It’s more complex than ever to produce marketing content — images, video, product copy, animations, CGI. As communication channels continue to emerge, consumer demand for more content grows by the day. It’s a multiplier effect that marketing leaders need to acknowledge and address.
Marketers must think differently to overcome these challenges. Consumers have new expectations of brands and retailers. How best to meet those needs? More efficient processes, the right connected technology and more versatile teams.
The goal is to help marketers build more efficient creative content operations.
We asked our top creative and marketing pros to share their practical insights and best practices for doing just that. Here are their recommendations.
1. Map the process and streamline content production
Process mapping is one of the best tools to unpack the complexity of your systems, pinpoint inefficiency and start working toward more streamlined solutions. Here’s how:
- Map out every step in the content creation and production journey. Include project initiation, creative through production, approvals, partnership handoffs and workarounds. It helps you understand the holistic view of how content comes to life in your organization — every single step.
- Involve all stakeholders for a given process. Identify where things are going wrong, like taking more time because of rework, stalled or too many approvals, or duplication of efforts. Eliminate steps and redesign workflows to streamline the production process. Most importantly, get input and align expectations across the organization during this discovery process.
Practically speaking: “It’s not just about getting the right brief, finding the right creative, scheduling and delivering,” says Amy McKnight, principal process design consultant, Quad strategic process design. “You have to question what’s happening way before and way after that work. Step back and make sure you see the broader picture.”
2. Build the unicorn your team needs
Wouldn’t it be nice to elevate content production simply by adding one key individual to the team — a unicorn who can do it all? In reality, that person doesn’t exist. Technology is moving so fast, no one individual can possibly stay ahead of the game.
A more practical path is to build the ideal team through a combination of outsourced and in-house personnel. This doesn’t mean using brute force marketing by simply throwing more people at the problem. Instead, identify specific roles and skills to meet creative content needs across all channels. Fill those roles appropriately, maximizing in-house talent and augmenting with outside specialists.
And don’t overlook efficiency. The right technology can automate certain tasks, allowing creatives to focus on production. Consider teaming with specialists abroad to add greater flexibility to content production operations and shorten delivery timelines.
Practically speaking: “The ideal team is never a one-size-fits-all solution,” says Jimmy Richardson, vice president of Quad content studios. “It’s very hard to employ all the talent needed for every content channel. Successful leaders have a mix of dedicated staff, access to specialized talent and a backbone of global redundancy.”
3. Centralize processes to meet multichannel content needs
Simple, right? Theoretically, yes. But this requires vision to think ahead before creating marketing content. The key is to plan the entire process at the outset, considering the current and perhaps future needs of all your various channels. Knowing that, you can produce everything you need, all at once. This will eliminate rework and redundancy and put your team in a position to scale content production.
Here’s an example:
When shooting product photos, capture images for all of your marketing channels in one go. Don’t photograph the same product five different times on different shoots. Capture every angle and use of that product during one planned photo shoot. Then, you’ll have those assets (the photos) on hand for everyone in marketing operations to use whenever they need them.
The best way to accomplish this is with centralized project management and improved asset management systems. Producers who know the needs of your various channels can take the lead in this effort, making sure those photo shoots and other creative production efforts take into account all of those needs. A digital asset management (DAM) system can make it easier to share content across teams and facilitate collaboration and more efficient use of resources. Don’t make that investment until you evaluate your people, process and technology and make a plan to connect components of creative content production.
Practically speaking: “By improving planning and project management, you can determine what your content needs are up front,” says Devin Fisher, senior director, Quad studios. “You can then develop a plan to create everything you need at the outset of a project, speeding delivery of content and eliminating rework.”
4. Use executives to implement process change
Getting buy-in from top executives makes implementing these kinds of process changes much easier. But to do it right, it’s not just about buy-in or championing those efforts. Top executives need to actively step in and communicate to the team why they support those process changes, why they’re aligned with goals and why the changes will ultimately lead to better production practices. In fact, executives are sometimes the biggest barrier to implementing major change. Involving those important stakeholders is vital for successful process change. Map out your future state, get buy-in around goals and build support for additional resources needed to achieve the vision.
Practically speaking: “As long as executives agree to participate and to follow through on whatever the future state is, it can be much more impactful and much easier to sustain that process change in the long run,” says Tracie Schwickrath, vice president, Quad client services.