How to co-create a strong content plan with your team

6th May 2021

Content production is usually the last stage of a content strategy process. Once you have defined the content needs of your audience, the business objectives, the right tone and the content governance process, it’s time to start actually producing the content. The first step is to use all that information you gathered to build a content plan that can guide you through the execution of the content strategy.

In order to produce a solid content plan, you need to involve several team members and stakeholders, so you can gather input from subject matter experts, agree on the production and publishing process, clarify responsibilities and get approval and support from key stakeholders.

The most efficient way to manage that process is through a content planning workshop.

These kind of activities are a useful hands-on way to gather all the key stakeholders together and develop a useful content plan for the quarter, semester or for the rest of the year.

Follow these steps to conduct a content planning workshop that helps your organization come up with a flexible but comprehensive plan to help you develop content that meets your user needs and accomplishes your business objectives.

1. Think ahead of the content plan workshop

This is a useful tip for every kind of workshop that you run, but it’s worth to remember it here.

First, make sure you get buy-in and attendance confirmation from all key individuals:

  • leaders or managers from whom you need buy-in
  • team members involved in writing and developing the content
  • people involved in distributing and promoting the content
  • your SEO team or specialist
  • team members from marketing or branding
  • subject matter experts
  • people from engineering or developers.

The idea is to have representatives and senior managers from a variety of teams. The reason is that content planning, production and promotion actually touches a lot of different departments, and they all need to be able to bring their expertise and their concerns to the workshop.

Also, it’s likely the activities planned in the workshop will impact their workload, so it’s useful to have then on board from the beginning.

In the end, it’s a way to minimise risk and make sure the plan won’t be deemed useless when your developer tells you that your CMS can’t support your content requirements, or when your content team informs you they don’t have the budget for your proposal.

Ideally, you’ll be conducting your workshop on site. Book your meeting room in advance, and make sure it has a large table and a whiteboard. Bring plenty of writing materials, like sticky notes, paper, markers, etc. And don’t forget the snacks.

Make sure that everyone has a copy of the agenda in advance when you invite them. Attach any document that you need them to read before the workshop and make sure they know that they need to do it.

A good tip for any kind of workshop is to set some ground rules. If you can co-create them with the group at the start of the workshop, even better, as that will maximise compliance with the rules from everyone. Some examples of ground rules could be:

  • How many breaks and the duration
  • Punctuality when coming back from any break
  • No usage of phones or computers to check email.

2. Build a content developing process

The first stage of the workshop will be to collaborate in the creation of the content development process. 

Depending on what you want to create, the production process will look different and involve different people. So start by defining what you want to create: Is it blog posts? Support documentation? A sales chatbot?

Now it’s time to work in groups and see what steps you need to follow to go from a brief that defines what you want to achieve and how it supports your objectives and meets the user needs, to a fully realised product that’s published and maintained by your team.

Divide the attendants into several groups, depending on the group size and map a production process, with all the necessary steps.

An example of a content production process for a blog post could be:

  1. Subject brief with target keywords for SEO and the reason why this blog post is necessary. What user needs and business objectives it supports
  2. Interview with the subject matter expert to gather the necessary input to provide a useful view of the subject
  3. First content draft
  4. Review and editing process from other content producers and the SEO team
  5. Second content draft
  6. Comments and approval from management and legal, if necessary.
  7. Final draft
  8. Publish
  9. Distribute
  10. Maintenance: after a while, the content may be in need of an update or it may need to be merged or deleted.

Then have the different groups present their process maps and moderate the discussion until everyone agrees on a single process map.

Having people from several teams in the group will help you to gather input from different areas of the business which will be involved in the overall process.

This stage involves a bit of negotiation from different sides of the business, but the result will be a content development process that will be reasonable and fair for all parties involved. Most importantly, their approval in a process, in which they have participated, will make compliance much easier.

3. Identify who is responsible for each stage of the content plan

One key feature of any content development process is being able to identify clearly who is responsible for each stage. Everyone should leave the workshop knowing exactly what’s expected of them and when. Ensuring responsibility is distributed fairly across the team will also help build a manageable process helping content to be produced on schedule.

To do that, work again in groups to assign a person responsible for each of the stages defined in the previous step. All the stages need to have a responsible, someone who will take ownership of that stage and keep the process moving forward.

It could happen that you don’t have anyone on your team that’s able to own a specific stage. In that case, you’ve identified a gap in your team that you’d need to cover through a new hire or a freelancer.

Another useful outcome of that stage is visualizing the responsibilities, to make sure that no single member of the team is overwhelmed with too many stages, and to make sure that everyone involved can be notified of what’s expected from them.

4. Estimate the workload for every part of the content plan

Now it’s time to assign a value to each stage and estimate the number of hours it’ll take to complete each part of the process. This step of the workshop can be done through an open discussion, but make sure that the opinion of the person owning the stage can be heard as much as possible.

Make sure the estimates are both realistic and everyone agrees with the hours assigned to each stage. As a final step, calculate the total time it’d take for a piece of content to be published and maintained, from start to finish. That could help you get a feeling for the size of the project, depending on how many content items you need to create.

4. Review the process with participants and key stakeholders

It’s time for a final review of the process. Go again through the stages of the process you have outlined, the responsibilities assigned and the workload you have estimated for each. This final review should address any outstanding concerns from everyone in the room. The objective is to end the workshop with a clear process that everyone agrees on.

Once you finalise the workshop, it’s time to inform other people outside the room of the outcome. Make sure everyone who needs to be informed receives a copy of the process, especially those who need to sign off on it and those who have been assigned responsibility in the content plan and creation process.

Align perspectives and manage expectations with a content planning workshop

A content planning workshop where you can have all the key stakeholders of a content creation process together in one room will help you co-create a process that is both realistic and approved by everyone involved.

Most of the success in any workshop comes in planning ahead and communicate openly the agenda and the objectives of the workshop in advance. After the workshop, make sure that all the parties involved in the sign-off or have responsibilities in the process are duly informed.

A content plan will help you define a clear process with responsibilities assigned in a way that is transparent and cooperative.

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