Brittney Sheffield / Digital Marketing / December 1st, 2014

How to Create Content By Committee

Creating quality content is a tall order; the order gets taller when content must meet the needs of several stakeholders within your organization. But let’s face it, content by committee is something all marketers, website owners and writers have to deal with quite often. Adding cooks to the content kitchen can be a challenge to start, but once you’ve streamlined the content-by-committee process, you can see powerful results.

Prep Talk

640px-Mirepoix_on_cutting_boardAny time I’m creating new content at 352 – whether it’s an internal piece or content for a client – I always take time to answer some basic questions. If you’re creating a small piece of content (like a Tweet), this process may only take you a couple of minutes. Larger content pieces, like website copy, will require a more intensive conversation, and it should. That’s not to say that your social strategy should be rushed, but the magnitude of your content effort should determine its preparation. Regardless of the effort necessary to write the content you’re creating, answering these questions is always a valuable part of the process.

  1. What are we trying to accomplish with this piece, and what do we want readers to do after they read it?
  2. Who is the audience?
  3. How much time and effort do we want to spend on this? And how much time is too much?
  4. Who owns this piece of content?

That last part is critical.

Establish an Owner

It’s rarely successful to gather a large group of people in one room to write content as a collective. Instead you should establish one person who will be the primary content owner. You should count on the owner to do these things:

  1. Write the majority of the content, including the initial copy.
  2. Take the group’s feedback and translate that into copy edits.
  3. Have final authority if there is a disagreement among the group.

For that third point, this doesn’t mean the owner is the final check point before the content goes to press (in fact you at least need another copy editor to check over your writer’s work), this just means that if the process starts to get sloppy then the owner has the authority to settle a debate about general content direction.

If you’re a team working with a client or a client working with an agency, it’s best to establish one client-side person to deliver feedback to the agency: having too many hands in the creation process can be a nuisance; too many hands in editing and revisions can derail a project quickly.

Use the Right Tools

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Our preferred tool for collaborative editing is Google Docs, particularly when there are more than two people working on a content committee. Google Docs allows you to edit in real time and see other people’s comments about the content. It also helps prevent conflicts (and headaches) that occur when you pass a document back and forth via email.

Get Comfortable Identifying When the System is Broken 

It can be awkward to call out an entire group for a lack of efficiency, but it’s an incredibly important part of the content by committee process. If there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and the process is failing, don’t be afraid to say, “This isn’t working.”

If your team hits a wall, try to narrow down the number of people giving feedback about the content. You should also pause feedback if this occurs and let the main content owner spend some time writing based on the feedback he or she has received so far. Once the owner feels like it’s in a good place the team can jump back in your Google Doc and take another look.

What processes have you put into place to streamline content by committee? Let me know what I’m missing out on in the comments.

Image credit: Pigup CC BY-SA 3.0

  • Jennifer Fix

    Great post, Brittney. I particularly appreciated the points to keep in mind when writing content to ensure that all content has a WHY that will drive value and not self-promotion.

  • https://www.352inc.com Robert Berris

    You bring up a really good point about feedback by committee. As we’ve all experienced, it’s difficult to move forward with too many stakeholders. Defining a product / creative owner early on is key to avoiding lengthy review processes, too many revisions and a muddy sense of vision and direction.

  • Christopher Burns

    I learned the hard lesson in college when I was on a team of 5 and we tried to write a paper together… 1 on a keyboard with 4 back seat drivers. We finally gave up and realized it’s best to just let 1 person write at a time (in seclusion) and the others could edit or write separate parts.

  • http://352inc.com Lincoln Anderson

    Establishing an owner is so key. It seems simple, but if you don’t verbalize it explicitly, many people assume someone else is in charge. And that last point echoes something our team heard from a client just this week; if someone on the team gets frustrated with a derailment, it’s okay to acknowledge that frustration, and address the issue proactively. The worst thing is to silently sit by and let a bad situation languish, so get to fixin’ it!