Content Writing Workflow – 7 Steps for Content Creation Excellence

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content writing workflow

A content writing workflow separates awesome copywriters from the average.

A well-implemented content writing workflow is great for all parties who are involved in the process of content creation and marketing. It gives a writing team a system for writing organized web-ready content. And it gives a client what they desire: transparency of the writing and business process, involvement, and content that represents their ideas and voice.

Are you ready to learn about the ultimate content writing workflow? I’m thankful that the following words outline Nao Media’s content writing workflow for our client work. Let’s go:

What is a content writing workflow?

A content writing workflow is a step-by-step process for creating and promoting written content. The process involves:

  1. Conducting discovery session(s) with the client

  1. Organizing the information gleaned from the discovery phase

  1. Assigning the writing project to a writer who is a subject matter expert for the topic. There are several crucial substeps for this step.

  1. Delivering the first draft to an editor for internal review

  1. Delivering the quality checked content to the client in time!

  1. Doing a revision(s) of the content based on comments and suggestions from the client, and delivering the final draft to the client

  1. Publishing and igniting (promoting) the content!

 

Conducting a content writing discovery session(s)

Content writing discovery sessions involve meeting with the client to learn their story, voice, goals for the content, and turnaround/timeline requirements. Creating written content for a client without their voice in mind is a huge no-no. If the client doesn’t know their voice, help them figure it out, or put them in contact with a branding and communications professional who can assist them in that department. A project manager, writer, and maybe even an editor should be involved in this step.

The discovery step can also include collaborating with the client on topic ideation. Based on the information learned during the discovery, some follow-up substeps include creating an editorial calendar (if the client doesn’t deliver one), keyword research for search engine optimization, and market research. Seeing what’s on the Interwebz for the keywords and topics is crucial for knowing where the client stands and what they’re up against.

 

Project management of the content writing workflow

The project manager for the content writing project is the quarterback of the content writing workflow. The project manager organizes the information from the discovery phase, passes the assignment to the content writer, and manages the entire process from beginning to end. I won’t get too deep into the tools needed for this step. Nao Media uses Asana (for task management), an editorial calendar in the cloud, Google calendar, and good ol’ common sense for our project management tasks.

 

Content writing experts takeover

This step involves the writing project being assigned to the writer who is a subject matter expert on the topic. The information given to the writer includes: the article topic, focused keyword, first draft submission deadline, word count requirements, etc. No matter how well-oiled the content writing workflow, the content won’t resonate and move if it’s not written by a rockstar writer.

This is the most crucial step of the content writing workflow. Research (knowing the topic and the target audience), art (writing style and readability), science (knowledge of formatting and search engine optimization best practices), and discipline (spelling, grammar, proper crediting of sources/references, and keeping to a deadline) are required. Sounds like a lot right? It is. But with excellent writers on the bus, your content writing workflow won’t fail at this step.

Based on the focused keyword for the writing project, the writer will create an SEO-friendly title, headings (H2s, H3s, and only ONE H1), and meta description. Nao Media’s writers also suggest an optimized permalink (URL/web address) for the article. Permalinks are important because once the content is published, the permalink should never be changed.

Confused on keywords? Too bad, that’s what we get hired for. Just kidding! Here’s an example: the focused keyword for this article is “content writing workflow”. Take note of how it is used in the title, body copy, permalink, and meta description.

All content writing experts should make sure the information in the content is accurate and properly sourced. Fact checking and referencing sources should be a process that any journalism major or media person should be used to. But you’d be surprised how many times this substep is ignored by professionals! The consequences (plagiarism, being called out, the losing of integrity and respect from your peers) can be disastrous. I contend that this can be done without the use of any websites or software, but Grammarly offers a solid grammar checking service that also checks the content for un-referenced text — helping you avoid plagiarism.

What about images? I thought you’d never ask. I’ll keep it simple: don’t use images from Google searches. You don’t own those images. Your content writing workflow should include the purchasing of image licenses from a site like Bigstock. Don’t want to purchase image licenses (you’re cheap!), then consider public domain images, Flickr Creative Commons (you still need to give the owner of the image their due credit on your blog/website where the image appears), and other free image resources.

One quick note on the platform used for writing the content. I’m not a fan of writing directly in a WordPress (or your CMS of choice) draft. Heck, even writing in the cloud (i.e. Google Drive Docs) makes me nervous … even with autosave in place. Computers are funny machines and depending on where you’re writing, the Internet connection isn’t always stable (which makes writing in Google Drive Docs a challenge to say the least). I’m borderline OCD, so I also save all my writing several times during the writing process locally on my hard drive and by emailing the copy to myself. Most of Nao Media’s writers write in Google Drive Docs, but the writing is ultimately saved in Word doc format (.doc or .docx) for easy redlining by an editor during the internal review.

 

Internal review: editing and/or vetting of the content

Unless in the the case of a one-person team, the first draft of written content should never be delivered directly to a client without being edited, vetted, and quality checked. Even in the case of a one-person content creation “team”, I suggest the person outsources editing to a third-party or even a peer whose eyes they trust.

This step in the content writing workflow involves grammar, fact, and reference checking; making sure the content is written in the client’s voice; making sure the content flows and meets word count requirements; and ensuring proper formatting and the search engine friendliness of the copy. The other important task of an editor is to make sure they don’t cover up the writer’s style with their edits (especially if the style is compatible with the client’s voice).

As mentioned earlier, delivering a Word doc to the editor is ideal for easy reviewing and  redlining. When the editor is finished, the content is delivered to the writer and project manager. Once given the green light, the first draft of the content is delivered to the client!

 

Client review and content revision(s)

Please allow me to toot our own horn. Unlike some other services out there that will pretty much require you to request a total rewrite of the content or drive you to the point of wanting to just write the content yourself, Nao Media’s first drafts are typically on point. As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” We’re not perfect now. There are usually some small requests and changes due, but we’ve never ever ever had to start from scratch on a project after the delivering of the first draft. We also never ever ever write “never ever ever” in content for our clients.

More details on this step … some agencies (us included) put a limit on the amount of revisions they will write. We do this because we know we can get the job done with limited revisions. The point of revisions is to ensure that the client is satisfied. Just keep in mind that the process needs to keep moving, so do what you can to avoid the evil revision loop and keep the client happy at the same time. Lastly, get confirmation from the client that the final revision satisfies their needs. You now have a final draft, baby!

 

Publishing of the content

We’re almost home. If the client doesn’t manage the updating of the website/blog, it might be a good idea for you to handle this task for them. A lot can go wrong at this step if your content is placed in incompetent hands. All the fancy keyword research, onsite SEO work, and content formatting can go out the window if someone doesn’t put the content into WordPress (or the CMS of choice) properly. This is an important step as it denotes the releasing of “your” (it’s technically/contractually the client’s content in typical agency-client situations) content to the world. It’s not worth it for the ball to be dropped at any point, but especially here.

One extra tip: if the content is approved and loaded into the CMS before the publishing date, set the publishing date for a future date for automated publishing.

 

Igniting the content: making sure content is promoted and seen!

I borrowed the phrase, “ignite your content” from my mentor, Mark Schaefer of {grow}. If you want to keep a client for a long time, they are going to need to see some return on their content. Return, depending on the client’s goals, could mean social media shares, the growing and energizing of a community, and/or sales. Be sure to know their goals BEFORE you start writing content for them.

Nao Media has the promoting of content baked into the content writing workflow process. We share the content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or anywhere necessary. We also have other methods for energizing the client’s team, community, and stakeholders. If you don’t have content igniting baked into your content writing workflow process, you should heavily consider adding it as an added value service or outsourcing it.

So how long does this content writing workflow process take? Speaking for Nao Media, we can get a quality first draft of an article to a client in 24 hours, from idea to delivery. Our speed is due to the size, skills, and agility of our writing team. We have clients that we deliver content to once a week and some that desire a higher frequency. We’re never stressed because we have a process, a content writing workflow!

 

That’s it, y’all. You’ve read the ultimate process for achieving content creation excellence through a content writing workflow. Follow these seven steps and your content will be organized, impactful, search engine friendly, published on time, and loved by your clients.

Hire Nao Media for your content writing needs.