The content marketers at CoSchedule get asked a lot about how we really manage our projects and work together to create our content.
So I was humbled when a guest blogger of ours recently shared a bit about his experience working with our marketing team:
The amount of preparation done for a post and the superb coordination of their team members taught us a lot on improving our own process.
Meeting their high expectations are quite tough, but we are truly honored to have the opportunity to learn from among the best in the business!
Since CoSchedule itself is a marketing collaboration software that takes the form of an editorial calendar, I guess it makes sense that you’d like to know how our process actually works. I can tell you from experience that the CoSchedule tool is different than normal collaboration software because it’s designed by marketers to help marketers do what they do better than ever.
So I thought you’d find it interesting to get a behind-the-scenes peek into how we exactly:
- Plan less content that creates bigger results.
- Use our own tool to collaborate super efficiently.
- Developed a process that helped us generate 852,506 page views and 7,375 email subscribers just last month.
Sound like fun? Judging by the cheers I’m hearing in my head, I thought so. :)
1. Start By Scheduling A Content Planning Meeting
Even for a tech company, it’s nice to get together as a team to collaborate on solving a problem in person. For us, this is one of the best ways for the entire team to come up with creative ideas that will help us reach our 10x growth goals.
You see, as the content marketing lead, it would be easy for me to come up with every content marketing idea all by myself and tell the team to execute them. But there is a lot more value when the team develops those ideas because they take ownership in the entire blog’s success—not just their own content.
And a content planning meeting is a perfect setting for the kind of team collaboration that builds a culture focused on growth. Here’s why:
- I know the kinds of content we publish that produce big results. So a content planning meeting is a way for me to teach the team about those details so they incorporate them into their own ideas and content creation.
- Every person on the team comes to the table with diverse backgrounds and ideas. This exercise is a great way to sift through everyone’s thoughts equally while evaluating every idea according to our audience’s preferences. That helps us choose to create really good content while consistently reminding our team of who our audience is and what they expect from CoSchedule content.
- It’s a fun exercise that gets all of us up and away from our computer screens for a bit while connecting with each other. And when you have fun while you work, it feels less like work and more like something you love to do.
This is how we do it:
The 20-Minute Brainstorm Frenzy
So the first phase of our content planning meeting focuses first on individual contributions to eliminate groupthink. And it’s super easy:
- Give everyone on the team a stack of Post-It notes.
- Ask everyone to write down as many thoughts as they can without holding anything back.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes (I often use my phone for this).
At this point, it’s just fun to see the team writing down tons of ideas, working super fast, and wracking their brains for the ultimate best ideas. There’s usually coffee (lots of coffee), laughs, and then dead silence as they get serious about finding better ideas that will really make a difference.
The 40-Minute Grading Process
By this point, we probably have close to—if not more than—100 or so ideas. The truth? We wouldn’t publish 90% of them because they’re just not quite right for our audience.
And that’s just fine because it’s during this grading process that the team chooses which content to publish and which ideas to toss.
To grade the ideas, I ask the team a couple simple questions:
Is this a topic our readers would be deeply interested in learning more about? How similar is this to our other top content?
- An idea is a 3 if we answer definitively, yes, this is something our audience would find uniquely valuable that is better than anything else they could find on the Internet for this topic.
- An idea is a 2 if the idea doesn’t fit the qualification of a 3.
- An idea is a 1 if it’s not something we think our audience would look to us to publish. It could still be a good guest post idea.
Then we read off each idea one by one while every team member grades the topic from 1 to 3. From there, we simply post the ideas below the corresponding numbers on the marker board.
A Mistake I Made That You Can Avoid:
Until recently, I’d have the team shout off their answers: “That’s a 3, definitely!” “I agree, 3.” “Uh, yeah, let’s go with 3 on that.”
I noticed that once the first person spat off their answer, the rest of the team was very likely to say the exact same answer. I found out later this happened because of social conformity, a psychological principle that was discovered decades ago:
So The Takeaway Is This: When you do this exercise, read off the ideas, then have each individual write down their grade of 1, 2, or 3 on a new Post-It note. Have them show their individual notes all at the same time for each idea, then categorize the idea as a collective 1, 2, or 3.After this process, we only explore the best ideas—those graded as 3—for content that we’ll actually publish.
2. Add That Content To Your Editorial Calendar
Where the planning meeting sets the collaborative tone, the editorial calendar in CoSchedule is where the software helps us actually plan and create the content as a team.
First, we vet the best ideas for keywords, further narrowing our scope of potential content we will create.
Then, we add the ideas onto the calendar, naming the blog posts by their keywords and assigning them to their author.
Once all of the new blog posts are on the calendar, it’s easy to see which authors might have a bit too much on their plates in a given week. From there, we simply drag and drop blog posts around until we feel 100% satisfied that the publishing schedule is realistically doable for every person on the team.
Then we use comments to add in any notes from the planning meeting—including the original idea—so the author has a clear idea of where to start with a blog outline.
3. Define Your Content Process
Our content development process is ever-changing, and we just gave it a major overhaul recently to:
- Add a couple more tasks into our process to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Clearly define what done means for each task to keep everyone accountable for their responsibilities.
- Track how soon we should start working through blog posts to hit every deadline, every time.
There were lots of benefits for us to get organized in this way, so we started very simply by asking ourselves:
What are all the steps we need to do to publish a blog post?
We brainstormed all of the steps, then simply put them in chronological order the best that we could to help us know what to do from beginning to end.
One collaboration software tool we use all the time as a team is Evernote because no matter where anyone is—or if they’re online or offline—they have access to the information they need to do their work. And, it just so happens, Evernote integrates really nicely into CoSchedule. Anyway, this is what that process looked like as we worked through it in its rough format using Evernote:
From there, we had enough information to understand which steps we could group together into a cleaner, condensed workflow. And when we did that, it was easy to understand who on the team would be the best fit to complete those tasks according to their individual interests and skills.
The only thing left to do was to define when we should complete each task to work far enough ahead to nail every deadline and assign it.
This simple exercise gave us exactly what we needed to build the task template we manage using CoSchedule for all new blog posts we write. It gave us a solid definition of what to do for each task. Before anyone who is accountable for a task marks it as complete in CoSchedule, they would first ask themselves if they truly completed the task according to the definition of done.
Now we know to start writing our blog posts a month before they publish to make sure we have several posts 100% ready to publish on the calendar at any time.
Since we’ve done this, we pay more attention to the details that make a difference toward our goals, everyone understands their roles to know exactly what to do, and we work more efficiently while producing better content.
4. Create The Content According To Your Workflow
I’ll be the first to say that our workflow—or the task template we built in CoSchedule—looked magical. If we could seriously create content that way with every task checked off on time and in that specific order, we’d be crushing it.
But that wasn’t always the case. Especially as we got started with the new process because we had to take a little time to learn.
And that was OK because our CoSchedule editorial calendar had our back. Let me explain.
Traditional workflow and project management tools operate in phases. When someone does step 1, then someone else can do step 2.
We all know that doesn’t work 100% of the time. So CoSchedule rocks a task-based workflow that helps the team keep each other accountable for hitting deadlines.
Let me explain how this happens:
- CoSchedule emails you the day before you have a task due on the calendar and you can see a dashboard of the tasks you’re responsible for completing today and into the future. So everyone knows what they need to do.
- When you get into the office in the morning and you see that the person before you hasn’t gotten through their work, you can chat with them about the game plan for the day to get back on track.
- You can communicate with everyone who has a task assigned to them in a specific piece of content right in CoSchedule with a comment. That way, everyone can see the progress the team is making on the project.
- When you can move on to complete your task—even if the task one step before isn’t quite done—you can still do that and check it off your to-do list.
That’s a lot of power for team collaboration. And while being behind is a rarity, this sort of communication may be necessary at first when you’re implementing a brand new process with your team.
Here are a few lessons I learned along the way that you may find useful:
- Help your team moderate themselves more than you intervening into their process. The more they define the process, the more they’ll stick to it.
- Don’t expect perfection because it’s unachievable. Demand excellence and make that the expectation.
- When you set an expectation, make it a standard and stick to it. The second your team sees your standards are flexible is the moment those are just guidelines.
What Do You Want In Your Marketing Collaboration Software?
I like to joke a lot that I’m a content marketer who uses content marketing to market a content marketing tool.
While that’s funny, it’s absolutely true. And I wouldn’t be able to love what I do if I didn’t believe the team behind CoSchedule tries harder than anyone else to give marketers like us exactly what we need to boost our efficiency.
Naturally, the content marketing team at CoSchedule gravitates toward an editorial calendar as our preferred marketing collaboration software. CoSchedule as a tool helps us collaborate, communicate, create, and promote our content super efficiently.
Get your 14-day free trial of CoSchedule to:
- Get more organized than ever: With a little thought into your blog publishing schedule, workflow, and social media promotion, CoSchedule will help you shave hours off your to-do list.
- Find time to create more effective content: You tell us a lot that you’re too busy to even find time to create content. Let CoSchedule manage the mechanics behind team collaboration and social media promotion so you can use that time to create even better content.
- Manage a happier marketing team: Forget endless emails, miscommunication, and missed steps in your workflow. CoSchedule is a marketing tool designed by marketers to eliminate the inefficiencies that hold you back from publishing awesome content.
I hope you’ll join us. And, as always, let me know what you think when you get started with CoSchedule. ;)