3 content project gotchas that people forget

Creating marketing content is a people game full of gotchas

I’m fond of saying that publishing content is a straight line. Still, so many content project gotchas remain that trip up marketing and other content creators from publishing. Large and small organizations have their own challenges that content creators and their stakeholders bump up against. Too often, organizations (read: internal forces!) are their own worst enemy when it comes to content.

Here are some content project gotchas that can be easy to forget:

1. Reluctance about a topic

In large established companies and startups alike, some managers will be reluctant to publish a white paper or blog post on a given topic. There can be perfectly logical reasons why they are the way they are.

Personally, I chart an organization’s path to create thought leadership much the same way as I chart the growth of a technology writer. When I got started writing articles, I very much played it safe by writing about products. I was fortunate enough to have some editors along the way who encouraged me to take a stand on some technology topics.

Getting past reluctance to publish can be challenging. It often takes patience and being a player/coach who can build trust and manage up. Be prepared as a content creator to play the long game if you’re hamstrung by this gotcha.

2. Technology accelerates past the organization

Technologies such as the cloud, DevOps, artificial intelligence (AI), and containers can outpace all but the most dedicated technologists. While it’s hard to talk about in some corporate cultures, when management doesn’t keep pace with technology, it can become a content project. For example, consider the corporate vice president who doesn’t keep up with technology. Their employees have long given up on them and deem them as non-technical. It’s a potential impasse that you don’t expect until you have it staring you in the face.

This gotcha is dicey because the risk of the wrong executive losing face can be high. Savvy executives stay out of the way. Then again, educating non-technical executives can be next to impossible if they already think they know all the answers. Some of the loneliest times I ever had as a technical writer were with executives who couldn’t answer my technical questions but proceeded to keep talking anyway.

3. Content project outsourcing at the wrong time

Sometimes I think there are two kinds of people in marketing. Services providers and services brokers. While some very professional content marketing firms do enviable and high-quality work, content project investments need to start at “home.”

When combined with reason 2, outsourcing marketing content can cause more trouble than its worth. For example, let’s say marketing outsources technical marketing content to a third-party vendor. They do without any actual participation of the company’s subject matter experts (SMEs). The content is effectively produced in a vacuum.

The first rule of content project outsourcing is to not create more work for the in-house staff. As a start, develop your foundational content in-house. Set expectations early about the roles for your in-house and outsourced content creators. Set priorities for your subject matter experts (SME), and above all, be conscious of people’s time. If you get feedback that working with the outsourced content provider costs more time than they intended to save, then it’s time to review things.

Final thought

Content creation is ultimately a people game. Each of the gotchas in this post arises in one way or another because of people. You navigate past these gotchas through collaboration and communications.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m the technical marketing manager for a container security startup after spending most of my career as a technical writer.Opensource.com, TechTarget, InfoQ, and others have published my articles about DevOps and the cloud. Before that, I used to write about enterprise mobility and BYOD. You can follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

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