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The shift to content operations

Tarek El Deeb

Section titled Current problems in the content marketing journey Current problems in the content marketing journey

In the current digital age, content has become king. Actually, content is King, Queen, the royal court, and even some court jester. That's a fact. The best content gets the most viewership, and that's the name of the game, and with it, we (as a society of modern, forward-thinking people) have created an illusive and somewhat vague concept of ‘content marketing’.

Content marketing, unfortunately, is a broad, unclear, undefined, and often misunderstood concept. It can cover anything from a sponsored post on Instagram or Twitter on your personal feed to the entire backbone of an agencies’ web development project. Unless you work directly with content, you probably will have no idea what your stressed-out teammates are talking about when they start using a sharpie on the office wall to plan out the content marketing strategy.

For a while, content marketing made sense though. Content teams would map out the content they would be creating for the next two/three/four quarters, decide on the overarching messaging around this content, and plan what types of content will be created to support this plan. After planning falls the execution and implementation of said content marketing strategy, followed swiftly by distribution to potential customers. That all makes sense right? Clear path to the consumer & clear content strategy, seems like the formula has been solved right? Wrong.

The big, crater-like problem with this method of content creation and marketing is that your content journey is for ‘potential customers’ and your content stops being meaningful to a customer once they actually become customers. And thus, we reach the crux of the issue with the outdated format of content creation and marketing. Essentially, content needs to be the beating heart of your organization, luring in new potential customers while also providing your existing customers with informative, entertaining, relevant content. Because of this, ‘content marketing’ doesn’t work as a description for what content teams do anymore. With advancements in strategy and digital transformation, the field of content operations is becoming the new mold.

Section titled Introducing content operations Introducing content operations

‘Content operations’ is the new way to develop and maintain content in the modern age, by creating constantly evolving content that is regularly updated and maintained, and aimed at everyone. The key being to become a provider of helpful, insightful, informative content through a dynamic experience. This evolution from content marketing to content operations is also the best way to maximize the value of your individual content team members, as well as elevating your content itself by creating a repeatable, optimized, streamlined process for creating relevant content.

The need for content operations people has been increasingly on the rise, with an ever-growing number of businesses looking to develop or in some cases re-develop their entire content process. These people and/or teams would be responsible for streamlining current content processes, organizing content, and dealing with any problems that might arise. To put it plainly, content creation and editing are focused on specifics, while content operations take a step back and look at content as whole, looking at the bigger picture and figuring out how to build on it.

Consider looking at the shift from a different perspective. Previously, content was sort of mirrored with advertising. A means to attract potential customers to you. However, that is not the way things are done any longer. Post-shift, we are constant providers. We consider the needs of the clientele as well as the prospects, and provide content befitting both by considering content as part of the customer journey and creating bold content.

Content lifecycle

Section titled What does a content operations team do? What does a content operations team do?

A content operations team will have an overview of all the companies content, as well as each piece of content’s lifecycle. Their primary role will be to manage the tracking, organizing, and optimizing of content across the board. They’ll also be responsible for:

  • Post-production management
  • Uploading
  • Scheduling
  • Tagging
  • Labeling
  • Metadata
  • Optimizing for different channels
  • Segmenting
  • Localization & translation
  • Image sizing
  • Governance

The content operations team is also responsible for creating brand consistency. They need to ensure that all content created is aligned with the pre-existing strategy & brand priorities. Essentially their job is to be overly-critical to ensure that brand consistency is achieved and geared for growth. Another major responsibility is to create the processes by which the teams will communicate, as well as act as mediators in any heated situations.

The content operations team also has to be able to view and analyze the content strategy and what content is working and what isn’t, and while an editorial team might not be able to understand the insights, a content operator should be able to create a complete evaluation and report back.

A major benefit that goes under the radar when hiring a content operations team is that they free up your content creators and editors to focus purely on creating content, which is the bread and butter of their role, while the content operations team can focus on making sure that content flows into the strategy correctly. Essentially, it divides up the content creation journey in a way that makes sense and frees everyone up to work within their role and not drown in operational details and tackling tools they are unfamiliar with.

Section titled Content governance, ownership & maintenance Content governance, ownership & maintenance

Content governance effectively means that any content created passes through an extremely necessary and extremely scrutinized process of checks for accuracy, brand consistency, and any other requirements before publishing. By employing content governance, you can at the very least, help your brand avoid embarrassment, or in very extreme cases, legal issues. It seems every so often, we load up the news to find a story of someone who posted an accidental Instagram post/tweet/etc, which usually ends in a dip in brand credibility as well as some awkward apologies. By having your content operations team manage your content governance and performing final checks before any piece of content goes live can save you from a world of embarrassment and potentially brand-damaging situations.

Under the umbrella of content, governance falls the duties of ensuring that the brand does not stray from its:

  • Brand values
  • Factual correctness
  • Tone of voice
  • Style guidelines

This is becoming especially important as businesses are also inviting and encouraging their partners and associates to contribute to the content output. While this ‘democratization’ of content creation is great for your customers by giving them direct access to experts in their field, it also creates an environment in which there is a much bigger chance that the content strays from the brand voice and guidelines. This is where content governance comes into full effect to keep your content in check.

Once these checks are done, the content operations team are responsible for managing the roles and permissions, reviewing, updating and removing content as it completes its life cycle. While this may seem tiresome, customers who repeatedly find incorrect information or resources on your site will pack up and take their business elsewhere.

Content lifecycle

Section titled The glue that holds your content together The glue that holds your content together

The content operations team is responsible for communicating the content strategy to the different teams, and they are seated between editors, developers, product teams, marketing, and their role meshes with every department. Content operations and content strategy start to interweave more deeply as you start to develop your content more strategically with certain goals in mind. A content operations manager will look at defined metrics across the entire content ecosystem you provide, and will be able to analyze what works and what doesn’t, and can align your content with supply and demand. Their role is centered around closing the content loop and ensuring you are creating strategic content that works for your business.

With Storyblok, a content operations team can extend their control over content by implementing custom workflows (available for Teams & Enterprise customers) which would allow them to set and control their content authoring structure and process. They can also take advantage of Storyblok’s Pipeline & Releases apps, to aid them in building a solid structure for the way content is created, managed, released and updated through these wonderful tools.