Tame Content Chaos and Manage Expectations with a Menu of Services

Here’s an awesome start to any content marketing manager’s day. You’ve just opened your content calendar and looked with glee at your perfectly planned month. Just the right number of pieces, just the right number of resources. Smooth sailing and clear seas ahead.

That’s when your Slack channel goes nuts.

Sales needs a last-minute landing page, field marketing needs a “quick” abstract for a speaking slot, and the CEO has a “brilliant blog idea” that absolutely must be published by tomorrow.

That’s when you realize there’s a mismatch between what other teams believe it takes to produce a piece of content and the effort that is actually required. To cut down on the content chaos, you need to reset expectations and educate the rest of your organization about the production process.

A menu of content marketing services is a straightforward way to change organizational behavior. This simple document outlines all the services your team offers and sets expectations around the scope of work and delivery times. Along with a few rules, it can help you manage expectations, reduce the volume of rush work, and meet your deadlines without stress.

To create your own menu of services, follow these six steps.

1. Decide what to include. Though it might be tempting to be very thorough, it’s best to keep things simple. For each content type, requesters only need to know the average scope of work (e.g. length in pages or words) and the estimated delivery time for final copy. It’s also a good idea to start your document with a couple of sentences describing the steps in your editorial process.

2. Measure your production times. You may have a good sense of how much time your team spends on each content type. Still, it’s a good idea to check your assumptions. Have your team track their time for a couple of months to get a more accurate read. In my experience, everyone underestimates. Projects almost always take longer than you think (and certainly longer than any of your requesters believe it to be).

3. Assess your actual turnaround times – and pad them. Like the number of hours, we always underestimate delivery dates. Be sure to take into consideration ALL of your other projects and allow extra time for those emergency projects that inevitably slip in.

4. Know your team’s limitations. It’s absolutely critical that you don’t overextend your resources. Determine how many projects your team can handle in a given month, quarter, or year. When reviewing incoming jobs, determine if they support your company’s overall business objectives. If they don’t, you’re on solid ground when assigning them a lower priority or even rejecting them.

5. Communicate internally. Once you have your menu set, plan an internal launch campaign. Post your document in a prominent place, and instruct internal clients to review it before submitting any requests to your team. There are bound to be many questions, so don’t rely on an email blast alone. Meet with teams individually to walk through the menu, explain the editorial process, and listen to feedback.

6. Hold the (time) line. Rush projects will never disappear entirely, but training your internal clients to plan ahead will reduce the number that come your way. The average delivery time listed on your menu offers requesters valuable insight into actual production time. It also empowers you to push back on unreasonable requests.

Creating your menu of services takes a bit of time and work, but once it’s in place, you’ll notice an immediate difference. When you set expectations up front, you’ll receive fewer last-minute requests. It’s the easiest and fastest way to tame the content chaos.

Tame Content Chaos and Manage Expectations with a Menu of Services
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Diane Thieke

As the CEO and co-founder of Version A, I’m responsible for strategy and vision, as well as team and client happiness. My experience in journalism, public relations, and marketing proves I’ve built a career out of the things I’m most passionate about – curiosity, writing, media, and tech. I’m surrounded by smart, cool, creative professionals, so I’ve never been bored, had the Monday blues, or wanted to trade in the corporate job for the life of an author. Okay – that last one is a lie. #amwriting
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