This is a guest post by Josip Mlinarić of PointVisible. Josip discusses what happens when complex content marketing plans meet reality.
Starting your day with a plan is an awesome feeling. If you’re like me, you also love spending your Sunday evenings with your Evernote, your journal and your calendar, time blocking into oblivion. On the other hand, if this isn’t your first project management rodeo, you are very well aware of the fact that things will never go as planned. Remember that cliché about God and laughter and planning? Well, clichés are clichés for a reason.
Here’s the thing: It’s simply not enough to sit down and create a plan at the beginning of your project. You also need to be aware of the challenges and roadblocks awaiting you at the next intersection, and plan on them too.
Working as a content manager has exposed me to a lot of the typical challenges and roadblocks that appear in content marketing projects. I've highlighted them so that you know what to look out for and better yet, how to deal with them.
1. Tight Deadlines
Anyone who has ever worked with content knows that you will most likely be faced with deadlines that don’t leave you with enough time to produce the miracle your clients are hoping for (that is unless you stumble upon the Holy Grail of projects).
In my experience, most clients know that having good content on their site is important, but they simply don’t understand how much time and skill is required to produce such content. After all, anybody can write, and all they’re asking for is a simple text that includes a bunch of keywords. This view leads them to expect unrealistic turnaround times (and cheap prices to boot).
If you often find yourself working on a short deadline in a high-pressure environment, here are two useful tips on how to work within the situation:
- When agreeing to a deadline, always take into account the “disaster” factor. If you can usually do it in three days, make sure you ask for four or five. This will take a bit of the edge off, and if you get a bout of procrastination in between, no harm no foul, you will have that extra day to deliver.
- Take breaks. Even if the deadline is tight and you think that you need to flat out work constantly, the longer you work with no break, the less productive you will be. Try the Pomodoro technique if you’re a fan of structure. If Pomodoro’s 25-minute increments seem too strict, you can also try other methods.
2. Lack of Clear Guidelines
As a content manager, your job often relies on meeting and, if possible, exceeding your clients’ expectations.
This can be difficult because more often than not, your clients aren't content specialists. Many also haven't quite figured out what they want when they approach you. And, when they do know what they want, that seldom translates into a detailed enough brief.
Rather than expecting my clients to know what I need, I've found it much easier to let them work from a template. If you create an in-house template based on what you and your team need in order to get the job done, all your clients need to do is fill it out. Put it together based on what you as a team need to get the job done, and send it to each client.
I’d also advise that you make it quite clear that you only start working after you’ve received the brief in full.
3. Unclear Target Audiences
Defining a target audience is one of the keys to content marketing success. If your client hasn't defined their target audience yet, offer to do it for them. You can get a basic understanding of their target audience by researching their major competitors, industry, and successful campaigns they've done in the past.
Ideally, you want this service to be part of the package that you can bill your client for. But even if they don’t agree to this expense, it’s in your own interest to do a bit of research before you start the writing process. This is the only way to ensure that you craft content that speaks to the right target personas and leads to the desired conversion rates.
4. Inadequate Funding
The most common problem I’ve faced managing content is inadequate funding. Clients simply don’t want to pay for top quality writers.
Don't sell yourself short. I know that it isn't always easy. There are many great writers out there and unfortunately, not enough work. We need to band together and my honest advice would be to educate people, clients, colleagues on the value of content and the value of paying for good content writers.
5. No Tools in Place For Success Analysis
You need to have a system in place that will measure the success of what you have done. In content marketing, we use views, shares, conversions and ROI. The key is to know what works and what doesn’t — and the only way to know for sure is to test and test and retest again. This means monitoring what makes one project a success and another not quite as good.
6. Keeping Things Secret (ish)
A great idea doesn’t come along often. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that bragging about that great piece you’re working on among colleagues and friends can lead to idea theft and backstabbing.
If you’re working on something unique (and even if you aren’t), try not to give anything away. I’m not saying never speak to anybody about what you’re doing, just don’t go into specifics while you’re still in the execution phase. That way you don’t give the competition a chance to beat you to the punch.
Educate your team, let them know that confidentiality can often be a good thing. In our line of work, being the first often counts for double.
7. Client Impatience And Meddling
You’ll come across an impatient and meddling client at least once in your career. Instead of letting them get to you, try to adopt a few of these tactics:
- It isn't always possible to be at your client’s beck and call. If they are persistent in their efforts to try and get a hold of you, simply let them know that you will get back to them as soon as you can.
- It's important to establish clear boundaries. When it comes to difficult clients, they can often cross a line, and if they do, just be ready to let them go.
- Say no when you need to.
- Pick your battles, if you want to fight them.
If you lose this type of client, try not to stress over it more than you absolutely need to. Marketing is all about relationships and if one doesn’t work, there are still ones that do.
8. Content Creator Burnout
The worst thing that can ever happen to a content creator is to burnout. While every single person can certainly be afflicted, I’ve only ever personally seen it in writers, and being a writer myself, and having burnt out twice, I know just how horrific it can be.
Pushing yourself to be amazing every day can take its toll quite quickly, and the only real cure is stepping back.
As a project manager, if you ever see someone approaching their limit, send them on leave at once. This can be hard, especially if this person is a key member in your project and them going on leave could impact your deadline. Remember people first, projects second.
9. The Discomfort of Comfort
“Comfort is the enemy of progress” - The Greatest Showman’s author P.T. Barnum said. And no matter how creative your line of work, you will at one point find your comfort zone, and refuse to leave it.
And while your comfort zone may get the job done, and may get stellar results — there will come a time when it will no longer work, and you will be forced to move it or lose it.
So the answer is to get yourself and your team to leave your comfort zone ever so often. Take on a new kind of project, try to assign tasks differently, try something you have never done before. When you stop learning, evolving, changing, the end is neigh.
As is the end of this article.