Since publishing Recruit the Dream Team: The Content Marketing Hiring Handbook, most companies have given us exceptional feedback. Things like thank you for painting a picture of the realistic state of content marketing. And great job with the original research and reporting.

But a few have questioned how realistic the data is to support their companies. Such is the case for a content operation of a global corporation that provides internet services. A friend wrote to Kapost:

“…in the future you may also want to write about how to create a Content Marketing team from resources within an existing organization. Again, this is a good blueprint for a brand new program; but most companies already have many of these resources in house, and need to focus on re-dedicating staff and aiming people in slightly different directions. It becomes complicated with reporting structures, and budget and resource allocations. What you present is an awesome idealized vision; and is probably an easy way for smaller companies to go (who are probably your target market); but in larger companies it may be a bit of a different story.”

It’s valuable feedback. And I realized it’s something I want to discuss in further detail. So I’m writing this post as an alternative option for companies that want a content marketing operation, but don’t have the necessary budget or people to complete their Dream Team.

No Money, No Problem.

As Ann Handley of MarketingProfs says, no two content operations are the same.

A fully fledged content “team” can seem like a lofty idea, which does require significant money and resource investments. An average salary for a mid-level content employee is roughly $60,000, plus marketing automation and content marketing softwares which can add another couple thousand dollars per month (e.g. Marketo’s marketing automation standard package starts at $1,795, plus content software like Kapost’s which starts at $1,000 per month).

Average salaries for content marketing jobs

That’s close to $100,000 yearly out of the gate.

Tell that to your boss, and don’t expect an eager response.

Instead of being the captain of a full-fledged content team, you may find yourself struggling to manage your content goals and contributors—or in the same boat as 55% of companies that simply don’t have the resources to produce enough content in today’s digital marketing ecosystem.

Content directors become managers of disjointed, contracted writers aiming to produce a mountain of videos, infographics, blog posts, eBooks, and whitepapers.

And the focus shifts from managing a nicely kept “content team,” to rigging a functioning “content operation.”

building an internal content operation from existing resources

Where do you go? What do you do? There are four key steps you have to take to oil your content operation rig.

  • Step 1: Develop Your Editorial Board
  • Step 2: Recruit Internal Contributors From Departments
  • Step 3: Put Your Calendar Together
  • Step 4: Hire Freelancers

We’ll walk you through each of these steps.

Step 1: Develop Your Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of thought leaders and representatives from each department in your organization (sales, PR, customer service, product, engineering, etc). Gather this group on a quarterly basis to decide upon key themes and initiatives, map out your campaign calendar, plan the production of major content assets, and coordinate distribution efforts to be synchronized across your content contributors (both internal and freelance).

The board actively deconstructs the walls, or “silos,” between the departments, opening doors for internal communication and providing a forum for discussion to make your content operations increasingly successful, useful, and revenue-generating.

It’s important that the board remains open and transparent during these conversations. This will keep the content you produce (for the next full quarter) functionally relevant to your business objectives.

For instance, a sales person in the shipping industry may suggest that he needs better collateral to educate people on international shipping duties. This talking point could spur an idea to build an eBook or infographic that visually conveys international shipping duties in a delightful and user-friendly way.

How Do I Do That?

Invite at least one rep from each stage in your sales funnel to the editorial board. Seek higher-level employees who are decision makers for their respective teams. These higher-ups often have a more complete vision of their teams’ needs, crucial steps in the buyer’s journey, and can offer strategic vision into which types of content are going to compel readers to become buyers.

These members shape the external view of your brand, personality, and marketing strategy—make sure they know they’ve been chosen because of their insights to be a part of the strategic foundation.

A more in-depth article about how to construct a killer editorial board can be accessed here.

Step 2: Recruit Internal Contributors from Departments

Freelance writers and designers are beneficial for meeting content needs on an executional basis, but internal contributors know the objectives and goals of the organization more intimately. They can generate content ideas and produce content assets that align seamlessly with overarching business targets.

How Do I That?

Content is like the handshake between your brand and important influencers or potential customers. It’s important that you make a good impression.

  • Look for existing staff who’ve expressed interest in building your brand. People who are naturally good at networking events, or someone who describes themselves as a “people” person, tend to be a good fit.
  • They should have a good knack for writing. There’s nothing more time-consuming than editing someone’s writing who has trouble communicating their ideas. It can be frustrating, wasteful of two people’s time, and often doesn’t drive the engagement or returns that revenue marketers are accountable for.

Step 3: Put Your Calendar Together

Okay, so you have internal people signed up for the job. But, whoa cowboy, don’t put the cart before the horse! Before you set your internal contributors loose with tasks, as Kapost’s content marketing manager Liz O’Neill says: “Schedule your sh*t.

A.k.a., put your agenda down on a calendar.

Here’s an example of a Kapost editorial calendar:

There are several resources that can help this process. Obviously, we use Kapost to manage our content. It integrates ideation, planning, production, distribution, promotion, and analytics in one tool.

But other tools can also help: Excel files, a Google calendar, 37 Signals, are all viable options.

Why Use an Editorial Calendar?

The editorial calendar is the vehicle through which ideas become actual content. It’s the vehicle for execution. Between the editorial board (which is instrumental in the ideation phase) and the editorial calendar (which is essential for the planning stage) all you have left to do is execute.

The editorial calendar:

  • Keeps contributors aligned
  • Publicly organizes deadlines, release dates, and production calendars
  • Ensures contributor accountability
  • Helps the managing editor keep track of what is coming out when
  • Serves as a project management tool

Step 4: Okay, Now You’re Ready to Hire Freelancers

Find the gaps in execution workload for the content production you’ve mapped in your editorial calendar, and fill those needs with external writers and designers, and then assess whether your budget can effectively stretch to meet those goals.

Use the chart below as a potential reference tool (based on Kapost internal content production):

how-many-people-will-i-need.jpg

Where Do I Hire Freelancers?

There are several resources for hiring freelance writers, and what to pay them. Here are a few of the places we recommend starting the search:

  • The Content Marketing Academy: A rich, diverse, and huge group of content marketers on LinkedIn.
  • Elance: An online community of freelancers and contractors in a variety of industries. There are currently 260,583 freelance writers in the network, and 173,689 designers. You can post a job for free, and then people bid on your project.
  • oDesk: Similar to Elance. To be honest, I’ve used this one less. But at quick glance it looks like it’s a similar set-up of free job posts, and contractors bidding on projects.
  • Personal Recommendations: This is the probably the best option. Find people in the industry to recommend freelance writers and contractors. If you already know the person, the chances that you can set up a longer-term situation is more realistic.

We’re Done. Phew, That Was a Lot.

If you’re still reading this, thanks for sticking with me. It’s not easy putting together a content operation. But it’s possible, and a necessary piece if you want to see success. Hopefully, this gives you the tools to make a functional content operation without hiring an entirely new team of people.

There are a lot of things that we didn’t get to cover, like the logistics in execution strategies, and how to track your content analytics to prove to your boss that you’re driving revenue.