At any given moment, do you know what’s in your WIP? Works-in-progress (WIP) represents your overall pending workload. For content marketing managers, it’s the running list of pieces in various stages of completion. With the right strategy in place to manage this process, all your confections can taste like perfection, provided you don’t get lost in the sauce…
The principles of project management tell us to create a prioritized list with projected completion dates. Simple as syrup, right? In reality, you’ve got multiple pieces marinating while others are sizzling away. Meanwhile some still need a bit more chopping. Turning out a complex menu of WIP can be a tall order.
So, how can content marketers ensure their WIP stays smooth and churns out mouth-watering, clickable content?
When a Problem Comes Along…
No WIP, let alone the day-to-day management of it, will ever be without a few lumps. A blog series suddenly needs a new angle, requiring hours of additional research. You’re requested on a conference call with an expert who’s recommending last-minute changes to next week’s webinar. A new writer on your team needs another set of revisions. If you’re like most content managers, you’re constantly shifting your agenda to put out fires.
While management-by-emergency is never the intended goal, it often becomes reality. When this happens, it puts your works-in-progress at risk. These are some signs and symptoms of a WIP that’s gone stale – how many sound familiar?
- Ineffective task hopping
- Unclear objectives
- Duplicative efforts
- Lack of prioritization
- Unmet completion dates
While a few problems are to be expected during any given workday, the bulk of your time shouldn’t be spent rushing between smoking ovens. If every task feels equally urgent (and every problem seems like it could burn down the house), it’s time to pause and rethink the recipe.
Remember, the backburner’s there for a reason – use it. Professionals can dedicate an entire team to preventing your pots from boiling over, so don’t be afraid to outsource.
Once you’ve balanced your WIP, you can handle unexpected issues before the timer dings. That way, each piece can get the right measure of time and attention.
Before the Cream Sits Out Too Long…
We’ve talked about planning the menu overall, so let’s get into the individual courses. We’ve all had a piece that began with excitement, only to fall flat. Maybe one of those fires pulled you away, and when you came back the idea had gone sour. Maybe all the ingredients just didn’t work together the way you thought they would. Maybe your appetite for the idea simply changed, and now you’re concerned the topic is no longer palatable.
Whatever the reason, if your WIP is glutted with unfinished and unappetizing items, you have to go back to the meat and potatoes: How does each segment of content support my organization’s number one goal? Although the WIP as a whole is ever-changing, this question has to remain constant for each and every piece.
Its answer will determine the ordering of your priority list. Oddly enough, the Why behind an undertaking is often left out of the conversation. How many times have you had a management meeting where everyone dived right into a discussion of how to go about a particular task. Then after the meeting you realized you had no idea what the task is supposed to accomplish?
To avoid confusion and ensure every item on your WIP is worthwhile, you have to continuously emphasize how it links back to your goals. Simultaneously, you have to encourage incorporating new flavors. Projects that have been left to sit too long might be past their expiration date. Take time to cleanse your palate and determine which items should be 86’d and which are worth another try.
Go Forward, Move Ahead.
Everything tastes better when your appetite is sharp. Crafting a WIP full of pieces that entice readers in your target audiences is no different. The time to refresh your menu of content is when you’re most excited about what you have to offer.
Your overall WIP and every task within it is an opportunity – try to detect it:
- Get the ideas simmering: Start a dialogue incorporating a range of perspectives, from those who dictate the high-level content, all the way down to the staff responsible for each piece of the pie. What are your people excited to write about? If you can get everyone engaged, your final products will be more savory and more likely to stay on schedule.
- Create perfect pairings: For pieces requiring cross-departmental input and/or interviews, be sure you have those meetings lined up well in advance. Provide discussion points and questions beforehand, so everyone is prepared to move quickly through the agenda.
- Make the data delicious: As you progress through your WIP, be sure to record your numbers. By capturing internal and external measures of effectiveness – such as your team’s rate of completion and number of leads your content generates – you’ll be able to demonstrate your team’s value to the organization.
- Save room for dessert: While a job well done is a reward in and of itself, it always helps to put some frosting on the cake. What’s the overall theme of the WIP for a given quarter? What will each piece within it help to accomplish? Those details will help motivate your team, provide a sense of accomplishment, and serve as proof points when you report to management.
From a succinct infographic to an in-depth white paper, great content can elevate that one perfect bite to an entire feast. Hungry yet? When you’re ready to break out your whisk, contact Version A. We’ll help you WIP it, WIP it good!