5 Simple Steps to Get a Head Start with Content Automation

by Mintent Staff on Jul 13, 17

Creating good quality content at a high frequency requires a lot of effort. From brainstorming outlines to writing, scheduling, approving and distributing, there is often a myriad of moving parts. Most times, there are many people involved in this process, and a great deal of budget is on the line.

Just getting it done and pushed out the door is only a fraction of the job. It has to be done well, meaning in the end, it is contributing to ROI – not just being pushed out for the sake of it.

So, what if you could make it all of this a little easier? What if you could take the howling mess of schedules, procedures, people and content… and turn it into a well-oiled machine? We are here to tell you that with content automation, you can!

Although we cannot conceivably automate every content marketing task that comes our way (you can breathe easy – your job is not being replaced by a robot), we can at least remove several tasks from our plates. Want to know the secret to working smarter, not harder? Here is what you need to do:

1.  Introduce a documented workflow to your team.

Before you automate your content marketing system, we need to know how your workflow really works – not just how we would like it to work in a perfect world. A word to the wise: don’t even think about skipping this step! Without this piece, you’ll just be automating a broken content marketing system… which will give you broken content automation.

As you will learn if you read our “Leaky Bucket” e-book (wait, you have read our e-book right?), you’ll just be pouring precious water into a leaky bucket.

Here are a few tips that can help you document your current content workflow in its current state. Remember – this isn’t the time to improve your content development system. For now, you just want to accurately document how things actually work for your team and other stakeholders.

  • Be honest.

Content automation takes time and money. Don’t waste either of those things with a workflow that is based solely on wishful thinking.

For example: If it takes five rounds of approvals to get a blog post published, your content workflow needs to reflect that.

  • Include all the stakeholders.

Everyone on your team needs to review the workflow. Hopefully, they’ll be able contribute at least one improvement.

Be prepared to surprise yourself with this process; even hands-on content marketing managers may not actually know every step that’s required to get a piece of content published.

  • Try to show how long each step takes.

Time is critical when it comes to your content marketing workflow. Later, when you are looking to optimize your workflow, time will be one of the metrics you’ll most want to track and improve.

  • Keep it simple, but not too simple.

You may find that one workflow map isn’t going to be enough. You may even need a map for each type of content that you create. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, the best content workflow maps balance clarity and details. For instance, it may not make sense to document every step it takes to layout a blog post, or every step required to simply find a photo.

Some content management systems (like Mintent) give you a way to both document your workflows and add automation to them.

2.Introduce a content library, or “asset library” to your teams.

The beauty of content automation systems is that they automatically move content from one place to another.  So logically… these systems need to know where to pull their content from, otherwise they won’t work.

If your content is all over the map, hidden in a hundred different emails, files, folders and Dropbox accounts, you’ve got your work cut out, but don’t worry, now is the perfect time to go in, find all of that content, catalog it, and put it in one easy-to-find place. This should be a place where you and your team can find all of that content again (without a search party), and where your content automation system can find it, too.

It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not really that bad once you get started. And it will ultimately save you an enormous amount of time in the long run. First, it saves you the time it takes to find different content assets, then it saves you even more since you won’t be wasting time repeating content that’s similar to the assets you may have already created!

3.Identify what’s not ‘stuck’ in your workflow.

I am willing to bet that after you document your entire content workflow, you found a handful of issues or things that need to be changed. Now is your opportunity to change them.

We are not recommending that your tear down your current workflow. As broken as your workflow may be, it has at least been working in your favor in some capacity. Completely changing everything from the ground up could cause more problems than it solves. So be strategic about what you change. Even tiny tweaks can make a difference.

For instance, maybe you’ve been reviewing all work as PDF documents. This was the easiest way to set up your system initially, but now you realize your team finds working with PDFs to be a real pain in the neck. Perhaps you’d like to get out of content-management-via-email, which you find to be only slightly more pleasant than a weekend of hosting your in-laws. A new content management system can help with that, but you might want to get it up and running before you try to automate too much of it.

We recommend making a short list of your workflow problems and then addressing them either one by one, or in groups. See the next point for how to prioritize your problem-solving.

4.Identify your low-hanging fruit.

If you really wanted to, you could dive right into content automation and automate almost everything right away. While that does sound pretty awesome, some teams may not quite be ready for that. So just be prepared to face a little resistance right at the start. It helps to give your team some time to adjust. Find that “low-hanging fruit” in your content processes – i.e. the stuff that’s easy to automate – and just start with that.

This not only eases your team into using automation, but it also gives them evidence that content automation works, and that it can make their lives easier. The more results they see, the more they’ll be willing to learn and grow.Here are a few examples of tasks that are easy and obvious to automate:

  • Do you always send the same email to someone after you’ve completed a particular task?

That’s a task that could be automated. Good automated content systems have built-in messaging systems that will notify the next team member as soon as their work is ready. (And yes, Mintent does this).

For instance, as soon as a blog post has been proofread, a notification should be sent to the appropriate person so they can read it and approve it. It’s a miniscule amount of time, but the 3 minutes it takes to send an email like that (every time) can sure add up!

  • Do you always announce new content on your social media accounts?

A good content automation tool can create and schedule social media posts so that you don’t have to.  It can also reschedule those posts, so you get more mileage out of your content, and you spend less time filling up your social media queues.

  • Do you send out an email update every week or so?

Email creation can be automated so content is pulled from a couple of strategic places and assembled on the fly. This can be done across different CRMs and content management systems. For instance, if you use Mintent with say Marketo, it’s possible to hook up those two tools to cut the steps from idea to published content almost in half (https://www.getmintent.com/blog/marketo_integration/).

  • Do you create reports… and spend 20 minutes choosing the same parameters over and over again?

It’s definitely time to automate all of that.

  • Do you get requests for content to create?

Then you need a capture system for ideas. So, the next time somebody walks down the hall with you and says, “I have an idea for an ebook!”, you can say – “Excellent, please submit a content ticket.”

Or even better, maybe you can get them to submit a creative brief (https://www.getmintent.com/blog/4-ways-you-can-use-creative-briefs-to-save-time-money-and-morale/).

  1. Track your results.

Content development processes can take up a lot of time. One of the primary goals of content automation is to minimize that time.

Ever heard the quote “what is measured, improves”? Well, we recommend you measure (or track) your how long your content development process takes. Test your new content automation systems to find new ways to make your team more efficient. Tracking your time under your new system (and under all the new iterations of your system that you’ll try out in the future) is an objective way to see how well your system works.

Measuring your workflow time also encourages you to test different workflow strategies. Then, it shows you which ones are bringing you the best results. This brings an element of experimentation to your team’s mindset, too, and can help them to become more agile.

Conclusion

We love content marketing, but we feel for content marketers because we know it’s hard. Not only will content automation save you time and money– it will also allow you to improve the quality of your content, and help you get way more done.  Be sure to check out our upcoming AMA webinar with Noz Urbina on intelligent content and how to create topical and evergreen content that provides ROI for years after it’s produced. You can register for “Playing to Win with Intelligent Content” here.

That’s the sort of win I think we all could use. Want to test out our content automation platform with no strings attached? Click here for a FREE 2 week trial, and start marketing with intent.