What Effective Content Management Looks Like
Here is a picture of what effective content management looks like and how it can help to address most of the content-related problems in your business.
In this article, we show you how the right picture of what an effective content management framework looks like can help you fix and eliminate most of the content-related problems in your business.
Note: This article is part of our Content Troubleshooting Guide.
Is Your Content Creating Discontent?
Is there a style of management that is ideally suited for managing content effectively in your business?
For example, in the participative style of management (also called the democratic leadership style), feedback, input, and participation from staff are sought in the decision-making process and team members/staff generally try and solve any issues themselves.
Would a participative style of management, then, lead to effective content management?
Consider this scenario:
Let’s say that you notice several articles on your company’s blog are addressing the same or a similar topic, and hence competing with each other for keyword ranking and traffic.
A participative (i.e. democratic-style) manager would probably respond by turning to the editor and saying something like: “you’re the editor…what do you suggest we do? How would you fix this?”
In most situations, encouraging staff members to come up with the solution to a problem by working it out amongst themselves is a great approach and typically works. Staff members are encouraged to think for themselves; they feel empowered when asked for their input; they feel valued for their contribution, and they also feel recognized for their expertise.
The manager also feels and looks good. The participative style of management allows them to quickly lob any issues back over the net and into their team’s court by posing problems as questions for the team to resolve, and this makes them one of “the good guys.”
Everyone feels good and everyone values each other.
That’s great, except for the fact that this style of leadership, which is used across many industries and organizations, doesn’t really help to solve any fundamental issues of content management caused by a lack of strategic planning and the failure to implement effective systems and processes.
For example, if your content isn’t “meeting all the metrics,” the issues may not be related to your team members’ skills, expertise, technical abilities, or their motivation, enthusiasm, and willingness to contribute and participate in helping the business succeed, but to a lack of planning and systems.
To understand this better, let’s go back to the example where you have found several articles essentially covering the same topic, hence potentially competing with each other for rankings and traffic, and let’s assume that the manager has asked the editor to come up with a solution.
For this discussion, let’s imagine that there are three articles involved:
- Article “A” is an old post written by a guest contributor back in the day when the company couldn’t afford its own team of staff writers. It’s a well-written post with a catchy title and a decent number of backlinks, and it gets a reasonable amount of traffic each month.
- Article “B” is about two years old and written by a staff writer who no longer works with the company. This post is also well-written, with a keyword-optimized post title. This article covers the topic in detail, has a decent number of backlinks, and gets reasonable monthly traffic.
- Article “C” is the most recent of all three articles. It was written by the current full-time writer and complies fully with Google’s latest content quality guidelines. As the article was only recently published, however, it’s kind of hard to assess how well it is performing in terms of search traffic and backlinks…we’ll have to wait and see!
Now, suppose that the editor goes back to their desk, reads through each article, and makes the decision to:
- Rewrite article “A” and remove some of the content that doesn’t fit with the new article’s approach or angle,
- Redirect article “B” to the newer article “C” (even though they are not exactly covering the same topics), then delete article “B”, and
- Add links to related content in article “A” and article “C”.
Should the editor have done this?
The answer is … it depends!
Making decisions about what to do with existing content is not that simple.
For example, does the editor know how the articles were performing for certain keywords? What happens if you change the content in the article and traffic suddenly drops?
You wouldn’t know this unless there is a system in place to track changes to the content and monitor its performance before deciding to edit it.
If the newly-edited article doesn’t perform as well as was hoped, who is tracking which elements of the content were changed? Can the editor compare different versions of the article and restore it to how it was before being edited?
If you edit an article and remove certain content, how do you know that the deleted content wasn’t required to be there (e.g. through some form of paid or reciprocal content exchange or agreement?)
If you delete an article, what happens to the content that was currently linking to it? What will your site visitors experience when they click on links pointing to articles that no longer exist?
Also…what if the old article (containing outdated, irrelevant, or obsolete information) performs better than the new article? If there is a noticeable drop in traffic, how can you tell if it’s temporary or permanent and how long will you wait to find this out? How are you monitoring all this?
As you can see, unless the editor is also responsible for putting systems in place to track SEO and content performance, these are not necessarily editorial decisions.
But there are other areas to consider besides focusing only on SEO.
For example…why were there three articles covering similar topics, all potentially competing for the same keywords and traffic? Why wasn’t this picked up during the content planning stage?
And what criteria is the editor using to prioritize whether to keep, update, fix, or completely rewrite content in existing articles or make decisions on articles and blog posts with similar content? Who established those criteria and did they take into account how their decisions will impact other areas of the business?
Clearly, making the content production team responsible for “fixing” content-related issues is not necessarily the best approach, as it doesn’t address the cause of the issues.
Hence a participative style of management may not be “fixing” anything, especially if the same content-related problems keep occurring.
In other words, if your content is not delivering expected or hoped-for results (i.e. “meeting all the metrics”), the issue most likely has nothing to do with management styles or the lack of skills or expertise of team members, but with the fact that your organization may not have fully grasped the difference between the three levels of decision-making in a business as explained in the Content Management Mindset lesson.
So, let’s recap this concept briefly.
What Effective Content Management Looks Like
Take a look at the diagram below. It may look simplistic, but when you truly understand what it means, you will be able to identify, troubleshoot, and find solutions to fix almost all of the content-related problems in your business.
Every business has these three levels of decision-making:
While everyone in the business is responsible for helping the organization achieve its objectives and realize its vision, each of these levels plays a specific role in helping the business reach this outcome.
Executive-level roles are responsible for making “big-picture” decisions.
Managerial-level roles are responsible for figuring out the systems and processes that will deliver results that match the “big picture” set at the Executive level.
Tactical-level roles (also known as Technical-level roles) are responsible for following the systems and processes set at the Managerial level to achieve the results and objectives set at the Executive level.
So, what does this all mean and how can it help you troubleshoot and fix your content-related problems in areas like content planning, content production, content marketing, and content management?
Let’s take a look using an example.
Suppose your business decides to use content marketing methods like posting regular articles on its blog and social media, email marketing, paid advertising, etc. to promote itself and grow online.
Suppose too that, like many businesses, your company doesn’t have the budget to outsource every content-related role to a digital marketing agency or the financial resources to hire and build a team of content specialists to run everything in-house.
Let’s also say that your digital business setup includes the following:
- A website with a blog.
- Social media accounts on the main platforms.
- An email service account.
- A small budget to spend on content creation and advertising.
- The people already hired to work in the business (including you).
So, this is what your business has to work with.
Next, they appoint you as their Content Manager and make you responsible for helping the business grow using “content” and getting results within your available budget and resources.
Now, let’s make things a little challenging but not so impossible that it would make you want to quit your new role.
Your content team is comprised of two other team members including you. We’ll call them Ash and Pat.
All three of you agree to share the responsibility of regularly writing and publishing content on the blog.
Pat has excellent design skills, so Pat will also look after social media.
Ash has a marketing background, so Ash will handle things like creating email campaigns, send email promotions, run newsletters, grow and maintain a list of subscribers, etc.
Your budget will be used for outsourcing your advertising campaigns to a professional agency.
Other people in your organization are also happy to offer assistance where required (e.g. reviewing content in their areas of expertise, suggesting new content topics, etc.)
Finally, you, Pat, and Ash agree to have a production team meeting once a week to discuss how the work is progressing. You also agree to meet regularly with the General Manager to provide updates and reports and to discuss any issues.
With this basic plan, you and your team begin the work of creating and publishing content.
Each week, you meet with your team. You all come up with new content ideas. You then assign article topics for Ash, Pat, and yourself and aim to get at least two new articles published every week, plus send an email roundup to your subscribers (Ash) and post social media updates (Pat).
Now, what happens if you experience issues with content production like:
- Running out of content ideas?
- Being unable to complete projects due to circumstances outside the control of your team?
- Published content not performing as well as expected?
Well, if you understand the three levels of decision-making mentioned above, then you would have a starting point for troubleshooting and addressing these at the appropriate level.
Running Out Of Content Ideas
The content team (Tactical Level) is not responsible for making sure that the content production pipeline never runs dry.
The Managerial Level is responsible for creating the Content Plan and developing and implementing the systems and processes responsible for creating a self-sustaining content pipeline.
The Managerial Level, however, can’t create this content plan, unless and until the Executive Level has defined and created a Content Strategy for the business.
So, running out of content ideas is ultimately an issue that needs to be addressed at the Executive and/or Managerial Level.
If your team needs new content ideas for your website, blog, or newsletter, subscribe to our FREE Infinite Content Ideas course.
Being Unable To Complete Projects Due To External Circumstances
If your articles or blog posts depend on new product features being released or services being available and there is a hold-up in product development, then the content team may have no choice but to put their projects on hold.
Again, this is not an issue that the content team (Tactical Level) is responsible for or can resolve. It has to be addressed and resolved at the Managerial Level or higher.
Published Content Not Performing Well
If your published articles or blog posts perform poorly, the issue may be your content team’s responsibility only if the editor has not provided the team with an adequately prepared content brief.
So…why is your content team not responsible for solving any of the issues described above?
Well, if you understand the three levels of decision-making in a business, then you will see that:
Executive Level roles are responsible for setting a clear business vision and formulating a business strategy, a marketing strategy, defining an overall budget to cover the cost of hiring people to fill roles and invest in resources, etc.
Managerial Level roles are responsible for turning strategies into plans (e.g., a business plan, marketing plan, etc.) implementing documented systems and processes (e.g. for training and onboarding people into their roles, content production, content promotion, etc.), and making sure that guidelines and procedures are created for Tactical Level roles to follow (e.g. content briefs, branding and style guides, etc.)
Tactical Level roles are responsible for making sure they follow the systems and processes they are given to deliver the work as specified in the strategies, plans, and guidelines they have been given.
Think about it…
If you are asking a content writer to come up with content ideas and topics to write about so that your content pipeline doesn’t run dry, then you are effectively putting someone who doesn’t have the bigger picture of your business (i.e the business vision) in charge of defining your content strategy and creating your content plan.
It is only inevitable that this will lead to the issues described above (and those listed in the Content Troubleshooting Guide).
Setting Tactical-Level KPIs
If the Executive and the Managerial level roles have delivered what is truly required of them, then tactical-level roles like editors, content writers, media creators, etc. can simply plug into existing systems, follow established processes and procedures set out in documented strategies, plans, and guidelines, and deliver work to the standards and results expected by the business to meet its overall goals and objectives.
In this scenario, then, setting realistic and fair KPIs and benchmarks may include the following:
- Content Production – Is the business setting realistic workload targets and quotas? Are these being met and delivered on time?
- Work Quality – Is the work delivered meeting their brief? Are documented guidelines, procedures, and specifications being followed?
- Role Competency – How much of the completed work is being performed by the person responsible for that role? (e.g. with content writers, is the writer doing most of the work and submitting a draft that requires only editorial refining to advance to 2nd and final drafts, or do other people have to get involved and assume the writer’s workload to help get their content over the line?)
- Team Participation – Are team members willing to participate and contribute ideas and suggestions for improving processes, and take on additional tasks and responsibilities?
If executive and management-level roles do not provide tactical-level roles what is required, however, then assessing performance can end up being skewed, unrealistic, or unfair.
For example, content writers should NOT be penalized or assessed unfairly if:
- Targets set by management are unrealistic.
- Writers are expected to deliver X articles per week but there are regular holdups in product or business development so their articles can’t be completed on time.
- There is no new content in the pipeline (as discussed, writers don’t create the content plan to meet strategic objectives, management is responsible for delivering this)
- Writers are not given a well-researched and detailed content brief outlining objectives, specifications, or requirements.
- Timely delivery needs additional roles involved in the content creation process (e.g. supplying testing data, videos, technical diagrams, code samples, performing technical checks, etc.) and these aren’t made available or supplied in a timely manner.
- Writers have been given too many additional responsibilities other than writing because there are not enough resources available in the company to handle those.
- There are other performance issues directly related to a lack of clear communication, documented guidelines, training, essential tools, resources, etc.
- There are other factors outside the writer’s control.
Understanding the three levels of decision-making in a business will help you to identify, troubleshoot, and find solutions to fix almost all content-related problems and issues in your business.
Review this lesson: Content Management Mindset
- Content Troubleshooting Guide – Use this guide to troubleshoot your content-related issues.
Image: Successful Business