How does a blog post get published? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as typing your thoughts into WordPress and hitting “post.” (At least, not for businesses.) Instead, it’s about knowing how to develop an editorial workflow.
From journalism to social media writing, any piece of published writing is the result of a content workflow. The challenge comes with making that workflow functional.
When you don’t have an organized workflow, you leave the door open for chaos. Team members miscommunicate, tasks aren’t distributed properly, and deadlines fly by.
It’s a lot to manage. But there’s hope! For a look at how to develop and manage an editorial workflow, read on.
Elements of a functional editorial workflow
A piece of content, like an article or video, must go through certain stages: preparation, production, and publishing. Each part of the workflow supports the other. The best blog post on the internet will never see the light of day if it gets stuck in the production pipeline. Meanwhile, an article written for a specific audience and promoted by the publishing team will fare far better.
The benefits of an effective workflow
An effective workflow is important for numerous reasons. It sets up a clear chain of command, makes it easier to delegate tasks, and increases efficiency. It keeps a team organized and helps you set deadlines.
Everyone involved in the editorial process knows what they’re responsible for, when tasks are due, and how their work impacts the overall production pipeline.
Making your workflow efficient
An efficient workflow is a tried-and-true system that helps you reach your goals. Here are a few tips to make your workflow as efficient as possible:
- Be specific. Brainstorm and list out every task involved with creating the content from start to finish and assign tasks to team members.
- Communicate with your team regularly. Incorporate a channel for team members to ask questions if they’re unsure of what they need to do. Workflow software often comes with tools that visualizes the specifics of each task, such as due dates and task assignments. Updating this information regularly will help keep everyone on the same page.
- Incorporate quality control through a review process. An editor should check every piece of content before it goes to the next stage in the process.
- Make resources like style guides, process documents, and editorial calendars available to the whole team. This helps creators and editors maintain consistency in their work and cuts down on time spent looking for resources.
How to plan an effective editorial workflow
Editorial workflows are typically spearheaded by a managing editor, content marketing manager, or similar role. This person is responsible for managing all aspects of the workflow.
That manager may head an editorial team whose members tackle different aspects of content creation: marketing, branding, creative, insights, and so on. In some cases, an executive sponsor consults with the team to provide support from a senior leadership position. Together, this team plans the workflow.
Planning an effective editorial workflow
When planning your workflow, take stock of what content you want to produce and who your target audience is. Also note what resources you have available. If you intend to grow your business, look for scalability in the workflow tools you use.
An effective workflow supports your team with the things they need for success. This includes an organized structure for assigning tasks, an efficient way to communicate with team members, and resources for content creators. Style guides, for instance, are important for editors to remind content creators of the appropriate writing style for your audience.
Look to answer these questions:
- Who is part of this workflow?
- What tasks need to be completed? What is each person doing?
- When is each task due?
- How will team members communicate? How will the team track progress?
- Where will this content be posted? Where will team members find the resources needed to do their jobs?
Answering these questions will give you a solid foundation on which to develop your workflow.
Optimizing your editorial workflow
Software optimizes your workflow by keeping people in communication, making data accessible for those who need it, and automating tasks. For every step of the editorial process, there’s a software out there to help.
Use project management software to automate simple tasks, like notifying team members of assignment due dates. Not only does this free up time, but it also prevents miscommunication.
At the same time, if your software is difficult to use, it will slow your team down. Look for software that integrates into the team’s workflow and has an approachable learning curve.
How to implement and manage an editorial workflow
Maybe your company is changing, and your workflow needs to adapt. Maybe you’re looking to boost your current process. As you implement a new workflow, prepare to take time and iterations to find what works best for you.
Roles to fill in an effective editorial workflow
To assign roles, look at what tasks must be completed. Who’s planning content? In addition, who’s creating it? And who’s promoting it?
A typical workflow can be broken down into three phases: content planning, content creation, and content promotion. Delegating roles depends on the size and organization of your business, but below are some common roles for each phase.
For planning content…
Content strategists are the main players here. Their job is to come up with content ideas, define the types of content (blog articles vs a short video, for example), and specify the content’s audience. Strategists work with the editorial team to create a content calendar.
SEO content strategists research keywords to target for maximum clicks, scope out the competition, and select a call to action.
For content creation…
A content creator takes the business’s ideas and turns them into reality. Cue the writers, graphic designers, video editors, and talent for podcasts or videos. Their job is to write, record or film, or create graphics for content.
For this stage, businesses may opt to hire freelancers or ghostwriters. In-house editors then review the content to make sure it aligns with the editorial style guide, business voice, and content brief.
For content promotion…
The final phase ensures that you’re regularly posting high-quality content.
A copy editor checks the content to make sure it’s grammatically correct and follows the style guide. Senior editors head the approval process.
Then, an SEO analyst combs through the content to optimize it for the web. They can do this by including tags on blog posts, adding metadata, adding backlinks, simplifying URLs, and more.
Finally, social media managers schedule and publish posts across a business’s chosen platform.
Managing your editorial workflow
It’s easy to get lost in the jungles of content marketing. To keep chaos from reigning supreme, it’s important to have systems set in place.
Building an editorial calendar, for one, is a prime way to let your team know what to expect and how to align with company goals.
Additionally, to help content creators and editors maintain brand consistency, create a database for resources. This can house things like content creation process resources, editorial style guides, calendars, links for research, and more.
Finally, take advantage of your resources. Create or download templates to standardize tasks. Make the work you do work for you.
Implementing a new editorial workflow
Before diving into a new workflow, look at your current process. What strengths do you have already? What gaps or weaknesses exist?
Next, break down your process into small, manageable steps. Which tasks are most important? Which tasks have dependencies?
Document everything. For example, creating an editorial style guide in Google Docs is one way to document your process for writers. Storing information in a cloud-based app like Google Drive is especially helpful for easily accessing and sharing important documents.
Sample templates for an effective editorial workflow
Templates can be created through free online software, a text editor, a program like Microsoft Excel, or paid solutions.
Types of templates:
- These can be simple to-do lists, or they can be more complex, showing which tasks need to be completed, who’s responsible for each, and the stage of task completion.
- Task assignment templates. These show who’s assigned to which task, who approves the task, and when it’s due.
- Gantt charts. Best for keeping track of activities over time, the Gantt chart shows the scheduled length for each task and how tasks overlap. This can be a great way to compare the expected length of time against the actual length of time taken.
- Kanban boards. These are agile project management tools that organize tasks into columns and emphasize visuals. Each column represents a workflow or phase within the project, such as “to do,” “in progress,” and “complete.” Within these columns are individual cards with a task designated to each team member.
- A Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet is a simple way to keep track of task delegation and completion.
- Flowcharts or workflow diagrams. These visualize the step-by-step process from start to finish. They can include variations to account for unknown outcomes (for example, a flowchart that branches off into “if this happens, do this” and “if this doesn’t happen, do this”).
Blogs like CoSchedule offer strategy templates and other free, downloadable resources that walk you through the content planning process. This template guides you through seven steps to determine your audience, set goals, document your editorial strategy, and develop a publishing schedule.
These workflow templates from Smartsheet are downloadable for PDF, Microsoft Excel, and Word. These diagrams visualize an overview of a work process for different industries.
Services like Asana, Trello, Evernote, and monday.com also provide tools for registered accounts. Many of their pre-made templates are available for free or at low-priced tiers, and you can make your own as well.
Developing an Elite editorial process
Any successful content marketing strategy has a defined editorial workflow. Though finding the workflow that best suits your team can take some effort, it ultimately saves time, energy, and resources. By establishing a structured workflow, you can help your team thrive.
Is your editorial workflow working for you? At Elite, our expertise in content writing and editing is perfect for businesses that need a boost.
Whether you want to take your content creation to the next level or refine your content strategy, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about our services here!