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5 Practical Ways To Prevent Burnout In High-Performing Content Teams



5 Practical Ways To Prevent Burnout In High-Performing Content Teams

The site hasn’t published a new post in over a week. Timely topics and keywords never get tackled because no one can look up from what they’re already doing. Poor-quality content gets published because the team just needs to get something into the world.

The effects of those and other headaches for time-starved, burned-out content marketing teams ripple. What can you do to minimize or even prevent them? How can you help everyone stay on track so your content marketing hums along without speed bumps?

These five practical ways can help you stay ahead and on point with your content schedule. And I’ll share bonus tips to help individuals avoid disruptive procrastination and burnout.

1. Set a regular publishing schedule the whole team respects

This first point may seem elementary, but it’s crucial. Don’t just say, “Well, we publish a blog every few weeks. It depends.”

That’s not a schedule – that’s an estimate nobody can pin their hat on. Get specific and document it in your content marketing strategy. For example, detail how many blog articles will be published each month – tie a number to a time, such as “We publish one new or updated blog every week.” Get equally specific with all types of content you publish: videos, emails, social media posts, etc.

A regular publishing schedule recorded on a #content calendar keeps publishing cogs turning, says @JulieEMcCoy via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Your whole team should know and respect the documented schedule. Record it in your content calendar and keep the publishing cogs turning according to the schedule. That means deadlines are not nudge-able. They’re firm. A post must go out at regularly set intervals.

That said, it’s important to embed some flexibility into the schedule. For example, next week’s planned article needs to change because a subject matter expert is unavailable. What can’t change is the deadline for posting an article. This keeps your content schedule consistent but allows wiggle room for human needs that pop up.

2. Use a content calendar tool to its full potential

Your content calendar – and, by extension, the tool to create and manage it – isn’t just a calendar. It’s a living plan for how your content strategy will play out over time.

If you only scratch the surface of what your calendar can do, you’re short-changing your team. With the right tool and features, your content calendar can become the hub of your content marketing:

  • Don’t just use it to record publishing dates. Document everything – topics, keywords, assets, goals, creators, resources, and more – anything that helps track your content creation process and helps your team put together all the pieces.
  • Dive deep into your calendar tool to harness its full potential. Check out developer guides and videos and learn about all the features available. Teach yourself (and your team) as much about the calendar tool as possible, including further possibilities for automation and collaboration you haven’t touched yet.

I recommend Airtable over and over for managing topics, tracking publishing dates, and corralling assets like header images and document files. Its robust features include handy automation and collaboration capabilities.

Use @airtable for managing topics, tracking publishing dates, and corralling assets, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet


3. Batch content brainstorms and other tasks, too

Ever heard of batching? You group similar tasks and complete them in one fell swoop. It’s a great productivity trick and can help you get ahead with your content calendar.

For example, instead of researching content topics piecemeal, brainstorm a batch of content topics for the month at one time. I’ve relied on this process since 2016. One day per month, I block out a few hours to come up with all the content topics we’ll publish in future weeks. It goes like this:

  • Batch content topics and set tentative publish dates. It gives a bird’s eye view of how your blog or website will look. Publishing dates can be confirmed later.
  • Record them on the content calendar where the whole team can view them. They can prioritize tasks around the content schedule and execute their roles smartly.

Once a month, brainstorm your #content topics and set tentative publish dates. It’s called batching, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

With this system, you never have to scramble for new content ideas. A list of fresh topics tied to great keywords is recorded monthly on our content calendar. At any given moment, most of them are in production with writers, designers, or editors.

You and your team can batch a ton of other tasks besides topic generation:

  • Emails: Instead of checking your email every 30 minutes, block out time to get your inbox clear once or twice a day.
  • Editing: Review completed content pieces and give feedback all at once.
  • Writing: Dedicate time for writing content so you can get deep into a creative mode with no distractions.
  • Image creation/editing: Create all of the month’s header images in one chunk of time.
  • Meetings: Choose one topic per meeting instead of bouncing around from subject to subject.
  • Client calls: Designate a time to take calls with clients daily/weekly/monthly. Don’t schedule calls outside of that time block.

Here’s a great example of a schedule with task batching that goes from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., highlighting each task based on concentration level (light, moderate, deep):

If your team implements batching, make sure to communicate the designated times, so others aren’t trying to DM or call during the focused time. If you must, use do-not-disturb mode on your phone or create an away message on Slack to let people know you’re in focus mode.

4. Delegate smartly

The way each role is delegated has a direct impact on your content marketing. For example, does each team member have defined tasks within their role? Or do tasks – and who completes them – shift depending on which way the wind is blowing?

For small content teams, it might seem to make sense to keep roles amorphous and flexible, but you’re really just shooting yourself in the foot. Without clearly defined roles for each team member, tasks become muddled. Creative tasks start to feel like “creation by committee,” which ultimately can water down your marketing. (Ann Handley aptly calls this “hot dog writing,” as she shared in her newsletter:

“Extruded through so many messaging machines and opinionators and cogitators that you can’t tell what it was originally made of.”)

A small #content team might seem to benefit from amorphous and flexible roles. You’re really just shooting yourself in the foot, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

A well-defined role with well-defined tasks allows each person to take full ownership of their responsibilities.


5. Document team references and guides

Do you see a theme emerging here? When in doubt, document. It saves a lot of hassle as your team gets in a groove with content production.

Document everything – style guides, call-to-action guidelines, processes, tool workflows, etc. Err on the side of specificity versus vagueness. When questions arise, your team can look at these guides first and refer to them as needed for consistency across your content and channels.

Plus, when you need to onboard someone new, all the documentation will be right there for them to digest and learn your processes.

Tips to help individuals progress smoothly

Along with strategies to get your team rolling like clockwork with content marketing, you and they can take personal actions to keep things going smoothly.

Set boundaries

Are you available at all hours? Does your work bleed into your downtime? Are you checking your email at the dinner table? With so many of us working remotely, the lines between work and play are easier to blur.

It’s so important to set firm boundaries. My best tip is to strictly enforce a cut-off time for the workday. For instance, logging off at 5 p.m., silencing Slack notifications, and shutting down your computer.

Setting an end time makes you prioritize tasks differently during the day. You only have so many hours to accomplish what you want to do, so you’ll work smarter to get it all done.

Prioritize rest, nutrition, and movement

This is your gentle reminder that mental and physical health are intertwined. Care for yourself the way you would care for a loved one. That means:

  • Prioritize getting a great night’s rest
  • Eat at regular intervals throughout the day (and not just junk)
  • Move your body daily, even if it’s just a mid-day stroll around the block

Don’t give up

Most of us know, as content marketers, it takes a while to see results from our efforts. Content marketing is not an instant payoff game. Instead, it rewards patience and perseverance.

Take this mindset and apply it beyond content. If you’re frustrated, missing deadlines, feeling overwhelmed, etc., don’t give up.

Take small steps to make positive changes in your daily routine – work and otherwise. Take a step back and look at the larger picture. What good could happen if you persevere? What if you saw your current roadblocks as opportunities instead? What if …?


Get you and your team rolling along

If you are what you repeatedly do, then your habits truly define you. Taken alone, these small shifts in how you and your team operate might not seem like much. Taken together and repeated over days, weeks, months, etc., they’ll add up to major change for the better for you, your team, and your brand’s content marketing.

Which small shift will you focus on first? Whichever you choose, let this be the first nudge toward the bigger change you need.


Tools mentioned in this article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please add it in the comments.

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Cover images by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience



For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience

“The stock market is not the economy.”

When the stock market is up, it doesn’t always follow that the economy is great. When the stock market crashes, it doesn’t always mean the economy is bad.

That’s as true today as it was 25 years ago when I first got into marketing. And it’s a great reminder to avoid basing business decisions on faulty connections.

Over the years, I’ve learned an adjacent lesson about content and audiences: Popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation. People don’t necessarily regard what is popular among online audiences or the media as high quality – or even true.

If you successfully chase trends and feed popular content to audiences, you have not necessarily differentiated your content. On the other hand, differentiating by taking a contrarian or highly niche view of what’s popular doesn’t always work either. How do you blend popularity and differentiation?

#Content popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Red and blue ocean strategies

In their 2004 book, Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne explain red and blue ocean strategies for marketing. Red oceans are crowded markets where popular products abound and cutthroat sales and marketing strategies rule. Blue oceans are undiscovered markets with little or no competition, where businesses can create new customers or die alone.

In strategic content marketing, most businesses focus on the red oceans – offering short-term, hyper-focus feeding. They look to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions by getting the most people to consume the content. So a red-ocean strategy focuses on topics and content that have proven popular with audiences.

But this strategy makes it difficult to differentiate the content from everyone else’s.

This myopic view of content often prohibits testing the other side – investing in a blue-ocean mindset to find and create new audiences with less-popular content.

Short-term, hyper-focused #Content feeding often prohibits the mindset of creating new audiences, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Finding a blue niche in a red world

I recently worked with a financial technology company that provides short-term loans to small businesses experiencing a cash-flow crunch. It’s as sales-driven as any team I’ve seen.

When they started, they put much of their marketing and content efforts into a blue-ocean strategy, targeting small businesses that will need a loan within a month.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Five years ago, this company wasn’t the only one to recognize the massive opportunity in fast, easily accessible, short-term lending. A red ocean of new customers who needed these loans grew in a relatively robust economy (and historically low interest rates).

The value of these loans grew from $121 million in 2013 to just over $2 billion in 2018. And competition for this audience’s attention grew, too. As short-term, low-funnel content on accessible lending saturated the market, this strategy became less and less successful because so many fintech companies pursued it.

My client’s team knew they couldn’t only count on this red-ocean audience for new business. They recognized the need to invest time in building a new audience – larger, more established, long-term borrowers.

This audience wouldn’t produce immediate lead generation. But the company wanted to diversify its product line and better support the new audience’s loan-related needs.

The genius of this strategy was teaching, targeting, and building demand for new ideas from a niche within the red audience. Put simply: They created a purple audience by targeting a blue audience within the red one.

The blue audience the team targeted consisted of fast-growing smaller businesses that would soon evolve into established, long-term borrowers. These businesses might want to know the benefits of the short-term availability of cash. The team focused the new learning content platform on teaching companies that don’t need a loan now about the benefits of having a solution at the ready when they do.

The purple audiences took time to develop. But when those audience members entered the red ocean, my client company stayed top of mind because it had bucked the popular trends and offered completely different content.

3 triggers for targeting purple audiences

Deciding to invest in cultivating a purple audience requires some thought. These three considerations can prompt the move to a different audience hue.

1. You’re ready to hedge bets on current efforts

So many companies double down on their content to the point where their strategy incorporates the same content at every stage of the customer’s journey. Why? Because everybody is talking about it.

I see some B2B marketing organizations deliver the same “why change” thought leadership content to prospects as they do their customers. Shouldn’t your customers’ needs and wants change after they purchase your solution?

Developing thought leadership you believe is important but current audiences aren’t yet thinking about can be an excellent hedge.

You shouldn’t deliver the same thought leadership to prospects AND customers. After all, your customers’ needs and wants should change after they buy.

2. You believe the consensus is wrong

Many companies fold their content marketing like a lawn chair because their content goes against the consensus. Last week, a chief marketing officer told me, “Our CEO says we can’t go out with that thought leadership message because people will disagree with us.”

You don’t have to invest the entire budget in a contrarian idea. But if you genuinely believe the world will eventually come to your point of view, build the content infrastructure that supports that opinion and experience a multiplier on the investment.

3. You see an opportunity to steal audience

Look at the most popular content, and you see all your competitors fighting over the eyeballs seeking that topic, trying to outrank everyone on search, and fighting a red ocean of potential audience members. Then, look up and ask, “What’s next?”

You might see a slight trend. Or, as my fintech client did, you may notice a niche blue audience in the red audience. Investing in that content can pull audiences from the popular content into your fledgling purple audience.

SAP’s content site The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience illustrates this concept. During the pandemic, the team, led by Jenn Vande Zande, adjusted its editorial focus to steal a segment of the red-ocean audience seeking COVID-19 coverage. Jenn and team designed the content to appeal to people looking not just for lockdown news but also for the most up-to-date practices and industry information for businesses on customer experience in the COVID-19 era.

SAP created a purple audience.

Get colorful

As a marketer, you should think about new audiences. How can you address them with content that may not be widely popular now but can help them better prepare for what you believe is coming tomorrow?

That’s a better question to answer for long-term content marketing success.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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