Great content isn’t stumbled upon, it’s carefully designed for a specific goal.
This design takes place during the content creation process – a series of stages all geared towards producing content that performs. Just like a web project, there are lots of moving parts.
This process is a workflow firmly rooted in project goals and audience needs. That said, the content creation process isn’t set in stone. Every project and client is different so why should the process be one size fits all? Your content creation process is just that, yours.
It helps to look at the content creation process as an assembly line of sorts, with each piece making its way through the stages to publication (and onto governance). As organised as this process is, it needs to have some flexibility as content flits between stages and team members. Look at revision, for example, a back and forward affair of sharing and improving.
All in all, it’s an inclusive exercise that requires creators, curators, CEOs, and clients so all should be familiar with how it runs.
This post will guide you through the typical stages in the content creation process, outlining each stage, contributors and what to expect.
A great content creation process keeps projects running smoothly and messages in-check, making it easy for your clients to deliver and maintain functional content.
The assembly line of a content creation process
No two content creation processes are the same but here’s a typical assembly line. Although the scope or specialist might differ, each stage is hugely important to the delivery of great content.
The writer usually spearheads this stage but other collaborators can also delve in. Subject experts can be invaluable here too when it comes to pulling together fact and details. These ‘subject experts’ don’t take a typical form, they can be everyone from a CEO to the sales department. It’s all about calling on those in the know and pulling their insight and knowledge to create more informed content. You don’t have to be a professional writer to be part of producing this content so think facts first, skill second at this stage.
This differs per project but at least 2-4 hours make a healthy dent in many projects.
This is where the process kicks off. First things first, get briefed by the senior editor or content strategist on what each page’s communication goals are.
- Who is the audience we’re talking to?
- What do we want them to do?
- What’s their next step?
Once you get to grips with these, you can begin to gather the facts, quotes, and materials you need to start writing.
Remember to review existing content, after all, creation is about more than creating from scratch.
Tips and tricks.
At this stage, it can be easy to get carried away and collect more info than you actually need. Put a cap on the time you’ll spend researching each page. Create a research schedule around each page’s communication goals to keep this stage focused.
- Awareness – What content can communicate brand/company news? Do you have any blogs that can be ‘recycled’?
- Action – Stats and figures may be what you need content-wise here. Consider what you want your audience to do next and what content plants that seed. Perhaps sales or marketing have data that can sway and prompt their next step?
- Measuring success – Remember to keep long-term goals in mind here too. You’ll need to know how you’ll assess and maintain content. Nurture and care for content in order to yield the best results. Keep this at the forefront of your mind when pulling and creating content.
Not surprisingly, the writer.
Depending on what content you already have and the amount of content needed, this can take between 2-4 hours per web page. Don’t put too strict a deadline on this stage, never underestimate the time it takes to produce high-quality content.
Armed with the info you need to write, this stage is for actual content creation. Content needs to be structured and developed so be sure to give writers adequate time to write. The to-do list for typical web page goes beyond body copy. Here’s an example rundown:
- Descriptions, summaries, excerpts and other component copy.
- Images and captions.
- CTA labels.
Remember not all content is text so take some time to put the other content wheels in motion. If you require images or video, call on your content team to make plans for its creation.
Tips and tricks.
Call on your content style guide at this stage. This is your bible when it comes to creating on-brand, audience-specific content. Haven’t got one yet? Start putting your guide together now, here’s a post on doing just that.
A senior editor and/or subject experts usually step in here. It’s useful to have someone other than the writer review as a little perspective works wonders.
Reviewing content is a vital stage in the creation process so take all the time needed. Typically, two hours is enough time to conduct a thorough review.
Quality content should tick several boxes so this stage is integral. Reviewing content can be a difficult stage in the process, requiring an eye for detail and constant connection with audience and communication goals. That’s why it can be easier to split the review into a few steps and sections.
- Step 1 – Pass the content along to subject experts and people closest to the topic. They will check that the content is factually accurate and that the messages are spot-on.
- Step 2 – Share the content with a hypothetical user. They can experience the copy in context and offer feedback on questions, concerns, and requests for extra information at particular points. Essentially, they test the performance of the content and can offer a unique perspective at this necessary stage.
- Step 3 – Now the senior editor can review to make sure all content is complete, well written and consistent. Your content style guide will keep everything on-tone and on-brand. The likes of grammar and house rules are assessed here too.
Tips and tricks.
Always define and outline the role and remit of the reviewers. Content can easily stall at the review stages as more often than not this stage isn’t well enough designed. Be clear about what is to be reviewed, who should review it, how notes are added and how these are communicated to the writer. Don’t forget to put solid timelines and deadlines in place from day one. Without this, the review stages can stint progress and drag on.
Another job for the writer.
It all depends on how the review stage went. Maybe you hit it the first time but chances are some revisions will be required.
When the review stage is completed, revisions can begin. Working with the feedback issued, the writer gets to work updating the copy and submitting a new draft. Close collaboration between the editor and writer can make this stage swift and streamlined, avoiding the usual hiccups that poor reviewing can cause.
Tips and tricks.
There are many ways to review and keep track of these notes and thoughts. Some editors like to have the writer present at review so feedback is delivered in real-time, others prefer to review and then send it the writer’s way for revision.
If you prefer the latter, make it easy for content strategists, subject experts, and editors to share and comment on the information. Implement some of the terrific tech out there to make collaboration a breeze. The likes of Gather Content and Divvy are great for assigning tasks, creating a review calendar, and overseeing collected content.
There’s nothing wrong with questioning feedback and requesting in-depth reasoning behind changes. No one will take it personally, it’s all a matter of being thorough. Create a revision structure that sets clarification of the direction of the revisions against the initial communication goals. It works well for all involved in revisions and drafting.
Another stage for subject experts and senior editors, approval is one of the final stops on the journey to good content.
Same as its review counterpart, the approval stage can last as long as it needs to.
With revision checked off and changes made, the re-issued content is run through the review mill once more.
Tips and tricks.
Many editors have an approval checklist before final sign-off.
- Is all content complete?
- Have subject experts embarked on a final review?
- Are all headings, CTAs, descriptions and links in place?
- Is the other content such as video, images and audio ready to go?
- Have revisions been made in accordance with the content style guide?
- Are the senior team and stakeholders happy with the content created?
If yes, the content is ready to be uploaded to the CMS.
6. Upload to CMS.
When it comes to uploading content, trust this stage to the CMS editor.
This should be a straightforward stage once you have the signed-off content and CMS in place.
Pop the content into the CMS, adding links, images, files, and metadata as you go. This is where the templates are populated with messages and meaning so be sure to keep your mind and eyes open to context. There’s still time to make changes and perfect your content.
Tips and tricks.
If this is the first time using a particular CMS or new site design, call on the design and UX team here. This will be the first time the content is placed within the site, so seek out advice on how it works from an aesthetic and experience standpoint. These specialists can adjust and shape the content to perform as well as possible. Work together for the best results.
7. Web page review / Sign-off.
Subject experts and senior editors complete their responsibilities with a final review and official stamp of completion.
An hour should be sufficient time here. Most of the legwork is complete by this stage so this won’t take too long.
Quality assurance is everything when it comes to content. Don’t skip this stage, there’s no such thing as too many reviews. This is your final chance to sync all your content and look at the bigger content picture.
- Is the formatting suitable?
- Are all the site pages consistent with each other?
- Do all the links work?
- Any grammatical errors sneak in?
- Does the content pertain to any legal or niche requirements?
Tips and tricks.
Content needs to perform, make sure yours does before you hit publish. Refer back to the initial brief during this stage. Why not consult the research schedule from step 1? Does your content align with the communication goals you outlined for your web pages?
Another responsibility for your CMS editor.
Just the click of a button.
And here’s the final step in the content creation process. Each web page is published when the site is launched. By this stage, everyone on your team should be completely confident and happy with the content produced.
Tips and tricks.
Make sure you have a plan in place for maintaining the site content created. Your client will hopefully know the importance of caring for their content post-project. Don’t let the rush and launch madness distract you from securing this. Nurture, sustain and update content throughout its lifecycle. Outline some maintenance questions now so you have time to source the right people and tools to stay on top of the job.
- Is this content likely to become inaccurate at a certain date?
- Who is responsible for updating it?
- What resources does that require?
Onto the next content quest.
Congratulations, that’s your content creation process all mapped out. Handy as an internal template, use these steps are your foundation for designing client/project-specific guides.
Remember creating is only one step in the quest for quality content, maintenance and improvement follow.
This creation process is all about putting content first, one of the greatest gifts you can share with your clients and in-house teams. Put them and your projects on the best possible path today.