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Become a Content Marketing Productivity Master: 21 Tips from the #CMWorld Community
How productive are you? With content marketing evolving and ever-changing, with new tools coming out on a seemingly daily basis, as departments are restructuring and silos are breaking down - how do you manage your strategies while maintaining your productivity? On a recent #CMWorld twitter chat, our chat participants gave their insights on how they are productivity masters.
Become a Content Marketing Productivity Master: 21 Tips from the #CMWorld Community
Become a Content Marketing
21 TIPS FROM THE #CMWORLD COMMUNITY
We can’t stop time.
But we can learn to use it more effectively.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Tired of never getting through your to–do list?
If so... you’re in the same boat as practically every content marketer we talk to.
Fundamentally, the secret to feeling more productive is to have a plan for what you need to
accomplish and stick to it. It’s easier said than done, for sure; but by implementing efficiency
techniques, streamlining certain processes, and taking advantage of a few
time-tested tricks, content marketers can increase their output while reducing the
frustration, stress, and misdirected efforts that can often take them off track.
Take a look at 21 of the most helpful tips the #CMWorld community had to offer during
our recent Twitter chat on productivity.
It’s counterproductive to waste time on content that isn’t going to help your business
achieve its goals. To maximize productivity, start with a strategic analysis of how relevant
and valuable the effort is likely to be for both your brand and your audience.
Mike Myers says he uses a simple flow chart to determine where content marketing will
be helpful (and where it won’t) because, like with dessert, it can be hard to know
when to say no.
I start by asking: “How relevant is the project to my market — i.e., clients and
prospects?” —Roger C. Parker
Make strategic decisions. Know when something requested won’t add enough value.
Prioritize, and suggest alternatives when possible. —Danalynne Wheeler
LEAD WITH YOUR STRENGTHS — AND YOUR STRATEGY1
FOLLOW YOUR STRATEGY WITH A PROACTIVE PLAN2
Every strategic idea needs a plan to bring it to life. With advanced preparation, you can
take some of the guesswork out of the content creation process, making it easier to stay
focused and productive.
Successful content marketers choose topics in advance. They identify themes they can
create content on in the upcoming months. Planning is key. —Roger C. Parker
Plan what to say & how. Create a title optimized to catch readers & search
engines. —Joanie Eppinga
Content creation is as much an art as a science. Though you should definitely have a
plan, it’s also helpful to be flexible and leave room in your process to take advantage of
inspiration when it strikes.
Make notes all the time. They’re the seeds of content to come. You can’t harvest
tomorrow unless you plant today. —George Stenitzer
Balance sticking with strategy (and saying no to what doesn’t fit) with the potential
to explore new possibilities. Always keep the “learning mindset.” —Anne Janzer
LEAVE ROOM FOR THE SPARK OF CREATIVITY3
FOCUS ON AUDIENCE NEEDS4
Content is created to spur an audience to action, so your productivity ultimately depends
on how well your efforts are is suited to meeting that goal. Keep this in mind and you will
never waste valuable time on efforts that miss the mark.
First, you have to understand your market and their needs. This provides focus.
—Roger C. Parker
It’s all about knowing your audience. Knowing whom to talk to directs your decisions
about what you do and don’t need to say. —Adam P. Newton
Outsider, a New York agency, suggests that content creators ask questions like, “Does
this provide value to my audience?” “Would they share it?” Viewing your
content from the audience’s perspective will help you figure out which projects may not
work — even if they seemed like a good idea to you at first.
It’s hard to be productive if our minds are being pulled in a million different directions.
Even small side projects can wind up derailing productivity in a major way, so it’s helpful
to determine right from the outset what’s worth your immediate attention, what can be
put on the back burner for a while, and what can be indefinitely postponed.
Roger C. Parker recommends starting out by asking, “How urgently do my customers or
prospects need the information?” Then ask, “Is the project practical for me at the
present time?” After that, if a client asks me to do a different task, I ask: “Which of our
current tasks do you want me to put aside?”
Ronda Bowen says that looking at past performance of content helps, too. If you know
a certain topic tanks in terms of page views, there’s no reason to continue to create
content on that topic.
SET PRIORITIES, AND DON’T GET SIDETRACKED5
BUDGET YOUR TIME… AND USE IT EFFECTIVELY6
Effective time management means devoting adequate attention to your content without
allowing your efforts to take over your entire working life.
Successful content marketers run marathons, not races. Time management is essential.
Manage your time as carefully as you would manage your money. —Roger C. Parker
Set aside blocks of time to draft your content without being interrupted by meetings or
chats. —Sarah A. Parker
While planning is important, Mael Roth advises that sometimes you need to set yourself
on “get it done” mode: “At some point it’s ‘learn by doing.’”
Just as deadlines can create a sense of urgency for specific content projects, keeping
a calendar of those projects can help you mentally plan and prioritize your day-to-day
efforts — and hold yourself accountable for their completion.
Scheduling is key for productivity. —Cara Shannon
Lisa Masiello recommends being methodical and keeping a calendar, as she feels it’s
easy to become distracted without a schedule.
Social media analytics vendor Union Metrics suggests drawing up a quarterly content
calendar and working backwards from the deadlines you set in order to ensure time for
drafts/your approval process.
KEEP A CONTENT CALENDAR7
KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO8
No one likes to have to turn down a content request from a client or supervisor, but
sometimes it’s a necessary evil in order to make good progress on current priorities,
continually deliver on your content’s promises, and maintain your sanity.
Strategy is key. If a project doesn’t align, it’s not worth your time. —Angela Hursh
I cringe when clients try to pump out as much content as possible and skimp on quality.
A content effort should be more than a checklist item. —Brandon Seymour
Many times marketing should say no to change. Don’t let your boredom of a tagline/
topic divert the oil tanker. —Nick Kellet
If there isn’t a compelling story [in a particular content idea], I find the exit.
One of the easiest ways to become more productive is to get rid of repetitive or unnecessarily
time-consuming tasks that are bogging down your efforts and replace them with more
efficient techniques. Even if it takes some extra time to implement and adjust to the change,
streamlining your processes often pays dividends in terms of productivity over the long-term.
I implemented a written request form for content projects. [This] creates accountability & saves me from
20 [rounds of] revisions. —Danielle Poupore
I use Mindjet’s MindManager to organize ideas, keep track of projects, and easily track influencers
and ideas. And every content marketer needs a graphics program to create images for blog posts
and social media. —Roger C. Parker
We use a lot of distraction-free writing tools to encourage the process, as well as an editorial calendar
to plan it all out. —ClearVoice
Erika Heald asserts that collaboration tools like RedboothHQ, Kapost, Evernote, and Google Drive are
key to her daily productivity.
CREATE EFFICIENCIES WITH NEW TOOLS AND STREAMLINED PRODUCTION PROCESSES
FREE YOUR MIND10
Productivity isn’t always about going “heads down” into a project. Instead, experiment to
discover what ideas and processes work best for you.
Stay curious and open to new innovations and marketing concepts. Set aside time to
‘study’ those who are doing it right. —Crowd Content
A large part of marketing productivity comes from understanding the machine of the
internet and the psychology of people —Nick Kellet
We write down all of our ideas before dismissing any. —Kitterman Marketing
Good writing is just as much “nurture” as it is “nature.” Set good habits right from the
start of your content creation efforts and you’re practically guaranteed to become more
productive as you progress.
Cultivate the habit of short, frequent working sessions rather than long, tiring
sessions. —Roger C. Parker
Our best productivity tips are early mornings, strong coffee, and a separate window for
social media, to avoid distraction. —Outsider (a NYC agency)
Try working at times when there will be fewer distractions. For example, @SparkerWorks
has considered getting started earlier in the day: “Nobody bothers you in the early
morning!” —Sarah A. Parker
CULTIVATE EFFICIENT WORKING AND WRITING HABITS11
HOLD YOURSELF TO DEADLINES12
Deadlines help you set clear parameters for your content efforts, and can create a sense
of urgency that keeps you focused and on-task during the content creation process.
Deadlines definitely help with productivity! Sometimes it’s hard to get started if there is
no goal in sight. —Wyzowl
Consider creating mini-deadlines for the various tasks required for each project.
This can help you create a sense of urgency and pace your progress. —Roger C. Parker
Content creation takes dedication. If you want to earn the loyalty of your audience, you
must hold yourself accountable for delivering on what you promise — even when the
process gets challenging or you run into a stumbling block.
To be a productive writer, make yourself write. Good ideas often come after you’ve
gotten started. —Anne Janzer
Every successful content marketer I know reads and writes daily. —Patrick Hayslett
AVOID BEATING YOURSELF UP OR GETTING FRUSTRATED14
It’s not easy for writers to create something that’s “just right,” so it’s natural to stumble
with phrasing or get stuck on an idea once in a while. When the words just aren’t flowing,
don’t be afraid to take your time and clear your mind — and know that you can always
make changes down the line.
Give yourself permission for that bad first draft. Don’t edit as you write — it will only
slow you down. —Ronda Bowen
If something’s really not working, give yourself permission to step away. Come back to it
tomorrow. Work on something else. —Sarah A. Parker
A trick some writers use to structure a content effort is to write the ending first, then
craft the rest of the story so that it leads to the intended conclusion. Starting each
project with your desired results in mind can reduce the need for time consuming
revisions and rewrites throughout the process.
Develop your positioning first so that the content will communicate the desired
marketing messages. —Samuel J. Scott
I’ve begun asking project requesters to tell me how they plan to use content. No sense
making something to sit in a drawer. —Danielle Poupore
START WITH YOUR DESIRED RESULTS AND PURPOSE AND WORK BACKWARDS15
MAKE CONTENT CREATION PART OF YOUR ROUTINE16
Just like good habits make good writers, regular routines can help those writers mentally
prepare for creating quality content—and for staying the course, even when other
priorities start to compete for their time and attention.
Show up. Turning up at your computer consistently is the best way to
be successful. —Ronda Bowen
Brainstorm, outline, write, write, write, proof, have someone else proof, edit, & promote!
If you get stuck, take a break, and then go back. —Aya Fawzy
I look for easy parts of the post to write — such as lists or easy topics — to build
momentum. —Roger C. Parker
If you find yourself working on a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, or are struggling to find
the right flow for your discussion, try creating a simple outline first. Organizing your thoughts in this
way can help you see which points are essential and which ones can be left out, as well as how to
structure the conversation in the most logical way.
Map the journey. Know where you’re starting, ending and [where] you’ll stop at
along the way. —Jeremy Bednarski
First, I take notes by hand & organize a rough structure. Last thing is proofreading. Then
proofreading again. —Danielle Poupore
Start your writing with an outline. Then write everything down as quickly as you can.
Lastly, edit, edit, edit. —Heidi Cohen
After outlining what you are going to write and why, just get words on paper/screen.
Don’t edit, just do a “brain dump.” —Traci Browne
NOT SURE WHAT TO WRITE? TRY CREATING AN OUTLINE17
USE THEMES TO BUILD A SERIES OF RELATED CONTENT18
Another way to handle complex topics is to break them up into small, manageable bites.
Start by coming up with a list of relevant themes, and then create a series of related
content pieces that you can that you can distribute on a regular basis.
Series are about brevity. Series turn complex ideas into snacks. Series also multiply the
SEO value of one big idea. —Nick Kellet
A series can be a great way to get started. It gives you a theme and a goal to build off of.
Feels less daunting every week. —Kitterman Marketing
A blog series can help with productivity in that (hopefully) you can map it all out
ahead of time. —Jeremy Bednarski
In terms of productivity, having an established series is really helpful to me. It’s great for
when I’m stumped on topics. —Christina Grieves
Content doesn’t always have to be original to be powerful. At times, it’s more productive
to use the content you’ve painstakingly created and focus your time on ways to
repackage it in a new way, or for a new platform.
@crestodina writes, “You need to view content as atoms you can recycle & rearrange in
different ways.” —Roger C. Parker
It’s just so easy to do. So many resources and potential for data and info overload.
Curate, collate, focus. —Jacob Henenberg
Break up mega-topics into edible chunks. Use customer questions to guide series topics.
REPURPOSE THE WHEEL, DON’T REINVENT IT19
KNOW WHAT TO SPIN OFF OR RECYCLE, RATHER THAN REJECT20
If an idea starts to lead you in a different direction, don’t switch gears right away.
Instead, tuck it away it somewhere safe, and then come back to it after you’ve finished
the content effort you are currently working on. If the new concept still seems valid when
you revisit it, you now have a ready-made topic on hand for your next content effort.
I’m a narrow-minded content creator. If anything remotely veers from my main idea, it
goes in queue to become its own piece. —Patrick Hayslett
When all else fails... you are probably working too hard. Sometimes it’s best to just step
away and take some time to clear your mind before returning to your content creation.
You may even come up with a new idea or two when you give yourself a break, rather
than trying to force creativity when you just aren’t “feeling it.”
When I’m finished, I put the post aside overnight. I need to proof it from a fresh
perspective. —Roger C. Parker
Even a 5-minute break can help. Ever do find-a-word puzzles? Great for improving
visual acuity. —Joanie Eppinga
Step away & do something physical that you’ll see immediate results from: Clean a
coffee cup, wipe down a counter, stretch. —Sarah A. Parker
TAKE BREAKS TO AVOID MENTAL FATIGUE21
THANKS FOR READING!
Want more ways to increase your productivity without losing sight of your priorities?
Download our collection of useful templates and checklists to make the content marketing process easier.
And don’t forget to join our #CMWorld Twitter chats every Tuesday at 12 Eastern to learn from our fabulous
content marketing community and share your own tips for success.
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CMI teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel
storytelling. CMI’s Content Marketing World event, the largest content marketing-focused event, is held every
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Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known
brands in the world. CMI is a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Inc. 500 company. Learn how to create a documented content
marketing strategy, a key component for improving overall content marketing effectiveness.