Content marketing can transform how businesses reach audiences and, when executed correctly, reach right-fit customers and drive impressive conversion rates.
But let’s be honest: Content marketing is also a lot of work.
To succeed, businesses must publish many pieces of content consistently across multiple channels. First, though, they need a strategy, a content calendar, and half a dozen assets to create each piece of content (almost any deliverable will include some mix of words, pictures, video, and graphic design — and those are just the visible components).
Like we said, it’s a lot of work.
Content marketing project management is one method for planning and organizing that work, for truly taking control of content rather than chasing endless loose threads (and missing assets).
Here’s what you need to know about content marketing project management, its benefits, the process, and best practices.
What is content marketing project management?
Content marketing project management applies project management principles, strategies, and methodologies to inbound marketing projects and the teams creating content that fuels those projects.
Content marketing project management is a subset of marketing project management. Content marketing projects will look much more similar to marketing projects than, say, construction. Still, there are plenty of key differences between traditional and content marketing.
How is content marketing project management different from project management?
Content marketing project management is a small subset of the broad discipline of project management. So let’s start with that broader discipline and work our way down.
Project managers plan, organize, and coordinate projects of all shapes and sizes. Consider just a few examples of projects that need managing:
Building a skyscraper
Renovating a house
Launching a new software product
Publishing a book
... and just about anything else you can think of that results in a tangible or intangible product.
Project managers in construction or tech or publishing need to understand the basics of those industries and disciplines. One may need to understand construction permits, while another might need to be fluent in one or more programming languages.
Content marketing project management is the application of project management principles and strategies to a very specific discipline. And, just like with other disciplines, project managers working in content marketing need certain knowledge and skills.
Project managers in content marketing need to understand the various roles and responsibilities (strategists, writers, editors, designers, SEO specialists, and more) and deliverables (digital content in all forms) involved. They also need to understand at some level what content marketing is for and what success looks like in this discipline.
What does a content project manager do?
A content project manager applies the principles of project management to content marketing. Projects within content marketing can be incredibly detailed, with hundreds (if not thousands) of component parts. They also move quickly, with numerous deliverables and sub-deliverables due every week.
The content project manager doesn’t create this content but oversees those who do, keeping designers, copywriters, strategists, and more on task and on schedule.
To make matters even more fun, content marketing teams work in the "future." Most content should be completed at least one month before publishing, which requires planning for January quite a bit further back than December. (This is nothing new for marketing project managers, but “living in the future” can take some getting used to for others.)
Skills and knowledge that content project managers need
The ideal content marketing project manager has a strong mix of skills from both the project management world and the content marketing world. These six areas of skill or knowledge create a strong foundation:
Project management systems: How to use project management tools (like Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and project management software) to work with milestones, project timelines, project goals, and KPIs
Project management methodologies: Working knowledge of relevant methodologies (Kanban, agile, scrum, traditional, etc.)
Content marketing and SEO: Core elements of content marketing itself, along with a working understanding of search engine optimization (SEO)
Social media: How brands leverage various social media platforms, including building a strategy and content calendar
Leadership: Knows when to step in and redirect efforts
Communication and organization: Knows how to communicate quickly and clearly to keep projects on task and keep clients informed (and happy)
Benefits of great content marketing project management
Content marketing teams are full of creatives. And let’s face it: Creatives are awesome at a lot of things, but being super organized and loving spreadsheets aren’t always on the list.
Bringing in an experienced project manager unlocks all sorts of benefits that creative-heavy teams often lack, like:
Aligned content marketing goals and outcomes
Content marketing teams that are managed well can align their goals and work confidently toward achieving them. Team members can breathe easier and focus better when they have a trusted team member who keeps focused on the big picture (someone who doesn’t have to worry about which shade, font, or keyword an asset uses).
Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
Project managers work to define what the various roles on the team look like and what each role is responsible for. Creative teams may struggle with taking ownership (on the one extreme) or letting go of control (on the other).
But a project manager communicates clearly who is responsible for what, enabling teams to work more cohesively with less territory marking and fewer ownership squabbles.
Organized scheduling and timelines
With rapid-fire deliverables (from blog posts and articles to calendars of social posts and more), turning an editorial calendar into a coherent content marketing workflow is a technical challenge. One writer or designer can only physically work on one deliverable at a time, so bottlenecks begin if everything lands in the designer’s inbox or Slack at the same time.
Bringing the discipline of project management to your content marketing efforts means gaining control over schedules and timelines (finally!).
It also means improving your outcomes: Proactive planners in marketing report successful outcomes more than three times as often as their peers.
Consistent processes and results
Here again, the attributes that make creatives so good at what they do often run at cross purposes with concepts like following a repeatable, measurable set of steps.
The answer usually isn’t trying to change your creatives — it’s bringing on in-house help, someone that can assist your creative teams with prioritizing the right tasks and following consistent processes.
This matters for more than just your sanity. Consistent processes lead to consistent results, and guess who likes consistent results?
So in this way, implementing great content marketing project management can lead to happier clients who jump at the chance to sign their renewals.
Building a top-notch process for your content marketing agency: 9 steps
Whether you’re just starting in the content marketing space or working to optimize your current efforts through project management, you need a process. These nine steps comprise a template or roadmap that can get you started as you build out your marketing project plan and your various content marketing workflows.
The steps below are crafted mainly for content marketing agencies that serve clients, but the principles we’re outlining adapt quite well to in-house content marketing teams.
1) Identify goals, align teams, and set clear expectations
First up is determining what exactly you’re doing. There’s plenty of content marketing done badly in the world; your first step is not becoming a part of it.
So, first ask:
What are the big and small goals you’re trying to achieve for the client? (for example, are you building brand awareness or nurturing leads? Defining a target audience or refining your approach to reaching an established audience?)
Who is (and isn’t) on the project?
Who are the stakeholders?
What should each team member do to support the client’s content marketing campaigns?
2) Solidify your content marketing strategy
Once your team aligns with the right goals, the next key to any successful content marketing project is building a cohesive content strategy. This includes the messaging and positioning the client wants as well as the broad strokes of the various content marketing campaigns you plan to execute. Other questions to consider:
Will you focus exclusively on organic search and inbound marketing?
Or will you add in social and paid search?
What content areas, keywords, and target audiences are you chasing?
How to develop a content strategy is outside the scope of today’s article, but Semrush has some great content on the topic.
3) Define project requirements and resources needed
A key tenet of general project management is defining project requirements and resources and putting them down on paper (or its digital equivalent).
The quickest path to project failure is to jump in without the resources needed, so start by defining those resources in concrete terms.
4) Utilize content workflow and planning tools
With so many moving parts and small deliverables, meticulous planning is a must. Using the right content workflow and task management tools is necessary to keep content marketing workflows straight.
Teamwork is the project management platform built for creative agencies and client work. Its powerful suite of features fulfills all the workflow and planning needs you’ll encounter in content marketing project management — and then some.
5) Establish your content creation workflows
We mentioned earlier how vital it is to establish consistent processes because they lead to consistent results. While content marketing generates tons of content, most content can and should follow a predictable workflow. In other words, every blog post should, more or less, conform to the workflow you establish so that you always know where a post is in process and when it is 100% ready to publish.
Compare that to a piecemeal approach, where you’re never quite sure if the graphics for November Post #1 are done, or if November Post #2 was edited. Consistent workflows lead to more consistent results.
6) Build a task schedule and project timeline
Once you establish the order of the tasks, you’re ready to schedule those tasks and build out your project timeline. It’s here that project management software can really make the difference: You’ll be dealing with shared resources who need the work to come in a metered flow, not in batches. Careful scheduling in an app like Teamwork helps reduce bottlenecks and smooth out the flow of work.
7) Execute the project
Now — after six detailed steps comprising a significant amount of work — you’re finally ready to “do the work” of creating, editing, publishing, and distributing your content. When content teams follow clear and consistent workflows, the execution develops into a well-oiled machine.
8) Monitor projects and review progress regularly
Content marketing projects tend to be cyclical and ongoing. A successful month of social media is good, but the next month has to be a success, too. And the next one, and the next; you get the idea.
So setting up a perfect schedule and letting your team loose is the start, but not the end, of the content project manager’s job. Monitoring projects and intervening when they hit snags or bottlenecks is a crucial service to your team, as is regularly reviewing progress (on larger or longer-term projects).
9) Track and measure project outcomes
Last up is making sure your project is a success. But to know whether you’ve succeeded, you’ll need to do several things:
Define success (which hopefully happened in steps 1 and 2).
Track the metrics and KPIs that can measure success.
Measure whether project outcomes delivered on project goals.
In such a cyclical and iterative discipline, data-driven analysis of project outcomes is perhaps the most important ingredient to success. However good or less-than-good your results this week, month, or quarter, you have the opportunity to improve those results in the next cycle.
But only if you’re measuring results.
Best practices for content marketing project management
By this point, you’re likely buying into the value of content marketing project management. But even once you’ve executed the nine steps above, how can you ensure optimal outcomes?
Follow these best practices to continue refining and improving your content project management efforts.
Communication is key
The project manager is the project's go-to person, and is usually tasked with communicating changes in schedule or priorities. Often, solving interpersonal conflicts falls to the PM as well. Communication is key, because you’ll be doing a lot of it every day, and your team’s ability to work optimally depends on it.
Prepare for hiccups and roadblocks
There is no such thing as a perfect project plan or workflow. No matter how well-built yours is, reality has a habit of getting in the way.
So plan for the inevitable. When (not if) you encounter small hiccups or not-so-small roadblocks, realize (and reassure the team) that these are normal and can be overcome. They don’t have to equal failure, and knowing they will happen can lessen the frustration that comes with them.
Use the right tools and systems
You’ll need tools and systems to track projects at this pace and scale. And not every marketing project management software solution is equally capable at managing content marketing workflows.
Teamwork is powerful creative project management software that helps content marketing teams plan, track, execute, and measure content marketing projects.
Review the process with your team regularly
Your team needs to know (and be regularly reminded of) what your content marketing process looks like. It’s easy to allow deviations from the norm to creep in, so keep sending those regular reminders.
Allow time and space for feedback
Great project managers are great listeners. Your team members will always know more about some aspects of the project than you do — maybe even most aspects of it. Listen to their feedback and adjust your processes where necessary.
Manage your agency’s content marketing projects successfully with Teamwork
Content marketing is a powerful way to grow your and your clients’ businesses. Use the strategies, steps, and best practices we’ve provided here to take charge of your content marketing projects before they grow out of control or unravel.
Even better, step up to a better project management platform that actually understands marketing and content marketing.
Ready to transform your project management capabilities with a project management tool built for creative agencies like yours? Sign up for Teamwork now!