I’ve been doing Content Marketing projects for a year and nine months and have participated in hundreds of pitches and dozens of projects. When one has been through all that, one can see definite patterns. In this post, I write about the reasons for the success or failure of projects. So here are the crucial factors that can make or break a Content Marketing project This is purely experiential and I’ve not referred to any books, websites, or papers to research for this post.
Communication: It all starts with the first client meeting and the brief. If you are the one who is going to produce the content in accordance with the brief, it is imperative for you to understand every word of the brief and to get very accurate context. What’s on the client’s mind? What’s the intent? The objective?
If you are not present at client meetings, then you are relying on someone to pass on the brief to you. That’s where good communication skills come to the fore.
Advice: Ask for the minutes of the meeting (MOM) in written format. Better still, get an audio recording of the meeting. You could turn the MOM into a well-written brief. Send the brief back to the client and get their approval BEFORE starting the execution. Having said that, I must warn you: clients are whimsical and briefs evolve. Be prepared for that!
Skills and Resources: The client may want a specific format for the content, produced in a certain way. The sales team is under pressure to sell and may assume that the content team can produce this. They may say “yes” without checking if the skills and abilities to execute the project are available in-house. For instance, the client may have a requirement for a series of training videos or a chatbot. Both require specific skills to produce and are different from producing a blog article or an infographic. Can you do it?
Advice: Someone senior in your team (like the Content Lead) needs to take a call here. The question to ask is: Do we have the abilities and resources, in-house to produce this content? If not, have we identified an external resource to do this?
Scheduling and Timelines: Some timelines are extremely short. I know clients who ask for articles on the same day, produced in a few hours. Do you have the bandwidth to comply with such requests, given that your in-house team already has its plate full, with multiple assignments?
Advice: If the timelines are really short then it is better to produce the content in-house rather than outsourcing it to a freelancer. Some freelancers work only after sunset or do not work on the weekend. And if your content team cannot comply with that demanding timeline, just say NO.
Collaboration: When you are working on multiple projects with your teams in offices at different locations, then good collaboration and communication are essential. Poor or inconsistent communication can lead to doom and project failure.
Advice: You need to have good systems and processes for communication. We use Microsoft Teams for collaboration and Microsoft Task Planner for scheduling. Conduct stock taking calls with your team daily and set up “reco sheets” in Excel to monitor the status of projects.
Systems: I just alluded to the need for good communication and collaboration systems. These are essential for bringing your internal and external stakeholders on the same page. You want to have a centralized dashboard or communication console. The external stakeholders are the clients for whom you produce content; vendors, and freelancers.
Advice: There are numerous tools that enable your teams to share files/documents, chat, and collaborate. I mentioned Microsoft Teams, but you can also evaluate other options like Flock and Slack. If there is a lot of customization required, you will be better off developing your own workflow and collaboration platform. And of course, use WhatsApp Groups for urgent communication. We set up WhatsApp groups for specific projects.
Processes: Finally, it is important to have processes in place for everything. Document these processes and ensure that everyone follows these. Processes ensure consistency. What are the best practices you have learned from successful projects? Can you build that into your processes?
Advice: Appoint trainers or “marshals” who ensure that new recruits or interns are trained on processes. Create a handbook that documents all your processes. And be sure to keep an eye on your team to ensure that they follow these processes.
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Even if you follow all this advice, some projects WILL fail. Be prepared for failure. There are certain factors that you cannot control. Be prepared for the unexpected, and take failure in your stride. But reflect carefully on why a project failed or succeeded — and take that as a learning for your next project.