When you're trying to feed the content beast, you can use more content creators or you can use the content creators you have more effectively. Budgets being what they are, the latter seems like the smartest initial approach.
That doesn't mean working your writers and other contributors to the bone day after day. Haven't we all learned that burning people out isn't good business? The trick is creating/capturing efficiencies in the system.
Here are 5 tips to make your content operations more efficient and effective:
1. Bundle assignments
When you gang assignments on a particular topic, one writer can get more output from his/her research. That makes him/her more effective and efficient in producing content. This makes the most sense if your writers are already subject matter experts. But it's also a great way to create SMEs because at some point, a writer may become expert enough to be the beat or go-to writer on a particular topic.
EXAMPLE: I didn't know anything about vasculitis when I took a gig writing articles for the Vasculitis Foundation newsletter. But after a year, I'm more informed on these rare diseases so I spend less time looking up terms, and am a better judge of what's important to our readers. The result is faster, better content.
2. Leverage writers’ interests, expertise & knowledge
It's not always possible, but whenever you can, assign topics based on your writers' strengths. This cuts production time and keeps writers engaged -- and better writer engagement usually creates better audience engagement. And a writer who's adept at writing certain forms or genres will generally work faster than one who isn't.
EXAMPLE: When I picked up a gig writing the Local Markets feature for Architect magazine, I knew I'd need help managing the project. I turned to my colleague Claire Parker to assist. She's got all the writing chops required in addition to experience working for developers and real estate agents and a love for great design and architecture. She's quick, thorough and complete in her reporting.
3. Use the Content-Purpose-Audience Strategy®
The most efficient way to make sure you get what you need is to be clear on what you want. We do that by creating a Content-Purpose-Audience strategy for each piece or set of pieces to ensure clarity of message and purpose. This better-than-an-outline process is a road map for the piece and helps the writer -- and reviewers -- stay on track. It also helps guide research, reduce redundancy and produce content that’s more to your liking the first time. Here's how to use the C-P-A.
EXAMPLE: When a client came to us to create an ebook on offshore outsourcing, we walked them through a C-P-A to guide us in researching and writing the book. We aren't experts on the subject, nor did we understand the issues for the buyer. Using the C-P-A gave us the understanding we needed to produce the book in two weeks' time.
4. Offer background information judiciously
Resist the temptation to provide every bit of background material at your fingertips. Provide only resources that include mission-critical information or illustrate a format you desire for the final content. Do provide names and contact information for any required sources or people who could prove to be invaluable in developing the content. Don't scrimp, however, on audience intelligence. Share everything you know about the target audience, from demo/psychographics to questions, objections and values. This information helps writers use ideas, voice and word choice that will resonate with your audience.
EXAMPLE: A couple years ago, we had a client who dumped on us several workbooks and heavy-duty research papers. I'm sure there was a ton of great stuff in it, but we lost a lot of valuable time poring over those documents trying to find a few kernels of usable stuff.
5. Review Gold Standards
Finally, review the Gold Standards with the writer to ensure s/he clear on your expectations for qualitative and quantitative requirements. This will enable content developers to produce material that's pretty dang close to what you want, and will make reviewing and revising more efficient. You don't have Gold Standards, you say? Click here to learn how to develop and use criteria to help your content development team create great stuff.
EXAMPLE: When our team was asked to write some awards citations, we needed a quick way to ensure we were all writing with the same tone and style. We created this Gold Standards document so the three of us could quickly produce content that sounded cohesive and met the client's expectations for quality.