Friend of mine went to culinary school. We asked him, “What’s the most important lesson you learned there?”
“Kitchen management and mise en place.”
When you cook for one person, you can get away with a lot of inefficiencies.
When you cook for hundreds of people every night, and where one bad meal can draw ire and bad reviews, you need to set yourself up for production velocity as well as quality control.
Same with content creation.
Most people passed the 101 level know that the “content quality vs quantity” debate is a waste of time, a false dichotomy. Clearly, you need both to succeed.
It’s never enough to write one good blog post (which anyone can do). The goal is to amp up the velocity while maintaining quality to march towards your business KPIs.
This is why, generally speaking, our agency will never take a list of keywords and “just write content.” We’re not a content mill.
The Content Mise en Place is the set of rituals and artifacts that forms the bridge between strategy and execution. It not only allows for quality at scale, but it also makes your system more malleable. Many programs are completely dependent on one or two great content marketers; if they leave, the content program goes down the toilet. If you have a few artifacts in place, you can more easily keep the program moving towards the business goals.
These artifacts and rituals differ from company to company based on goals and which tools are helpful. If a tool, artifact, or process doesn’t help you reach your goals more effectively, it should be thrown away. I’m not talking about process for process sake.
Here are some common and useful pieces of a content mise en place:
- A content mission statement or value proposition
- Editorial style guide
- Content calendar
- Brand POV
- Influence maps
- Editorial cabinet
- Product marketing alignment.
- Design templates
A content mission statement or value proposition
A content mission statement, coined by Andy Crestodina, is your blog’s value proposition. It’s the qualitative north star that points to the value you add and the audience you serve.
Editorial style guide
I’ve talked a lot of smack on style guides, but that’s because they’re usually like 20 pages long and include a bunch of vague BS that editors don’t even use when editing content. “Our tone is friendly yet professional.” Yeah, you and everyone else’s.
An editorial guide is a document that defines what “good content” actually means at your organization. It’s something you can point to and provide objective comments and feedback when editing drafts.
Check out the guest post guidelines we used at CXL for an example.
I’m a fan of an agile and minimum viable content calendar. Don’t over-engineer it.
Again, it should help you produce MORE great content at scale, not hinder your progress.
Brand POV is what your brand stands for and how it injects that voice and position into all of your content.
You’ve gotta find some way to stand out from the abundant noise on the internet. A great writer can do this, but what you really want is a system where many writers can point to the same angles and positions so your brand has consistency.
A Brand POV artifact general contains Pillars (the themes you want to be known for), Pain Points (the most pressing issues facing your prospective customers), and Positions (your brand’s positions on those topics).
Go where the fish are. Influence maps tell you where your prospective customers hang out, who they follow, and where the influencers they follow hang out. This helps you build content with distribution in mind.
When I was at CXL, I wrote a lot of esoteric stuff on Bayesian vs Frequentist A/B testing and bandit algorithms. So I worked with a bunch of actual experts to help me construct the content and make sure I wasn’t producing fluffy, vague, or inaccurate BS.
To do that, I built a spreadsheet with all the experts and their contact info categorized by area of expertise (UX, psychology, analytics, statistics, etc.). It made it really easy to reach out for a given blog post.
I call this the “editorial cabinet.”
Product marketing alignment
Fact sheets and assets to help incorporate product-specific information into content. When I was scaling out the Surround Sound Strategy at HubSpot, we worked closely with product marketing to make sure we had product fact sheets and descriptions we could easily use in guest posts, our own content, and in blurbs for affiliates.
Consider building templates for blog post header images, graphics in your content, CTAs, and anything else that is done repeatedly. Canva is easy for marketers to use and you can create templates once and use them forever. All our blog posts on the Omni blog use the same template.
No need to go overboard, but if your team doesn’t have the tools needed to strategize, plan, research, produce, promote, and measure content, it’s less likely to happen.
Automation is usually the last step after you’ve already confirmed your process is functional and useful, and it can really be a force multiplier as well as reduce errors.
For example, I write this newsletter once every three weeks. My other two co-founders write it the other weeks.
So every three weeks, I get a notification in ClickUp and on Slack on Mondays that tells me to write the newsletter. It includes a template and link to the HubSpot email newsletter tool. If I didn’t get this automation, I’d always forget to write my newsletters.
1. How Marketers Waste Time and Resources, and the Audacity of Big Goals with Jakub Rudnik – great podcast for scrappy teams looking to scale out content production while maintaining quality (and avoiding bloated processes and needless steps).
2. Don’t trust the process – Benyamin Elias’s semi-contrarian take on the process, and why in many cases, process is over-applied and actually slows down teams and stunts good work.
3. What do the job market, viral LinkedIn posts, and quiet quitting have in common? – new podcast with Devin Bramhall and Margaret Kelsey with some spicy takes (love Devin’s take on ‘playbooks’)