Recently I was reading an article that was questioning how agile marketing actually works, and the author wondered if you can really “plan to be agile.”
“Isn’t that cheating?” he wondered.
The short answer to that is, “Absolutely not.” Planning is a crucial part of agile marketing, particularly agile content marketing.
In fact as agile marketers we, “welcome and plan for change,” according to the Agile Marketing Manifesto.
That’s a very nice theory, but what about us content creators? How can we plan for change and still get things written that are on time and relevant to our audience?
I’m the world’s most adamant advocate of agile content marketing, but I’ll admit that there are times when it’s difficult to “welcome change” when I’m knee-deep in research and writing.
So here are some tips for developing a more agile content creation flow so you can feel more prepared for forks in the road (or completely new roads).
Change of Content Plans, and Plans for Content Change
Of course content marketers need an editorial calendar to track what we’re producing and when, but this tool needs to have some flex built into it to really plan for change.
Again, this is a simple theory with a much more complex execution.
If you’re doing something as simple as a blog post, it’s pretty easy to switch the due date around when things get complicated. You just write a different article today and the content train keeps moving down the tracks.
Where “flex” stops feeling flexible is when there are other people (or other departments) involved in content production or release.
If my designer is expecting ebook copy from me next week so he can design the visuals, and there’s a newsjacking opportunity that takes my content for the week in a completely different direction, it’s not just my plans that are going to have to change.
How can we take advantage of emerging topics without derailing the production process?
Agile Content Solution:
Communicate daily, especially about projects with dependencies.
During your daily standup talk about your hopes for adjusting the plan. Agile teams welcome and plan for change, so there should be good ideas from your team members about how the rest of the workload can shift.
Dealing with an External Resource Crisis
We’ve all had a freelancer get sick and miss their deadline, or simply go missing in the middle of a project.
When you’ve structured your content production around external resources it can feel like you’ve built your house on sand and the tide just came in.
But agile content creators know that the ability to adapt is a competitive advantage, and stress can sometimes drive us to come up with even better solutions.
So there are really two different agile solutions to this common problem, and the one you choose will depend on your team’s comfort level with on-the-fly content creation:
Agile Content Solution #1:
Build in time for your team to create evergreen content that can be subbed in for delayed or missing pieces.
You could devote an entire sprint to this type of effort so you have a good solid buffer in place. This makes a missing article or late ebook much less of a problem. If you use third party content creators often this is probably a good use of your team’s time.
Agile Content Solution #2:
Leave a buffer in each sprint to allow the content team space to deal with any emerging crises or opportunities.
If you know your team can handle 35 points in a sprint, maybe only schedule 28 points of work. The remaining bandwidth will then be available to address any problems.
When there aren’t any issues the team can use this time to research new and exciting content options, engage more on social media, or maybe write about something they’re particularly passionate about.
Copywriting vs. Content: Prioritizing Projects
Content marketers are often the writer in residence for the marketing team, but they can also become the go-to resource for anybody who needs to write anything across an organization.
All too often writers can barely keep up with their deadlines because these types of conversations can be overhead from their desks:
“Hey, I know you’re busy but can you look at this new email series that sales wants to send out?”
“We need to throw this landing page together right away. Can you just do your writing thing really quick and give me some copy…like now?”
“I totally forgot about this sponsorship and they need a white paper from us. Could you please do one for me? Oh, it’s due by end of day tomorrow.”
There may be some interdepartmental issues that need to be worked out around some of these kinds of requests, but even in the most well-balanced organization you can’t avoid “by the way” projects like these.
Strictly speaking the examples above probably aren’t “content marketing,” but as writers we tend to be flattered when people ask for our expertise (and also very protective of the voice and tone of our brand).
That means we’re most likely going to help out, even it’s an inconvenience.
Agile Content Solution:
Create a “By the Way” queue for your content team, and have everyone add their requests there. Use a Kanban system to ensure requests don’t stagnate there too long.
I’d suggest having people send requests to an email like “firstname.lastname@example.org” so that there’s no single individual who feels responsible for the requests. Then the content team can create a Kanban card for each request and pull them down as their workload permits.
Again, this will work best if your content team has intentionally left space in their sprint workload to deal with emerging work like this.
Your Turn: How Do You Keep Your Content Production Agile?
Every agile content marketing team has their own little tricks for dealing with the myriad demands on content, so please share yours below!
The demand for amazing content isn’t going to dry up any time soon, so let’s make sure we’re supporting each other by finding ways to meet those needs and keep our sanity intact.