Managing Your Content Program: The Importance of Saying No

One of the biggest pitfalls for content teams and their managers is the temptation to say yes to almost every request.

It happens all the time. The meeting you just attended generated four compelling ideas that do not feature in your quarterly plan. The sales team called you this morning for an updated series of pull sheets. The influencer you reached out to you last week actually got back in touch and is available for a phone interview tomorrow. 

Content creates a momentum of its own. It's an ever-renewing fountain of ideas and requests. At the same time you are keenly aware that you need to stay focused on the plan at hand, the one that was agreed to by the team and signed off by you earlier this month. The content schedule is two titles behind as of this morning. And the infographic/social promotion that you discussed with your team last week. Why is your Facebook feed empty? 


If you want to run a tight content ship, learn to say no.

If you want to run a tight content ship, learn to say no.

As the head of a content team, what you need more than anything isn't more time or more resources but discipline. The discipline to stick to the fundamentals of your plan and not be blown off course. The discipline to assess requests for new projects in a firm but measured way. And the discipline to communicate your decisions authoritatively.   

Demonstrating discipline does not mean saying no to everything that isn't in plan, but it does mean adopting a hard-headed approach to your team and its resources. Here are some pointers to keep in mind as you steer forth the good ship content:   

1. Your content plan is your lodestar - Refer back to your documented content marketing plan on a regular basis. What's the point of having an agreed strategy if you don't frequently remind yourself what you are striving to achieve. Your plan will put the firehose of incoming requests into a steadier perspective.

2. Have an agreed process for assessing requests - Don't agree or decline requests in the moment. Instead devise a process for assessing content-related inquiries, and clearly communicate that process across the relevant stakeholders in your organization. It's always good to outline rules and define boundaries. Frame your process as a service level agreement to gain maximum internal buy-in.

3. Be agile in your team handling - Plans and processes are necessary for the operation of your content program, but don't allow them to suck the oxygen out of your team. Being agile is a core element of commercial and creative practice. Meet with your team and associated stakeholders regularly to review progress against plan and make adjustments as you go. Put aside anything that stands in the way of meeting your business goals. 

Plans and processes are necessary for the operation of your content program, but don’t allow them to suck the oxygen out of your team.

4. Differentiate between content marketing projects and content collateral work - Working on a pull sheet for the sales team is different than working on video creative aimed at your target audience. One will directly focus on your company's product and services, the other likely won't. Consider different ways of handling these various content projects at the team level. You might adopt a rotation system, or instead maintain a clear blue line between the different formats. Either way you need a protocol in place that your team fully understands. It will help maintain a healthy balance in your team, and build resilience during pressured times when jobs need turning around quickly. 

5. Remember less is more - This doesn't mean do the minimum. Create with gusto, but don't make more than you need. Pull back in the final stretch, and redirect your editorial skills to honing the content piece or series in question. Sprawling projects tend not to win favor with audiences. Strong editing is a virtue.

Keep these pointers in mind when directing your content team and managing external expectations. Running a tight ship makes for the best sailors.