4 Ways to Use Data to Better Understand Your Content Production Process

And you already understand the value of tracking, measuring, and making decisions based on data. “We should all probably spend more time focusing on the time-investment-to-results aspect of content creation,” Todd says. You may need to go to each person involved in the production process and ask questions to understand every corner of a project. Now that you understand the time involved in content production, track it for even more reliable numbers. “But there’s a more direct benefit of tracking your time … When you know what steps are required to produce an e-book, for instance, and you know how long each step takes, you suddenly have reliable data for planning and forecasting your work. Quantitative data might tell you the true cost of a project wasn’t worth it, but emails and IMs can tell you why. While Jordan may be speaking about marketing analytics, the principle is the same for content marketers and their work data. A single tool, or at least fewer tools, from which you draw data will give you more power so you can speak with confidence about what you’re working on, how long it will take, and whether or not you can take on a new project. When you have irrefutable data on the time and resources required to produce content, you can answer with confidence next time your boss asks for a projection on a new blog post or video. And that makes it worth the extra effort to collect and analyze that data about your content production process.

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data-content-production-process

“When can you get started on that blog post?”

“When will you have that e-book done?”

If you’re like many content creators, these questions can bring on an outbreak of cold sweat, an uneasy feeling in your gut, or even a full-blown panic attack. But why?

It’s not like you’re a newbie to the production process. And you already understand the value of tracking, measuring, and making decisions based on data. But for some reason, you haven’t connected the two to become more disciplined and deliberate in your content production.

Todd Patton, content marketing manager at Branch Metrics in Palo Alto, admits:

As content creators, we are very results-focused. I’d much rather go to my boss and report that we acquired 100 MQLs from a certain e-book than how long it took me to put that e-book together.”

Unfortunately, your tendency to avoid your content creation data leaves you unable to forecast how long work will take and when it will be delivered, and unable to accurately measure the cost and value of the content you produce.

“We should all probably spend more time focusing on the time-investment-to-results aspect of content creation,” Todd says. “If it takes me three weeks to put together a 10,000-word blog, and it only gets a handful of views, there is probably something wrong.”

While content marketers have taken huge strides in measuring the efficacy of their content, they haven’t invested enough in measuring the time and resources it takes to produce that content. That lack of data leaves content marketers helpless in justifying new resources, proving the ROI of their time, and pushing back against unrealistic requests.

Fortunately, you can know what your content really requires by making these four key changes.

1. Stop ‘guesstimating’

You say you don’t need no stinking metrics to tell how long work takes. After all, you spend hours a day, five days a week, neck deep in the world of content production. Who else is more qualified to estimate how long an e-book, blog post, or sales email will take or how many resources it will consume?

Except that you — yes, even you, the seasoned content marketing professional — are bound to underestimate your numbers. We all do it, often subconsciously and sometimes deliberately, to make ourselves look better. Sometimes we underestimate our time because we don’t fully understand or consider every step of our workflow.

Megan Maybee, a content marketing strategist at Salt Lake City-based ThomasARTS, recalls:

When I worked in-house and had limited resources, it always surprised me how long a project would take. Something simple like creating a social contest had so many elements from design and writing, to compliance and legal review. There were a couple times I didn’t give myself enough time and then it was a huge scramble.

How do you avoid costly guesstimating errors? It starts with knowing your workflow, every little step involved in executing each type of content. You may need to go to each person involved in the production process and ask questions to understand every corner of a project.

As Brett Harned, writer at TeamGantt, explains:

Remember: it’s better to admit what you don’t know and ask questions. Doing so gives you an opportunity to connect with your team on an individual level, and it will help you to understand the inner workings of your projects. After all, figuring out the steps one person takes to create a deliverable will work wonders in helping you calculate a true estimate.

This change could include documenting and accounting for every brainstorm, every outline, every draft, every proofreading session, every round of review and approval, and every step…

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