Henry Ford’s first UK assembly line opened in Greater Manchester in 1913.
In its first year, the Ford Traffic Park Factory produced just 7,310 cars.
During those early days “...teams of workers assembled automobiles atop sawhorses, rotating from one station to another, doing their part to bring the vehicle together.” While the deliveries of parts “often ran late causing pile-ups of workers vying for space and delays in production.”
Production was slow, very slow.
However, taking inspiration from brewers and steel makers at the time, Ford was soon able to introduce the world’s first moving assembly line for mass production of cars at his Michigan plant that very same year.
On October 7th 1913, “140 assemblers workers were stationed along a 150-foot line and they installed parts on the chassis as it was dragged across the floor by the winch.”
This was a huge step for the industry. Ford had successfully reduced the man hours it took to build a car from twelve hours, to just ninety minutes.
And the rest is history.
GREASE THE WHEELS
Manufacturers have consistently demonstrated dogged innovation when it comes to streamlining production. Squeezing processes, playing with ideas — searching for new formulas, all the while maintaining that all-important quality guarantee.
However, many of the delays and difficulties that production line workers faced over a century ago, still plague content marketing teams today.
Last year, Content Marketing Institute reported that almost half (48%) of businesses say revenue growth was hurt because they could not deliver quality content fast enough.
Slow turnarounds, missed deadlines and old school approaches all add up to more man hours for diminished returns. Only when we look at the creation and distribution of content with a progressive stance can we remove drag and slicken the process.
Effective content marketing is the sum of not only collaboration, but smart collaboration.
We need to be constantly reinventing our moving assembly lines—greasing the wheels, reducing faff and breaking bottle necks.
BRIEF, NOT BAFFLING
Like Ford’s assembly line, every aspect of your content workflow should be designed to move in one steady direction towards the same end goal.
However, with pressure growing on brands to increase their content volume, the planning and strategy that’s so critical to effective content marketing can often go neglected, or even AWOL if you’re not careful.
Ambiguous strategies and vague briefs can stunt content progression before the content even hits the factory floor. Which is why, as an agency, we put huge onus on these early stages.
The reasoning and purpose behind the project needs to be crystal clear before we start pulling the winch. If we’re unsure what something means, we’ll question it. If we think something could be done better, we’ll challenge it.
There’s literally no point moving forward with a piece of content until adequate time and thought has been put into its purpose. Otherwise you’re liable to find yourself halfway down the production line before you realise there’s a problem.
The brief is where the context comes from.
It’s the springboard from which you can begin allocating specific tasks to specific people, build a realistic delivery plan and ensure everyone is moving in one direction.
GET WITH THE PROGRAMME
The content assembly line will grind to a halt when management and communication breaks down between team members.
As well as understanding their role within the wider project, each person should be aware of when each task needs completing and able to execute handovers smoothly.
If you want to streamline your workflow, you need to find the tools that will help your team to not only work faster, but smarter as well. Plugged in marketers use technology to drive sophisticated collaboration and optimise their approach to content production.
Project management tools
Alongside a detailed delivery plan, content teams should be utilising project management tools to visibly log, track, and monitor project activity.
Popular platforms like Asana, JIRA and DoInbound all have their own perks and quirks. However the fundamental reasons for their existence remain the same. Transparent communication, seamless handovers and accountability all help to keep everyone in the loop and on-course to hit deadlines.
Use one of these tools consistently, and you’ll build repeatable processes that can be broken down into individual tasks. These tasks can then be quickly and easily assigned to team members in future.
Sure, email serves its purpose, but it goes wanting a lot of the time and definitely isn’t the most agile mode of communication. Marketers are instead turning to instant messaging tools when working on collaborative projects.
Apps such as Slack, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger allow for project-based chats to be separated into groups, all based in one easily accessible and navigable platform.
No more getting your wires crossed. No more desperately ransacking your inbox for that email you can’t find. These platforms minimise time spent messaging people, and maximise time creating content gold.
THE FEEDBACK PROBLEM
One hurdle we’ve consistently faced during the content creation process is pushing through the feedback and approval. And it seems this is extremely common among content marketers, with 92% confessing it to be a recurring problem.
You may be on course to hit your launch date, but a lack of urgency and direction during the feedback stage can stop you dead in your tracks.
Ever heard of too many cooks? More pairs of eyes doesn’t necessarily equate to better quality content. If ample research and preparation has gone into the content, chances are the document won’t need a complete overhaul.
We try to limit the number of reviewers and allocate the task of ‘final approval’ to one person to save confusion later down the line.
Once that person gives the green light, you’re good to go!
The Content Marketing Institute also suggest a bunch of other actionable solutions to feedback roadblocks:
Create a feedback template: Outline exactly who is going to receive the document, as well as how and when it is going to be reviewed, before you share it.
Reduce rounds: You may want your content to be perfect, but if it’s been reviewed and revised more than three times you have to question whether it was quality to begin with...
Get commitments on deadlines: Take reviewers from passive ‘casual observers’ to active participants by getting their promise early on to review the content to a deadline.
Educate reviewers on consequences: Keep reviewers clear on the context of their role in your overall content workflow. What are the knock on effects of their inaction?
Enable specific feedback: Vague and ambiguous suggestions such as “I don’t like the layout” can have you going round in circles. Especially when it comes to design.
You can also reduce bloat by showing people how to review more efficiently.
Sending changes across in an email takes time, and context doesn’t always translate well when the recipient is forced to flit back and forth between feedback and document.
Reviewing a PDF? Get them to use software like Adobe Reader, where you can tag comments directly inside the document.
Reviewing a copy document? Share it in Google Docs. It offers a number of useful collaborative feedback tools such as the ‘Suggesting’ function, which allows people to make recommendations without disrupting the original version.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
The future of the manufacturing industry appears to be automated. Much is the same for marketing too. But, for now anyway, machines cannot create content in the way humans can. The creativity isn’t there. Neither is the heart.
Content marketing teams must look for solutions to content workflow bottlenecks and breakdowns, adapting the assembly line to facilitate hassle-free co-creation. And it all starts when we begin to dabble in new techniques, scrutinise our processes and utilise technology where it makes most sense.
So, whether you’re in the office, or working your magic from a beach hut in the Maldives (I wish), there’s no reason for content quality and delivery to self-implode.