and regulatory teams.
What if We Can’t Afford That?
What if we can’t afford another full-time employee to be a content project manager?
This is always an interesting question when we analyze different content teams. At first, we agreed.
So, on workflow engagements, we tried to solve how to make workflow smoother using the roles already in place. First, we’d look at a list of roles and responsibilities, and then at the talent in those roles. We’d map bottlenecks, look at project load and ask, “What would help you get these projects done faster and on-time?” The answer was surprising to us, until we started hearing it every time.
What Do Content Creators Really Need for Projects to Be Successful?
Here’s the answer we heard: “We need more time to strategically think through the projects. Once we’re told what we have to do, we don’t have time to do the preparation work at the beginning to make sure the project will be a success. So we end up racing to get it done, forgetting important steps, re-scoping the project in the middle, and then taking forever to get it done.”
They need more time when? In the beginning (hey, even God needed time to create the world).
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Make Your Content More Successful By Hiring This One Person
When content creators say they need more time in the beginning, what they mean is they need the space and time to think through the project. But they don’t get that time, because they have to call their vendors, or line up their graphic designers, or think through scheduling. All of this “stuff” weighs down their ability to think clearly about how to do the project right.
You know what that’s like? If pilots had to fly planes, and worry about air traffic control at the same time.
Can you imagine what would happen if that were the case? I’ll tell you: You’d end a 35-day federal government shutdown, that’s what would happen.
How to Convince Your Executives a Project Manager Would Help
So back to the million dollar question — how can you convince your executives you need a full-time employee in the role of project manager, or air traffic control?
- Track the last three projects in detail. Here are some stats you can examine:
- Dates assigned.
- Expected due dates versus finished dates.
- Roles and responsibilities.
- Outside vendors and cost.
- Total costs on labor time and so on.
- Show where the breakdowns happen and show them honestly. It wasn’t that the project got pushed because someone didn’t respond, it was that other things got pushed to the top of your to-do list.
- Talk about the things that are hard to talk about: How stakeholders are uncooperative about operational issues, so it’s hard to work with them to get great content. Scheduling becomes untenable and almost a full-time job. There’s no one to turn to when strategy gets questioned and documentation is unavailable because no one had any time to create it.
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What I’m Not Saying
I’m not saying you don’t need a strategist and a writer and an editor and an SEO expert and an analytics person on your content team. Those are all critical roles. But if you want to have a robust content team that produces quality content on a regular basis, you can’t make do with creatives making project management a part of their portfolio.
It just won’t fly.
Kind of like a pilot without air traffic control.