What Is Content Operations? A Straight-Forward Guide

In a 1996 essay, Bill Gates wrote, “Content is king,” and what was true then is still true now. Content is necessary to the success of a business.

If the content is the king, we could say its operations are the queen — or at least a knight. Imagine a startup that wants to create a blog post. It’s a timely post that needs to be up before the end of Q1. Because the startup is new, it hasn’t established concrete operations for blog content. So, the post sits in a Google document with no plan for who uploads the content or what blog platform will host the information. The business has a content writer, but operations don’t typically end there.

Blog posts aren’t the only content option there are. You can incorporate over a dozen different content types, including email, videos, social media posts, podcasts, infographics, and other visual content to increase brand awareness. Without content operations, though, this content likely has no plan for production, publication, or distribution. And what good is a blog post if no one reads it?

If the goal is to post content daily, then you’ll need to identify who is performing the work? What methods are they using? What systems are necessary to get the job done?

One department is the solution to these questions — content operations.

Content operations focus on three elements:

People: who is performing a task and what their roles and responsibilities are.
Process: what functions are needed to complete a project successfully.
Technology: what tools help build out a content operations system.

People

In content and content operations, the people are the foundation. While customers sit at the center of content, the operations aspect focuses on the company and its team. Roles and responsibilities should be well-defined and outlined to keep the system running smoothly.

The first step is defining clear roles. Content teams have content strategists, managers, creators, editors, and more. For example, the content creation department might break down into specialized positions — content writers, graphic designers, and photographers. Although these are typical roles, some content roles and responsibilities may overlap. Content writers and editors have distinct differences. Depending on the team and its bandwidth, your writers may be responsible for editing their work. It is best to avoid overlap; however, that is sometimes impossible. As long as the roles and responsibilities are clear, the team and its operations should function successfully.

Process

Once you have a team in place, how will you get your projects from start to finish? Your people need processes. Your team — and their roles and responsibilities — will help determine workflows to keep your content moving from planning to publishing.

Say you were publishing a blog post. A sample process might go as follows:

Step 1: Strategize and generate the idea.
Step 2: Set a timeline and schedule for the post.
Step 3: Write the post.
Step 4: Edit the grammar and content.
Step 5: Add graphics.
Step 6: Optimize the post for SEO.
Step 7: Publish.
Step 8: Share.
Step 9: Analyze.

If one of the steps in this process falls through, it impacts the overall success of the operation. Style guidelines, templates, and content governance models strengthen processes and promote accountability and consistency. These frameworks help keep content on track, but they need to be used with technology to ensure content operations are running smoothly.

Technology

The last key to successful content operations is technology or the necessary tools for accomplishing each task. Because the planning and execution of content are so extensive, teams require multiple resources to be successful.

The technology for content operations can fall into categories such as:

Project Management & Scheduling
Task Management
Content Execution
Analytics & Reports

Project Management & Scheduling

All content should appear in an editorial calendar. It is a high-level calendar that keeps track of where, how, and most specifically, when content publishes. Not to be confused with scheduling tools that send out timed posts, like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, tools for project management and scheduling include Monday and Asana.

Task Management

Monday and Asana are also great examples of task management tools. These platforms allow for the building, following, and executing of content operations by the team.

Content Execution

Content operations also require the technology needed to execute a task. What is the team using to get the job done? Writers need access to word processing tools, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Alternatively, designers might need a variety of web and graphic design tools like Adobe Photoshop or Canva.

Analytics & Reports

Analyzing and reporting is usually the last step in a content life cycle. Analysis tools measure your content and its success. WordPress, the world’s biggest blogging platform, has its analytics capabilities while thousands of companies, including General Electric and NASA, use Google Analytics to monitor their content and traffic.

Who benefits from content operations?

This is a simple question with a simple answer — everyone. Content operations provide stability and consistency at every level. Upper management personnel, like a CEO, know that the business is operating efficiently, which has a positive reflection on the company as a whole.

Content operations also benefit the members of the team who are directly involved. Team members can use clearly defined responsibilities and processes to work confidently in their roles. It can boost both workplace culture and quality of work.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the final group that benefits from content operations are consumers. Content is one of the biggest tools companies use to keep current and potential customers engaged. Blog posts provide valuable information and tips. Emails inform them of current or upcoming sales and promotions. As customers build relationships with businesses, they have expectations. Content operations help meet them.

Why do content operations matter?

Content operations lead to results, and they result in:

Saving time and money
Better quality content
Producing content faster
Happy and confident teams

Saving Time And Money

When a content operations team establishes a sound cycle between people, processes, and technology, it leads to efficiency. Efficiency saves time and money. Content operations allow companies to save time by reducing the time needed to get content created, approved, and published. Companies save money when their team can produce content according to schedule without additional resources, for example, extra labor or tools.

Better Quality Content

Content operations promote better quality content. Teams uphold standards for accurate, consistent, and impactful content with a structured content cycle process.

Producing Content Faster

While there should always be a focus on quality content, that content needs to get out quickly. Not all content is evergreen. When faced with an immovable deadline, content operations keep teams on schedule.

Happy And Confident Teams

When team members are unhappy or confused about their roles, responsibilities, or resources, their work may reflect it. Not only does content operations promote accountability and structure, but it allows teams to become confident in their position. It breeds a positive and happy workplace environment for all involved.

Content Operations Manager

At the head of content operation sits the content operations manager. While the title can vary from business to business, the job function is the same. The content operations manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the content team to ensure that the necessary people, process, and technology execute the content strategy.

To accomplish their overall goal, content operations managers might also be responsible for:

Choosing the technology and tools to support operations
Creating and managing company policies and procedures
Streamlining content processes
Recruiting and hiring content staff members
Training new staff members

In summary, the work of a content operations manager has less to do with actual content and more to do with the people, processes, and technology needed to plan, create, and publish it.

The Three Words Of Content Operations

To understand content operations, remember these three words — people, process, and technology. As long as the right people are in place, with knowledge of the processes and access to the technology, the content operations of a company should run smoothly and successfully.