Four Ways to Fix Sub-Par Publishing

March 3, 2010

I've been working on a quantitative content audit of the Digett site for a little while now, and I recently reached that golden spot in the sun where I realized I had cataloged all our blog content (until Valarie's latest post, that is). Something immediately hit me: We really haven't published all that much. That's not good.

Over the last five years, we've posted 240 entries to the Digett blog—that breaks down to 48 per year or four per month. Those aren't necessarily impressive numbers for a digital marketing firm that urges its clients to focus on fresh content; we can't let our business get in the way of our business. As a result, we've been focusing on changes that will ensure better output.

There are any number of reasons to boost ongoing content creation: thought leadership, SEO juice, the pleasure of writing about your passions (or wolf shirts), etc. There aren't any real reasons to avoid it, though "I don't have the time" seems to be popular. That being the case, here are four simple ways you can turn the tide and resume publishing as you should:

Put someone in charge of content governance

Call him/her a managing editor, content strategist, publishing poobah—this person simply needs both the authority to compel and the responsibility for action. The point, of course, is to give some measure of credence to your intent. In turn, that person needs to set and properly communicate expectations to contributors.

Create an environment that supports publishing

This goes beyond having a robust content management system (CMS), well-articulated style rules, and an established review process—though those certainly help. What I'm talking about is the institutional support or inspiration your contributors will need to get the job done.

In many organizations, calls for contributions may be met with variations of "I'm not a good writer" or "I don't know what to write about." Neither of these have to be significant barriers. For one, while your staffers may not be writing experts, they likely will be subject matter experts, for which there is a pressing need online. As for topics, prime the pump by suggesting ideas and engaging them one-on-one in their given areas of expertise.

Assemble and enforce an editorial calendar

A publishing workflow without well-articulated deadlines is like a voucher from Braniff Airways—thoughtful, but useless. Make your calendar challenging, and ensure everyone is familiar with how it affects them. And since it occasionally pays to be Captain Obvious, put the calendar where everyone sees it. Outta sight, outta mind.

Don't lean too much on technology

A good CMS is often sold as being a publishing solution, more than a tool; while that really represents a marketer's never-ending search for a better buzzword, I'm starting to frown upon its use, largely because it creates false impressions. Truth is, a CMS is no substitution for a proper editorial strategy and workflow.

Being part of a web provider, I could ramble on about this, but it's summarized well at the end of this piece in defense of the CMS:

"Review your editorial strategy and processes. Create a workflow that works for your organization. Make sure your CMS supports that workflow."

"Support" is the key word there. Similarly, all the above techniques are meant to encourage a better workflow, not just prod or nag your organization into producing more. If there's anything the web doesn't need, it's more uninspired and useless content.