Lots of teams measure content performance metrics. But how many measure content production metrics? Can you say with certainty what your average writer’s speed to article is? Your time from proofread to publish? The percentage of your library that’s gone stale?
Maybe we're painting a picture of a future we haven’t quite reached yet, but this is a conversation content people are beginning to have. The broad consensus is that their baselines today—whatever they are—probably aren’t very good.
No content team we talk to has ever said, “You know, we just create too much good stuff too fast.”
The question we’ll explore in this article is, why do so many teams feel their speed isn’t where it needs to be to support a healthy pace of work? And secondly, how do you address those issues without throwing quality considerations out the window?
Why content takes so damn long
The average novel is 60,000 words and most authors are given several years to write one. Placed on a content team, those poor authors would fail, and fail fast. Within the same time period, most content creators write the equivalent of 5-7 books and can boast about none of the same creative procrastination techniques. Which is to say, expectations around volume are really high.
At the same time, demand and executive teams suffer from what’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect—the less you know about something, the more you tend to think you do know, and the easier it is you assume it is. Anytime you hear, “This shouldn’t take you very long,” a phrase that makes content people want to run and hide, you know the Dunning-Kruger effect is at play.
Finally, the world is moving faster. The lifespan of a Fortune 500 company on that list used to be 61 years. Today it has dropped to 18.
All of this conspires to create a world where marketers need more content quickly, the people in charge of marketing aren’t sufficiently aware of the relationship between time and quality, and the pace of industrial change is blistering.
It would be easiest to let quality slip, but if you’re like us, that’s just not an option. You care too much. So here’s what you can do instead.
7 ways to speed up content creation
1. Recycle aggressively
If this seems like a cop-out, it isn’t. A pitifully small percentage of content that’s created is ever actually viewed, much less viewed by the right people at the right point in their journey. Anywhere you can satisfy a need for new content by revamping old content, you should. It’s great for your search rankings (Google loves a good update) and you can improve it based on actual performance data. That is, rather than guess which topic will be best received, you can simply select the piece that’s already received the most engagement. (Remember to control for the promotion each asset received—what looks like a top-performer may only appear so because it was included in a campaign when the others weren’t.)
A speedy hack: Uberflip allows you to insert content galleries and carousels that draw from your existing content to show visitors what they’re most likely to be interested in. It’s recycling, and it’s automatic.
2. Spend 20% of your time on passive traffic projects
The worst place to be when you need to drive demand is starting from zero. For instance, you need to target companies supporting frontline workers, and you have nothing existing on that topic. For this reason, I advocate spending at least one-fifth of your time building role and industry-specific product pages or “destinations” designed to rank on Google. Have your demand team spend equal time earning backlinks and traffic to them. (Or, if you have Uberflip, you can publish content destinations for each topic and tell it to surface top-performing content for that topic.)
This way, no matter what arises, you’ve got a warmed-up destination ready to go, and some real data to work with.
3. Create a central content repository
If at this point you’re thinking, “Oh man, when do you get to the tactical stuff?,” our response is this: The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The next best time is now. If you do not take time to build the content infrastructure, you will forever be fighting fires.
A central repository is a software system where every asset is tagged by topic, use, role, and campaign. Among other things, it allows you to quickly and kindly deflect internal content requests. Rather than search around in the CMS or SharePoint looking for something you know you created but now can’t find, and eventually write a redundant piece from scratch, you can surface the piece in seconds.
(Uberflip excels at content organization. We’re currently undergoing an internal content audit and it’s the only way we could have possibly reviewed 9,000+ assets.)
4. Reuse the same content in multiple places
Exactly like the title says, reuse pieces across destinations. Rather than blame you for repeating yourself, prospects will appreciate the consistency. (E.g. “OK this ebook was featured on the resources page and on the product page. I guess this is the most important one, maybe I'll read it.”)
According to Uberflip’s own content experience report, placing an asset in multiple places can increase views 8x at no cost to buyer enjoyment. Some of our own core assets can end up in upwards of 50 different places over their lifetime.
5. Force others to adhere to a brief
Nothing slows down content production like eleventh-hour inclusions. For instance, someone says, “I realize you’ve already written the article but I was hoping to include this customer study.” To fit it in, you now have to conduct a complete teardown. If instead, you force everyone on a project to put what’s in their head down on paper, it will slow everyone down initially, and overall, speed up everything you do.
6. Constantly hunt for innovations and eliminations
Hone your process just like a product manager hones their product. Look for little things that go wrong, study them, ask people why that thing is happening, and keep a careful log. Then allocate time to improve your process.
For instance, is the demand team always asking for social copy or meta tag suggestions? Make those part of the template. Are designers always curious what you meant? Have your writers leave detailed annotations so that rather than invent from scratch, your designers always have at least a rough idea to work from. (Changing is always easier than inventing.)
A common complaint we hear is that executives are slow to sign off on things. If that’s the case for you, try putting all articles that are ready in one folder for approval so they’re easy to find.
A few ideas to consider in your projects:
- Can proofreading and design occur simultaneously?
- Are project managers slowing things down or speeding them up?
- How much more might writers get done if you outsourced proofreading?
- How much faster would you publish content if you didn’t have to rely on the web team?
- What do you do a lot of for which there is no template?
7. Make everything you do available to sales
Use a content experience platform (CEP) like Uberflip with a sales component (we call it Sales Assist) where your salespeople can search the content library right from within the sales tools they already use. That way, rather than create something new that sales needs, they can find it without asking.
The need for speedy content
Content creation doesn’t have to take as long as it does. Yet because of the high demands, lack of process, and quickened pace of workplace change, it does—and that’s something you can fix. By recycling aggressively and using a central content repository to ensure everything you create goes to proper use, you free yourself up to deflect less important demands and tackle the really important ones.
As a content creator, that’s how you evolve from order taker to experience maker. Because only one of those roles has a future as the world continues to change.