How to run a seamless, blended written and video content strategy
Running a content strategy isn't like a website redesign project with a defined beginning and end. You are in charge of a machine that never turns off, never stops, and never skips a beat. So, how do you do it?
Now... sigh, it's so much more difficult, isn't it?
Once or twice a week with your business blogging isn't going to cut it. If you really want a diverse enough cross-section of assignment selling and traffic-generating content to hit your goals, you need to be more in the neighborhood of three to four blog articles per week.
Oh, and on top of that, you now need to have a video content strategy to move your digital sales and marketing goals forward — a video strategy where you're filming two to three of the right results-driving videos per week.
Is anyone else exhausted after reading that? Or is it just me?
Still, we pulled ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps and did what we thought we were supposed to do. It's not like we could say no to increased content velocity and adding video into the mix, right?
So, we tried to climb two mountains at once
What I mean by that is we tried to run a written content strategy and a video content strategy with two completely separate tracks of ideation, development, and production. I know this, because I tried to do that. And I know plenty of other folks at agencies and operating as in-house content managers who tried to do the same.
What else were we supposed to do, right?
Written content and video content are two different mediums, with two very different processes, outcomes, and modes of creation. By definition, they had to be separate. They were two different mountains we had to climb.
Two mountains we had to climb with two different destinations at the same time. But, just like real life, you can't do that. You can't physically climb two different mountains at the same time.
In the world of content strategy, at first it can seem like you can climb to mountains in parallel. You can be devising your map to climb up your written content mountain and your video content mountain at the same time. But, after awhile, that illusion of that being possible is replaced by the reality of how painful it is to execute those two strategies as if a firewall exists between them.
Again, I'm exhausted just having written that and now re-reading it before I move onto my next thought. I think we all are.
Then, earlier this year, as we began to assemble our own revenue team here at IMPACT, I was tasked with making written and video content magic at the same time. And by "magic," I mean I was tasked with developing a well-oiled, seamless content production machine that churned out the written and video content we needed on a weekly basis to drive our own traffic, leads, and sales. (That's right, folks. We have our own business to grow, too.)
👉 What is a revenue team?
A revenue team meets weekly and is made up of key players from your sales and marketing teams within a company. All activities, regardless of individual roles, will be centered around the shared goal of increasing company revenue. Based on the most pressing questions of their ideal buyers, this team will develop and execute a strategy of content to be used in the sales process that will increase close rates. (Learn more.)
At first, I started at two mountains just like I always did, wondering how I was going to do it this time without wanting to hurl myself, body and soul, into the void. Then, as we devoted ourselves further to the revenue team content brainstorm process, I saw I had been looking at it all wrong.
I didn't need to climb two mountains. I only needed to climb one.
In fact, there was a way to run a holistic, seamless content strategy comprised of written and video outputs that would make my life so much easier.
How my content strategy works (at a glance)
At a high level, my process for developing and executing a blended written and video content strategy has three phases:
Here's the short version of what each stage entails:
Brainstorming includes the entire revenue team, with the goal of coming away with a prioritized list of content needs, both written and video.
Planning includes the content team (written and video), with the goal to set content calendars for written and video, as well as content-specific strategies (featured snippet, keyword focus, who is the SME, and so on). This stage also provides leadership visibility into the strategy.
Finally, production involves the content team and all content contributors, which is when the video and written content gets created and published.
Now, let's unpack each stage in greater detail.
Step 1. Facilitate recurring content brainstorms
It all begins with the revenue content brainstorm...
First, suggestions are entered with the following information— the topic phrased as a question in the words of the buyer; whether or not they want it as a blog article, a video, or both; who is making the request from sales; their ideal subject matter expert to address the topic; and why the topic is being requested.
Next, sales team members can denote priority by "upvoting" topics, and the spreadsheet will automatically sort the topics with the highest votes to the top!
I also made it so the color updates based on status:
Facilitating this medium-agnostic content brainstorming session is the beating heart of how to run a seamless written and video content strategy.
I walk away from this knowing the precise direction we need to follow with all of our content, without having to run two different brainstorming and/or planning sessions that operate independently of one another.
It makes sense, right? Why would you need to develop two completely separate strategies for written and video? They're simply two different mediums for communicating to the same audience against the same needs.
As a note, these brainstorms occur once every other week (at minimum), which is then followed almost immediately by the next phase.
Step 2. I create our plan of (content) attack
Once I've gathered all of the input I need from the revenue team of what their assignment selling content needs are, I move onto the planning phase.
In this stage, I sit down and create our editorial calendar using our content calendar master planning tool:
This strategy unites the primary strategy (written content), video strategy, a backlog of previously published content that needs to be updated (historic optimization), and a backlog tab you can duplicate by service for ideas as they come up.
The reason I don't operate out of the revenue team sales content brainstorming tool is for a few reasons:
The purpose of that tool is to empower the sales team to easily (and without a lot of distraction or clutter) offer up the content they need to close deals faster. They don't need a tool that also has loads of columns about things I care about like featured snippets, target keywords, guidance videos for writers, and so on.
Then there are the leadership folks I work with. They need to understand what content is being produced and when, but they don’t want to have to dig for that information. They need the most essential information available to them without having to ask, and it should be intuitive. My "single source of truth" content calendar, which brings together the written and video content strategy (along with all of my strategic direction), gives them that.
Once I have all of my strategic details set, I then move onto the final phase.
Step 3. We produce all of the content goodness
Now it's time to magic all of the content a reality...
Now, this is where I created a divergence in how the content is handled, and it should be obvious why. Although the topics may be the same in some cases, the means, processes, and timelines of production for written and video content are fundamentally different, as are the stakeholders involved.
So, for the production step alone, I created two parallel Trello boards that govern the production process for each, as I've shared with you in the past:
Trying to manage these processes within a single spreadsheet would be absolute madness. (I know, I've tried it.) While it sounds counter-intuitive, breaking the content strategy for written and video across different tools and platforms — particularly in the production stage — actually makes everything more efficient and focused.
I'm not trapped trying to make one mystical, overly-complex spreadsheet or tool be the solution everyone is looking for to serve their needs. And my content and video specialists have their specific pipelines for content production that reinforce best practices and support custom processes and production stages.
The day-to-day tasks and back-and-forth that occurs during production and within Trello are things that my leadership and sales counterparts don't care about. All they care about is that overview they see within that content calendar view:
The video strategy overview tab in the content strategy master is much simpler. Unlike written content, which requires a lot of upfront planning before it goes into production, the view here is just a place for everyone to see the priority in which things are being worked on.
In addition, I also created a column for a very, very high-level status of each video (the Trello board has 18 different status lanes, by comparison), and the link out to the individual Trello card, if they want more information.
For example, I care about the difference between a video that's been filmed and not yet being edited, as well as where a video might be in the three different phases of review and approval, post-filming. My bosses, however, just want to know if a video project has begun, been filmed, or published.
An unexpected benefit with script-writing
Now, let's say you have a piece of content that gets requested as both a written article and a video from the sales team. Immediately, you might be thinking:
"Well, Liz, it's great that the idea for this content came out of the same single brainstorm, but you're still going to have to create the content for the same topic in parallel twice — once for video and once for the blog, right? It's still double the effort."
The unexpected benefit of this whole "in tandem" written and video content strategy process is that, by the very nature of how the pipeline is structured, the blog article is often written and completed before we get to filming by about a week or so.
So, here's how we handle it:
The article and the video are requested at the same time.
The article gets written first, because we're still usually about a week or so behind with video, because the process is a bit longer.
We go ahead and publish the finished article without the video. (That way sales can go ahead and start using the piece.)
Because we know sales (and the expert we consulted with to create the piece) is happy with the written content, we then adapt the blog article into the video script, instead of starting from scratch, using our video script template.
Then, once the video is ready, we'll add it to the article and release it to the sales team for immediate use.
That article originally without that video in place. And although it was probably the longest video we filmed (at around 12 minutes in total), it took me less than an hour to pull the script together, because the most of the heavy-lifting had already been done. I was just coming in and repurposing content, which is way, way easier than writing something from scratch.
So, although I get two forms of content out of the same topic — a blog and a video — I really only needed to go through the something-from-nothing creation process for content one time.
How to make sure your videos always get filmed
I work closely with our director of brand video production, Alex Winter, to make these videos happen. To be frank, at the time I'm writing this, we're still in the throes of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which means:
We don't have access to the large pool of IMPACT employees we usually do for filming, since the vast majority of folks aren't coming into the office.
Alex and I are the only ones available on a regular basis to guarantee we hit our weekly goal of filming three videos.
With all of this on my plate, in addition to the added complexities the pandemic has presented, it would be very easy for me to throw my hands up and say, "Nah, we're way too busy to make this happen."
That's not an option for me, and it shouldn't be for you either.
So, here's how Alex and I solved for that problem:
I booked a recurring weekly invite for Alex and I to both be in the office for two hours every Tuesday for filming.
The rule is simple — that weekly block can never be canceled. It can only be rescheduled.
We told everyone that's how it was going to be, going forward, and to never, ever ask to move that filming block.
Even though the world is on fire (literally and figuratively), we've been able to stick to this cadence for close to 12 weeks, and have produced almost 40 videos in that time from our content strategy.
And we have a total blast doing it!
Also, not liking being on camera is not an excuse. I used to hate it, and now I'm one of our YouTube stars. To be honest, while I still find it to be a very "humbling" experience to have to choose thumbnails for my own videos, I actually really look forward to filming now and am proud that I get to be a part of it.
The moral of the story here is that you can still make your video production happen. But you need to get creative and make it a priority, even if your human resources are slim to none. No excuses, OK?
It's all about your tools and your processes
I'll be honest, sometimes it will feel as if you're building the boat as you're trying to sail it, as we like to say at IMPACT. That's why I want you to remember one critical thing that will be the key to your success with your content strategy, no matter how simple or complex it may be.
You are only as strong and effective as your processes and tools. As the person who oversees the content production for your company, you must realize that many around you will never know how complex, demanding, and administration-heavy your job can be.
The development and execution of a content strategy isn't like a traditional website redesign project with a defined beginning and end. You are in charge of a machine that never turns off, never stops, and never skips a beat.
So, how do you do it?
You must obsess equally over the strength, health, and precision of your processes and tools as you would with the quality of the content that you produce. Remember, success with a content strategy isn't getting it right once. It's about getting it right over and over.
It's about understanding your role is so much more than being able to be a great storyteller, writer, editor, interviewer, and so on. You need to know how to design, implement, govern, and adapt systems, more than anything else.