Ask any content producer what they think about having a content marketing manager, and they’ll probably say, “What’s that?” They just do their project, others do their projects, and it all comes together, right? No. Content marketing teams need to be managed to produce consistent, timely, and compelling content campaigns.
Regardless of the size of the projects, I’ve worked with some great project managers to ensure we were on track, the messaging was consistent, and each channel was managed efficiently.
This article came into place this year as customers would ask if they needed a content project manager for this or that task or to use some software package. I would ask them, “Do you want consistent, effective, and engaging content? If so, then yes.”
And while I’m always in favor of simplifying workflows, the reality is that content marketing continues to get more and more complicated in many instances:
- There are more stakeholders than ever.
- Audience needs have changed since the pandemic.
- The channels for distribution continue to change and increase.
- It’s easy to fall behind or entirely stop publication schedules.
- It’s easy to forget about best practices and content strategies when we don’t keep them top of mind.
- More channels mean greater difficulty in planning, scheduling, and consistency.
And while we don’t want to see Project Managers as the latest shiny object, the silver bullet, or whatever buzzword comes to mind, they can help the rest of the team stay on track and move forward in a coordinated manner.
From my experience, some of the biggest reasons why content marketing projects fail include:
- Teams stop publishing altogether (this can be for various reasons).
- Teams create bottlenecks in the content creation process (this can even end up in the above category).
- Teams create ‘blah’ content (blog posts that aren’t very unique, that don’t offer unique perspectives), reducing brand and product value.
- Teams fail to create content consistently, resulting in less than high-performing content.
- Teams don’t always understand all of the channels they should use and how they apply to the customer journey.
- Delegation is crucial but often fails without a defined manager that knows what needs to be done and makes assignments.
- The project isn’t correctly defined at the outset with a project plan that works with a schedule, budget, deliverables, and available resources.
Project Managers typically don’t create the rockstar-type of content that can be used publicly, but that isn’t their job. They keep the content creators and strategists on track to hold good discussions.
Indeed, some tools and strategies can also be used to keep us on track. For example, I block off time every Friday to write for the Rock Content Blog. But if I didn’t have a Project Manager remind me of the importance of getting the article done in time, I might push it off.
There are reasons to stay on track, including:
- Quickly discuss if the content is aligned with the correct goals.
- Being able to know and understand the target audience.
- Giving the editors a chance to edit.
- Allowing the design team actually to create good-looking and relevant visual assets.
(Related: Why good design matters!)
- Giving the web producers a chance to place the content on the website.
- Ensuring distribution strategies have a chance to be aligned because we didn’t have time to talk about them!
A Project Manager can help us outline the timeline and, more importantly, help us stick to it. I remember when I didn’t have Project Managers (or technology solutions). The content marketing team members (we didn’t have ‘Project Manager’ titles) placed post-it notes on a whiteboard with dates scribbled on them. High tech, I know! Ugh.
And since we were under a time crunch, which was the reason we used the post-its, to begin with, the team would briefly huddle here and there to look at the whiteboard and make sure we were on track.
What are the right characteristics of a content project manager?
Here’s the start of a job description:
- Advanced understanding of content creation timelines and workloads.
- Confidence in meetings with different levels of stakeholders.
- The ability to keep people on the track (aka – herd content cats)
- Highly organized and realistic with expectations.
- Friendly bossy. “Hi, is this done?” <blocks the path of escape> 🙂
Content work gets done when we have a good strategy, great content creators, and Project Managers who run necessary processes.
In larger teams, I would highly recommend a dedicated Project Manager. In smaller teams, it might be possible to create a combined role such as a Content Marketing Strategist/Project Manager title (note that the more slashes we add to jobs, the harder it gets to be good).
Good content teams embrace their Project Managers and the value they bring. Ultimately, they can help us get, and stay on track to create better content!