By Ryan BrockCreativity is not chaos. So many of us hold a sort of mystical view of the creative process that makes it feel nebulous subject to the whim of moods and muses. But the creative process is just that—a process—and it’s one that needs to fit in alongside other business processes in order to make marketing work.
Nowhere is that truer than in the marketing department of a financial institution. The generating of marketing content doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the number of cooks in the kitchen can be staggering. It can take weeks or months for campaigns to make it from the brainstorm stage through creative development, marketing approvals, legal review, and every other necessary roadblock along the way.
The key to making it through to publication does not rest in the hands of a creative muse, but of a well-designed process. With the proper organization of your team’s content creation efforts, you can make it easier for everybody involved in the long and winding creative process to stay informed and efficient. Here are five tips to help you do just that:
Button up campaign planning
Starting with a blank page can be terrifying. When you consider every element of a single marketing campaign, it’s even more daunting. You have pieces of content, emails, social posts, ads, sales collateral, landing pages, lead generation forms … It’s a lot to keep track of. Before kicking off your next campaign, take a step back and think about the patterns that hold true from campaign to campaign, and either build a standard planning document or project management system that incorporates everything in one place. This will help you take inventory of everything that’s needed, and will also create some comfortability among different members of your team as they get familiar with the input docs you use to govern each campaign.
Standardize file nomenclature
This is a minor point, but there a million ways to name a file. One person might just let a program insert a default file name and go from there. Someone else might add letters to the end of a new version of something, another might add numbers. Stop leaving it up to chance and develop rules for naming and updating files. For example, you might use a template like this: Blog-PPP Loan Forgiveness Explained-V1.docx
If it’s a whitepaper, swap that out at the front. If you’ve updated this blog, update to V2 at the end. If you’re just providing feedback, add your initials at the end of the version number. A lot of this is handled by using modern collaboration tools like Google Drive, but those are not always available to marketers in financial institutions which have very strict rules placed on file storage and accessibility by the SEC. If you’re still using email as a primary way to share content, adopting a structure like this will help keep people on the same page as content iterates.
Adopt comprehensive copy decks
The inside of a file is another place where a lot of meta information can be stored. It’s a best practice to not simply write a blog post in a blank Word document, for example, but to instead adopt a standard copy deck template. At the top of the page, build out a table that allows your creatives to identify things like a version number, date, SEO keyword research, suggested image URLs, metatags, social media copy, disclaimers and anything else a single piece of content will be tied to. This is especially helpful in the legal review process, where you can submit a completed piece of content along with all related social content, images and anything else the lawyers will want to review before you can publish.
Clarify stakeholder roles
Speaking of lawyers, it can be a huge source of frustration when legal reviews a piece and approves it, only for you to realize something needs to change. Repeating steps of the content development process can and will obliterate your deadlines. As you get started with a new campaign, take a pause to connect with everybody who will be involved and clarify their role, what they will need to complete it, and how long their specific job will take. Chart out a sort of journey map for any piece of content so you can identify the stages at which a new member of the team will need to enter the picture. Add a short checklist at each stage so you can confidently pass on a piece knowing the next person will be able to get in and do their job as efficiently as possible.
Clean up archival procedures
Finally, though it might feel like it’s time to move right on to the next job once a piece of content is approved and published, a little more work archiving will save huge headaches down the line. It’s critical from a compliance perspective to keep records of all the sources you have used in case any of your content comes into question in the future. Additionally, your research or creative work for one project may end up coming in handy for a future piece. Create a drive, shared if possible, to house not only finished versions of each piece of content, but also any related images, art files and screenshots or PDFs of sources. Linking to a web source might not be enough, as that link can be changed or content removed at any time.
Organization in time saves nine
Getting serious about content organization is a real commitment of time. It might be difficult to find room in your schedule to build out copy decks, campaign planning tools and archive structures. But doing that work once will pay off in spades as you and every member of your team eventually spend less time preparing to develop content and more time producing the kind of remarkable marketing material that builds real trust with your customers.
Ryan Brock is the Founder & CEO of Metonymy Media, an agency of creative writers that helps businesses and organizations grow by creating content that is consistent, accurate and compelling.