As the practice of content marketing matures, the needs, concerns, and challenges of content teams are changing. 

Fewer marketing teams are asking themselves, “How can we start producing content consistently?” Instead, the question of the day seems to be, “Now that we’ve got it working, how do we scale this whole content thing?” 

It’s a thorny question because there are issues of reuse, governance, and strategic alignment that crop up at scale. These are issues that enterprise-level content teams have to tackle in addition to pre-existing challenges around content production, quality, and multi-media requirements. 

Agile content marketing is an ideal approach for managing all phases of content marketing, and when combined with a content operation it becomes a powerful tool for overcoming the challenges of scaling content across the enterprise. 

We’re going to start by mapping how well the structure and objectives of a content operation align with those of Agile content marketing, and then we’ll walk through the steps you need to take to implement an Agile content operation inside your organization. 

Content Operations and Agile Marketing: A Beautiful Friendship 

First of all, a content operation is more than just a bigger team or group of teams. It’s a set of processes that supports teams, tools, and channels.

Agile marketing, likewise, is far more than a faster way of getting things done. It’s a collection of roles and ceremonies that fundamentally changes how we approach content marketing execution. 

Both approaches are typically change-intensive, which is actually a great thing for teams who are after significant improvement in their content marketing effectiveness. Continuing to follow the same path isn’t going to take you somewhere new; serious change is the only route to better results.

Second, a content operation holds no authority of its own but is instead guided by the authority of teams working within it. It’s a way for teams to work together so they can be more successful: the needed response to the growing, unaddressed complexity of the digital marketing era. 

Agile is also heavily reliant on team authority to succeed. A core Agile tenet is that the team members actually doing the work are far better at planning it than managers or directors who are disconnected from the day-to-day process. 

The goal of the Agile content operation is to deliver a scalable, repeatable process for content creation and management, one that the team owns and optimizes over time. 

Step 1: Create a Content Ops Team and Choose a Methodology

Now that we’ve covered a bit of the “why” behind an Agile content operation let’s get specific about the “what” and “how.” 

The first step in creating your own Agile content operation is to establish a content operations team and select an Agile methodology. 

Creating a Content Ops Team

A content ops team drives the implementation and adoption of content marketing best practices across multiple business units within the enterprise to ensure consistency across the organization. 

At first glance, it may seem odd to devote employee time to this type of activity, but doing so unburdens content creators, distributors, and consumers from content management. The operations team can process audits, educate internal teams on content management best practices, and make sure that the content strategy is being carried out effectively across the organization. 

Of course, a content operation can exist without a team managing it. The key to scaling effectively without an ops team is to develop processes that support coordination and collaboration across marketing functions. 

Choosing Your Agile Methodology

If you opt out of a content ops team, you’ll want to make sure that your chosen Agile methodology is designed to foster in-depth inter-team communication. 

There are two common options for achieving this:

  1. A single large Kanban or Scrumban team: These two methodologies are less prescriptive than Scrum, meaning marketing teams can adopt them without making painful changes to their current workflows. They also work well in large groups of 9 or more, but can also be applied to multiple mid-sized teams if that arrangement turns out to be more effective.  
  2. Multiple Scrum teams: If your department consists of content teams who collaborate on particular types of content — lead generation vs. customer acquisition content, for example — then creating several distinct Scrum teams may be your best approach for encouraging communication and collaboration across team lines. 

(The particulars of these methodologies are outside of what we’re covering today, but I’ve previously covered Kanban, Scrumban, and Scrum elsewhere.) 

Agile methods alone can provide some of the benefits of a content operations function, but the maximum benefit comes from doing both. 

Step 2: Determine Scope and Team Makeup

In addition to the decisions about content operations and Agile methodology, your department needs to determine will be involved with the initial implementation and scalability and how the initial set of processes will be scaled across teams, functions, and business units. 

The scope should be defined across three dimensions: functions or teams, tools, channels. 

Will all of your teams fall immediately under the content operation, or will you start with a sub-set and expand over time? Perhaps you’ll only manage particular channels in the early days and then grow. 

These plans should include time for training and educating your content team in their chosen Agile methodology so the expansion can proceed without disrupting their workflow. 

Finally, the definition of scope should also include executive sponsors (the leaders of the included functions or teams) to clarify that all the members of those teams and all the content they create will be within the company’s content operations. 

Executive sponsorship is also crucial during the early days of an Agile adoption because the team needs to be empowered to say “no” or “not yet” when they are interrupted or asked to forgo their Agile process to meet an “emergency” need. 

Step 3: What work will you do?

Once you’ve decided how to manage your initial role out and future scaling objectives, it’s time to get to work. 

Being deliberate about how you plan and execute content is a vital part of a successful content operation. Taking it a step further and mapping each phase of content marketing work to the corresponding Agile role will create ownership on the team and clear the lines of communication with managers and above. 

In a content operation, marketing work is divided like this:

The highest level of the container is an initiative, which represents a major marketing priority, project, or theme at the leadership level. When an initiative is approved, it becomes the “container” for the work needed to fulfill that initiative. 

Here’s an example initiative:

Type: Microsite launch

Name: Securita Mobile Security Help Center

Business Unit: Mobile Security

Target persona: IT professional

Deliverables and deadlines: 

  • 1 updated IT persona brief – MM/DD/YY
  • 1 content pillar – mm/dd/yy
  • 1 microsite – mm/dd/yy

Goals:

  • Engage the IT persona
  • 5% site conversion, visitor to lead
  • 2,000 MQLs by mm/dd/yy

As you can see, some example initiative attributes include initiative types, initiative name, business unit, target persona, deliverables, deadlines, and goals. 

One of these components is the initiative type, which can be anything from an event to a website refresh — any major marketing activity that is often done. For example:

  • Thought leadership
  • Market research
  • Product launch
  • Event
  • Webinar
  • Website/Microsite launch
  • Sales enablement

These can all be sized and templatizing to facilitate estimating and planning on an Agile team. This makes it easier for the team to budget time and resources necessary to deliver an initiative on time via their chosen Agile marketing methodology. 

Each initiative will be executed using various tactics, such as blog posts, ebooks, or emails. 

Everything up to this point is likely chosen and defined by management and marketing executives. But, in an Agile content operation, when it comes time to choose the tasks — the way that work will actually get done — the content team takes control. 

The people responsible for producing content can best identify how the tactics will get done, and it should be their right and responsibility to do so. An Agile content operation not only allows them to take this high level of ownership in their work, it demands that they do so. 

Operationalize Your Content to Scale Effectively

Expanding the scope of content across the enterprise can be complex, but the benefits make it well worth the effort. 

Driving towards the implementation of an Agile content operation can expand both content and Agile thinking broadly across a marketing organization, creating serious potential for growth in both the short and long term. 

Andrea Fryrear

About Andrea Fryrear

Andrea is the president and lead trainer at AgileSherpas, a training, education, and consulting company designed to help marketing teams transform their work from frantic to fantastic. Her most recent book, Death of a Marketer, chronicles marketing’s troubled past and the steps it must take to claim a more Agile future. She geeks out on all things agile and content @andreafryrear.