There are thousands of people who create and maintain content, but there’s a much smaller group of content managers who are highly effective. These content superheroes can write killer stories, capture the attention of an audience, maintain a tight editorial calendar and build an audience that craves more – all without sporting a red cape.
How do they do it? Are they eating Wheaties? Staying away from kryptonite?
The truth? Highly effective content managers tend to have several non-negotiable habits that keep their talent and content sharp. With the help of two content managers, Kari DePhillips, the owner of The Content Factory, and Sarah Maloy, Shutterstock’s content marketing manager, we’ve decoded a list of habits that highly effective content creators and managers have.
Plan for brainstorming sessions
At Shutterstock, brainstorming sessions aren’t for generating ideas from scratch; they are for refining ideas. Maloy has her team come to brainstorming sessions with a list of topics in hand.
“The key to generating a list of good ideas with a team of people is preparation,” she says. “If everyone comes to the meeting with a list of ideas it helps keep conversations moving and eliminates off-topic ideas.”
Maloy practices what she preaches. She spends about an hour preparing for brainstorming sessions. She combs through analytics to see what kind of content is doing well and thinks about what customers would want to read.
“If I’m hitting a wall, I start to explore the web, drifting through different blogs and Twitter streams until something sparks and the ideas start flowing,” she says.
Think like a reader
Maloy touched on another habit: think about the reader. A highly successful content creator can pump the brakes on the “must-sell-products-mindset” and think about what motivates customers. In other words, think like your audience, not like an executive with a bottom line. DePhillips agrees and put herself in the customer’s shoes by asking herself a series of questions:
- What problems does the audience face?
- How does our company solve those problems?
- How can our industry knowledge help solve customer problems?
- What do customers want to read about?
Using these questions, DePhillips is able to hone the topics and headlines that are added to her content calendar.
“Become a resource of great information in your industry, and you’ll establish yourself as an expert and find that your content will convert a lot better,” she says.
Offer writers guidance
Writers welcome guidance, but there’s a fine line between guidance and stepping into “content dictator” territory. Maloy says she works with writers to create an outline to make sure both parties agree on the direction, but after that she steps back and allows the writer to do their thing.
“I really believe in letting writers’ own voices show and letting people have personalities, and the best way to make that happen is by letting them create a finished piece without outside input,” she says.
Of course, you can request revisions or provide feedback, but keep it professional and respect the writer’s work.
Find your inner marketer
Content creators know that the “build it and they will come” mentality won’t work. In other words, you can’t write a killer blog post and expect the masses to come pouring in just because it was published. A solid content manager is in the habit of promoting content and then promoting it again, DePhillips says.
“Go beyond just posting the content once on your social media channels,” she says. “If you do a good job of writing evergreen content that doesn’t go stale, you can promote blog posts that you write for years and build a lot of backlinks to your site in the process.”
Manage your content with OCD tendencies
Creating content on a regular basis requires some serious organization skills. You’ll need to track topics from inception to completion. Maloy uses Trello to keep her content life organized, but there are other similar content management tools like Kapost. Whatever tool you use, put a system in place, Maloy says.
“We regularly look ahead to plan out product launches, infographics and bigger initiatives for the coming months,” she says. “For more short-term content, we look at the calendar on a weekly basis to sketch out upcoming posts and finalize the week ahead.”
Some content managers admit they have obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to their calendar. That need to check and re-check is a habit of an effective content manager.
Can you think of another habit of highly effective content managers? If so, feel free to add to our list.