Why You Need To Start Thinking About Content Operations

By Douglas van Oijen

What is content operations?

Here at Foleon, we're continually rethinking the role that content plays in the lifecycle of an organization, questioning the status quo, and exploring new spaces for innovation. It's why we exist in the first place. 

The demand for transparent communications with brand impact and engagement power is growing across all sectors. To meet that demand, companies need a holistic approach to content strategy that activates both audiences and team members in the engagement process. And as the role of content evolves, so too must the management architecture that surrounds our content output.

That's why we think that the term "content operations" is so powerful. More than just a buzzword, it's a term that captures the diverse role that content teams play in the creation, distribution, and analysis of content in your organization.

But what exactly does it mean? And how can this change in terminology help you to re-interpret the role content plays for both B2B and B2C marketers? Let's take an in-depth look at this fascinating topic.


What is content operations?

Content operations is the combination of people, processes, and technologies that allow you to create content that meets business objectives.

Wherever there are people using tools to create content, they're a part of your content operation. Pretty straightforward, right?

But things get really interesting when we ask how content operations differs from traditional content marketing models.

Unlike content marketing, content operations recognizes that the remit of the content you create goes beyond simply furthering your marketing goals. In today's connected world, a single piece of content can serve a huge array of functions, from getting attention online or building your SEO presence to customer support, user experience, and internal comms. It also recognizes that not everyone that creates content has the interests of marketing in mind. 

Every blog article or social media post you produce is part of a diverse ecosystem of stakeholders, audiences, needs, and goals that can benefit your company in a range of ways. A quality content operations framework helps you identify and manage each of these aspects, enabling you to create content with more impact and traction.


Think beyond the blog post

When we consider the content ecosystem in these terms, content marketing feels like a limited description of what you do. At the very least, the marketing function is only one of a variety of functions that can be assigned to your content efforts. 

Take this article over on our blog, for instance. It's a great piece for attracting clicks to our site. But it also functions as a brand guideline piece for our communications teams. It tells the world who we are, giving insight into our values as a company and the way we work. It also helps with our SEO efforts. 

With a content marketing mindset, it's easy to think that your job is done the second you hit publish. The content operations approach, however, tells us that setting the post live is only one step in a broader process of distributing and leveraging that content. This approach is also crucially channel-agnostic. The message comes first. Only when you know what you want to achieve — and what you need to say to achieve it — is it time to think about how you can best deliver that message to your audience. 

This mindset challenges us to think beyond the blog page to leverage the full potential of our content. Your post, then, is only one representation of a message that can be iterated and atomized across every channel you have at your disposal. 

But if you want to make use of all that raw communications potential, you'll need the right people, tools, and processes in place.


How does content operations change your content strategy?

Simply put, it flips the script. Content operations means we focus on logistics before strategy, building a content creation, distribution, and analysis framework with the resources we have available. Then we can feed business goals into the top of our funnel and watch them evolve into powerful, targeted campaigns that transcend the traditional boundaries of any single business function.

But what does such an architecture look like? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to content operations. You'll need to find an architecture that suits your unique business environment and culture. The key part is understanding the critical functions of different business units and the relationships between them. Then you can organize a workflow that includes the right people at the right stages, maximizing your resources for the biggest impact.

Those four key functions are:

Strategic - planning business goals, picking audiences, and building a messaging strategy

Distribution - meeting your audience where they're at and getting the message across

Supply chain - ensuring you have the right communications assets when and where you need them

Insight - managing learning, controlling data, and optimizing output

By planning around these four simple functions, we can make a complex process seem very simple. Just put the right people and tools in the right 'pot' and you've already got a broad plan for your entire content operation.

The secret to making it effective, however, lies in managing stakeholders correctly to ensure that each campaign serves as broad a need as possible within your organization. That means you may have to open up certain areas of your planning process that were previously the sole remit of the content team.


Do you need a content operations specialist on your team?

In an ideal world, your entire content team would be built as a single content operations unit, liaising with different parts of the business and serving the four principal functions outlined above. That would mean that, in theory, every member of the process is a content operations specialist.

However, you're probably reading this as part of a traditional marketing team that's been built with a channel-first mindset. In such cases, a content operations specialist can be a useful asset to help you consolidate your workflows around your four key functions. It's their job to make sure that the right people, tools, and insight are present at each stage of your existing campaign process. To do it well, they'll need a high-level project management skill set and a deep understanding of what makes a content campaign successful.

That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that you need to hire someone new. If you're reading this, you've probably got the knowledge and drive to be a great content operations specialist yourself. Or perhaps there's someone on your team that would love the challenge of building a unified, powerful content operations unit?


Is content operations more useful for B2B or B2C marketers?

This is a question that comes up a lot when we talk to customers about content operations. It's important to remember that content operations is a mindset as much as it is a specific unit within your business.

Chances are that the four functions we mentioned above are happening already in some form. The question is — does your team see those moving parts as parts of a larger, broader-reaching operation? The bigger your organization and the more moving parts you have, the more important it is to be aware of the content operations framework. 

That means that B2B businesses, with their complex stakeholder engagement processes, will get a lot out of the content operations model. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for it in the world of B2C. Large-scale B2C operations that work with multiple audiences, products, or even brands often really benefit from the unified approach that a content operations framework offers. 

If you’re working with a smaller business, put the content operations methodology in the back of your mind. It might not help you a whole lot right now, but it will give you an outstanding organizational framework to build on when it's time to scale up.


Do I need a platform for a successful content operation?

You can't reach the height of efficiency in your content operation without leveraging the right technologies. This idea is all about consolidating your processes whilst opening up your service base to other parts of the business. You're effectively streamlining and broadening your operation at the same time. That's not easy to do without the help of digital technologies.

The right platform can allow you to democratize the content creation process whilst implementing universal quality-control and brand-management systems. They can also allow input from all sorts of different areas of the business.

That being said, it's certainly possible to achieve a strong content operation without the use of an overarching content management platform. Everything starts with a careful audit of your existing systems so, if you find that your current processes allow for a more unified content approach, try it out before you invest.

We hope you've got a lot out of our introduction to content operations. We'll be putting out a lot more content on this emerging topic, so keep an eye on the blog. And don’t forget to let us know your thoughts on it. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Foleon & CMI White Paper

How to Overcome Content Creation Barriers

Why the time is now for B2B marketers to develop modern digital content experiences.

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Douglas van Oijen

Based in New York, Douglas is our VP of Sales in North America. His trove of valuable insights come from his many years of experience in B2B sales and content strategy.

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