Because content marketing is so new for most companies, many are still trying to figure out how to make it work for them. Consider that only 34 percent of companies feel their content marketing efforts are effective.
In the hustle and bustle of trying to keep up with the digital world, content marketers struggle to organize their workflows, meaning it's even harder to find time to document project templates and milestones.
Organize your workflow with tips from our post, "Creating a Content Marketing Process."
A report from the Altimeter Group sums up what most of the current research on content marketing shows:
"Despite an overwhelming trend toward content marketing and the need to continually feed an ever-increasing portfolio of content channels and formats, most organizations have not yet addressed content on either a strategic or tactical level."
Assuming that most content marketers would focus more on strategy and tactics if they had adequate direction, I've written this post to offer some best practices to help you get there.
Specifically, I want to address the question, "what is a milestone?"
This question would most likely come from a project manager or a team lead who wants to improve their team's workflow efficiency, but it's really a question every content marketer should be asking.
Because if you can tighten up your workflow, then you'll be better equipped to create high quality content that's on trend.
What is a Milestone?
A milestone in any project is an important phase—or group of related tasks that make up a phase—that must be completed in order for the project to move forward. It's a phase where, at any point in the project's execution, you could look back and say, "this part is done."
Think about milestones in building a house: designing/creating blueprints, excavation, laying the foundation, framing, roofing, plumbing, electrical, etc. Each of these milestones involves a lot of work, but when all the work for that milestone is finished, you get to mark it as done.
Then, naturally, once all the milestones in your project are finished, you get to mark your entire project as done.
What is a Milestone in a Content Marketing Workflow?
The easiest way to understand what a milestone is in a content marketing workflow is to have it explained in the context of a familiar deliverable. For this post, I'll use an ebook as an example.
1. List all tasks required to carry out a project.
The first step to mapping out milestones in the life of any project is to make a list of all the tasks involved with the deliverable.
When you write an ebook, you're most likely not going to just sit down and pump out 3,000 plus words and then send it to print.
You'll most likely meet with a content team and decide which topic the ebook should address.
You'll probably write an outline and maybe even get that outline approved before you dive into a first draft. And then you'll get that reviewed before diving into a second draft, and so on until the copy is deemed final.
And that's just the beginning.
Here's an example of a comprehensive list of work involved in the life of an ebook; your list may have more or less detail depending on your team's preferences and strategies:
- Meet with content team to determine ebook topic and timeline.
- Sign and send statement of work (SOW), if outsourcing,
- Write initial outline.
- Write detailed outline.
- Get outline approval from manager.
- Send to manager for review.
- Write second draft.
- Send to manager for review.
- Complete final version.
- Send to a separate copywriter for a thorough copy edit.
- Get manager approval on final copy.
- Send final copy to creative team.
- Meet with creative director/designer to discuss layout design.
- Review layout, round one.
- Review layout, round two.
- Complete a thorough copy edit in design.
- Approve final layout design.
- Save final .pdf to the digital asset management (DAM) system.
- Write landing page (LP) copy and any other related web copy.
- Get manager approval for web copy.
- Send .pdf and web copy to web team.
2. Create groups of like tasks and assign milestones.
With a comprehensive list, detailed to your preferences, the hard part is over. For many content marketers, this will offer more visibility into the workflow of a project than they've ever had. But now, we can make it even more valuable by classifying the tasks into milestones.
The following table shows how I've chosen to group the tasks for an ebook into the following milestones: Preparation, Writing, Design, and Publication.
3. Create templates and start reaching your milestones.
By grouping the ebook tasks, I have simultaneously created milestones that I can work toward.
Depending on your approach, you might divide your list of tasks into smaller or larger groups. You may even choose to start planning a project by deciding on milestones first and then listing out the tasks that make up each milestone.
The table I've made can now serve as a workflow template for all future ebook projects. With a few tweaks to this table, I can easily create templates for white papers, blog posts, webinars, etc.
To make this process even easier, consider using a marketing work management tool that allows you to create templates with milestones and that tracks your progress.
Creating these templates and determining milestones may take some team coordination and a meeting or two, but the effort quickly pays off simply in how much chaos you can avoid when carrying out projects, which helps to shorten your lead time.
Plus, marking milestones breaks up the workload so projects don't seem so daunting, giving you a sense of accomplishment when you reach each milestone.
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