4 Content Creation Tips for Small Content Teams—an Inside Look

4 Content Creation Tips for Small Content Teams—an Inside Look

We learned through our Content Matters 2022 Report that most content teams are made up of 10 people or fewer. Unfortunately, as the speed of content publishing continues to accelerate, it’s becoming harder and harder for those small content teams to keep up with demand while also maintaining high-quality content.

So… how can you do more with less?

Here at WordPress VIP and Parse.ly, we happen to be one of those small (but mighty) content teams. Of course, no team is perfect, but we’re proud of the caliber and frequency of content we produce. So we want to share some of the things we’ve learned along the way. 

One of the biggest takeaways—and something we preach at Automattic (our parent company)—is to slow down. You’ll find plenty of resources below but don’t worry about trying to consume too much too soon and find yourself overwhelmed. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Consider bookmarking things for later review if you need to.

Table of contents

  1. Take a look in the mirror
  2. Work smarter, not harder
  3. Stop, collaborate, and listen
  4. Align your values, strategies, and tools

Without further ado, here are our top four content creation tips for small teams.

1. Take a look in the mirror

The first step to improving your content production is to identify strengths and weaknesses. 

Look at both qualitative and quantitative metrics. 

Qualitative: What is your team doing well? How could processes improve? Do you have consistent communication? What does your content calendar look like?

Quantitative: How has site traffic performed over the past month, six months, or year? Is your recirculation rate up or down? What content topics perform the best?

This is a great time to perform a ROT analysis and content audit so you can get the full picture of what you’re doing well as a team and target areas for improvement.

“Just recently, we took a hard look in the mirror to figure out how we can start producing even higher value content for our audience. Everyone on our team was very receptive to looking inward so that we can keep pushing to be even better.”

—  Andrew Butler, Content Marketing Specialist

2: Work smarter, not harder

A small team means you have to make the most of everything you do or risk wasting time, money, and resources. Here are some best practices.

Repurpose content

Squeeze everything you possibly can out of every piece of content you create. Repurposing content is the best way to do that. Whether you’re updating, reformatting, or simply just re-promoting, repurposing content (especially the high-performing stuff) is an ideal way to make the most of your team’s time and resources without reinventing the wheel.

Get out of your comfort zone—try different types of content! You might be surprised how much better a certain topic performs in a webinar instead of a blog, or as a blog instead of an email.

“We ask ourselves all the time: ‘What else can we do with this piece?’ Sometimes we try something new expecting it to perform well and it doesn’t, and other times the opposite is true. But we’re always intrigued by new opportunities to share something that we hope will resonate with our audience once we get it in front of them, in whatever format.”

— Greg Ogarrio, Content Marketer 

Go evergreen

Evergreen content is just content that is always relevant, always interesting for your customers, season after season. It’s a great source of SEO and referral traffic, helps establish your brand voice, and builds trust with your customers.

Plus, evergreen content is the best content to repurpose. Doing more of this content type will give you more bang for your buck later on.

Bring in contributors

Creating content doesn’t have to be done by your content team alone. Ask for a little help from outside teams to fuel your content calendar. 

  • Work with your customer support team to identify content that can help answer frequently asked questions
  • Interview subject matter experts about technical subjects for customer success content
  • Have a subject matter expert write a guest blog
  • Invite partners to guest blog or sponsor posts
  • Cross-post blogs from partners or customers  

“I honestly love interviewing our subject matter experts to gather content for blogs and long-form pieces. Not only does it give me an opportunity to connect with people from other departments, but I also get to learn more about the technical aspects of our products and services, which helps me with future pieces, too!”

—  Kayla Burns, Content Writer

Contributions from others will help accelerate content production while building cross-functional and cross-organizational relationships.

3: Stop, collaborate, and listen

A good team isn’t complete without healthy communication, content teams are no different. But we’re not just talking about the occasional meeting or Slack message; the culture of your team communication should be open, honest, and vulnerable. 

Here’s what we do that works well for us:

Share wins. 

Each week, everyone is prompted by a Slack bot to share something good that happened to them. This can be personally and/or professionally, but it allows us to celebrate those triumphs. 

Ask for help.

Small teams rely on each other more than most. We celebrate wins but we also lean on each other during tough times. Every single person on our team knows they can reach out to anyone else, at any point, for anything. Encourage ideas and suggestions from all; just because someone isn’t in a leadership role doesn’t mean they don’t have great ideas that will push your goals forward.

“We have evolved to a level of telepathy in our content marketing workflow. Intuitively, we know each other’s strengths and how to improve each other’s work — and at what stage of content development to do just that. That’s an important dynamic to having an efficient, well-oiled, content machine, especially one under tight deadlines and high expectations.”

— Greg Ogarrio, aka “The Scalpel”

Collaborate early and often.

We share our “sh***y first drafts” of each content piece in a Google Doc, inviting internal feedback (even for this piece!) to get extra sets of eyes on messaging, tone, and positioning. We also ask external subject matter experts to double-check accuracy early in the flow to make sure we’re on the right track. Collaboration solidifies our brand voice and keeps our content accurate and accessible.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Have regular meetings to discuss upcoming campaigns, establish and monitor KPIs, track goal progress, brainstorm and establish future content plans, and share feedback about overall performance. Our core content team meets weekly, bi-weekly with campaign managers, and monthly with the entire marketing team. These formal meetings let us discuss key content strategies as well as promote team relationships.

Keep communication public. 

Direct messages and email have their place, but we always prioritize public communication. This is especially important for our fully-distributed company DNA. We believe open communication fosters transparency and creates a culture of collaboration.

What does this look like, in practice? At Automattic, we use a WordPress theme called P2 that acts as a hybrid communication and project management tool. No matter their position or team, anyone can read any other team’s P2s or public Slack channels to find answers to small or big questions, check the status of upcoming product releases and marketing launches, and explore other concerns. 

Our very own Tess Needham, Head of Content, loves P2 so much that she created an entire comic about it!

4: Align your values, strategies, and tools 

A cohesive and comprehensive approach to content creation is key to producing your best work as a small content team. As Tess Needham showcased in a webinar about empowering content teams, we focus on three core areas: values, strategies, and tools. 

Values

Your values should guide your strategies, which should then be supported by your tools. Tess illustrated this concept with a tree: team values are the trunk that supports the rest of the tree, the foundation which everything else should be built upon.

Our four main values are agility, flexibility, simplicity, and ownership. 

Agility allows us to adapt and overcome. We can pivot at any point and make decisions on the fly, if needed. We understand, as a group of creative people, that someone’s peak creative or productive time may not be the typical 9-5 work day. Flexibility gives us the freedom to work on our own time. But we also make adjustments and rally around others’ schedules to collaborate as a team and work toward a common goal. 

“The core values of our team are exhibited in everything we do, from communicating to planning to writing. It’s one of my favorite parts of WordPress VIP: we all use our values to guide our actions, which allows us to work toward a common goal without unneeded friction along the way.”

— Kayla Burns, aka “The Wizard”

As a small team, simplicity is key. We can’t overcommit or overpromise because we will ultimately underdeliver. Keeping things simple and straightforward helps us produce our best work in an efficient manner. Plus, our customers—internal and external—typically prefer the simple approach.

Lastly, ownership offers a sense of empowerment in each other, and a baseline of trust that each person will produce their best work. Establish that sense of ownership and every team member is invested in company success.

Your values may look different than ours, and that’s great! But whatever they are, they should be top-of-mind as you establish your content strategy.

Strategy

Forming a strategy when it comes to content is usually a long-term process with moving targets. Your goals, KPIs, performance metrics, etc. will never be identical to someone else’s. That’s okay.

Most importantly, plan your strategy around a customer-centric mindset. Focusing on your customer will help you produce authentic, relevant, and creative content. Champion data from beginning to end of the strategic process. Without diving into content analytics, you won’t know what resonates with your audience.

“Once we started rallying behind data, we became much more aligned with our brand voice and content promotions across departments. This alignment, coupled with constant communication, helps us make smart, timely decisions and gets the right content onto the screens of the right people at the right time.”

—  Andrew Butler, aka “The Statistician”

Listen, we talk about content strategy, like, all the time. We’re passionate about it. So instead of rambling, here are five of our favorite pieces to inspire your own strategy that’s right for your team.

Tools

Executing a successful content strategy is impossible without the right tools. Maybe you’re happy with your current marketing technology stack, or overwhelmed by choice, as many noted in our Martech Trends 2022 Report.

Either way, you need a martech stack that enables you to achieve your strategic vision. What are the main tools you should consider?

Communication. As we mentioned earlier, healthy communication is essential. Whether you use P2s, Slack, email, or something else entirely, make sure your communication tool(s) are universal, user-friendly, and functional. For a distributed company, all these are crucial to our communication; these tools keep us going. In fact, we like communicating so much we even track it!

Project management. Track every content project through a project management tool. Our team uses Asana, along with P2, but other teams at WordPress VIP prefer GitHub or Trello. These tools allow you to assign tasks, monitor progress, share drafts, gather feedback, and more so you can streamline workflows.

“We have defined roles and responsibilities to divide work evenly and avoid duplication, and we track everything through a centralized project management platform so everyone can see how projects are progressing, who is responsible for which task, etc.”

— Tess Needham, aka “The Ringmaster”

Content analytics. *Cue the heavy sigh.* Few content marketers actually enjoy analytics. Important data often goes unnoticed because it can be time-consuming and difficult to understand. You probably use Google Analytics (GA) and want to pull your hair out trying to create a custom report that meets your needs. But content analytics are critical to forming a strategy based on fact, not feeling.

The good news is there are other options, like Parse.ly. Part of WordPress VIP, Parse.ly offers an easy-to-use, easy-to-access platform, giving you a direct line to the content metrics you need. In fact, it’s so easy that your entire team can and should use it to guide content creation decisions. It’s an especially important tool for small content teams who may not have the time or resources to extract data from legacy analytics tools like GA.

Content management. To drive business with content even in uncertain economic times while democratizing content creation, an agile content management system (CMS) is a necessity. WordPress VIP is the agile CMS. Our enterprise-grade platform was built for content creators (and content developers) so you can create better content faster.

Content is the key to the customer experience

Your content creation process should be unique, just like your company. No one set of tips, advice, or processes is a one-size-fits-all solution. But no matter how you move forward, remember your customer at every step of the way. They are your lifeline, and it’s easy to forget that they are people, too.

“Customer-centricity is key. It should always be the priority. Spend time getting to know your customers and focus on the things they need.”

—  Tess Needham, Head of Content

From one small content team to another: take a deep breath, slow things down, and value your customer over everything else. You’ve got this!

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