Here’s a scenario that plays out in PR offices all over the world. Excited about the benefits of a great content marketing program, the team plans out a series of assets – maybe a thought leadership column in a prestigious outlet or a webinar or an ebook. They’re convinced these content pieces will drive major brand visibility and lead generation, and they can’t wait to release them into the world.
But once the project gets underway, reality sinks in and the team realizes it’s going to take more time and resources than they planned. They underestimated how much time would be eaten up by the review cycles and project management. Writing weekly blog posts is taking staff away from pitching and other important tasks, so they’re going to hire a freelance writer for that too. Then there are the executives they’re writing for. One is almost impossible to pin down for interviews, resulting in missed meetings and delays. Another is highly critical of every project they turn in, demanding multiple rewrites.
The content costs keep going up and up – and it’s devouring their budget to an alarming extent. The team knows their bosses and clients want content, but they don’t understand how they can produce a steady pipeline of assets at a reasonable cost.
Sound familiar? Try these 8 tips for keeping your content budget under control.
1. Build wiggle room into your estimates.
Instead of quoting a specific dollar amount for each project, estimate a cost range. This protects you in case a designer gets sick, a freelancer turns in a wooden draft or a developer misunderstands your directions. If none of that happens, great! You can bring in your project at a lower cost. But if does, your team won’t have to eat the extra time and money spent.
2. Be realistic about your team’s skill sets.
Lots of PR directors will decide their team can write anything the leadership requests. Reality check: even “good writers” tend to be strong at some project types and not others. Before you promise a range of assets, figure out who on the team can write what and determine where you might need outside help. You’ll figure out who writes fascinating blog posts, who’s good at social campaigns and who can deliver well-researched brand journalism.
3. Recognize the advantages of using freelancers.
That writer’s rates might make you balk at first, convincing you it’s better to keep the project inside the office. But paying a pro to quickly turn out a polished project is often cheaper than spending countless hours on rewrites and review cycles after a burned-out staff member writes a lifeless piece.
4. Streamline your approval process.
This is where much of your budget can vanish into thin air. After the writer turns in the project, the account executive reviews it, offers feedback and the writer makes some changes. Then it goes to the account director and the cycle starts again, until the piece has cycled through half a dozen people and rewrites, consuming an astounding number of man hours – and that’s before the client sees it. Restrict your approval process to key players only to get projects out the door faster.
5. Recycle old content.
Forget the one and done approach to content. Instead, keep revisiting your ebooks and blog posts to see how they can be refreshed with new data and a fresh design. Ask your friends in marketing for access to their old assets, and see which have potential for a new story or untapped angle.
6. Think in terms of campaigns, rather than one-off projects.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel for every project. Your biggest projects (think white papers, ebooks and webinars) can be broken down into multiple smaller projects like blog posts or newsletter content or social media soundbites – feeding your pipeline with minimal effort.
Everyone’s busy busy busy in PR – and often staff will decide that content projects can be pushed back until they have more spare time. The publication pipeline starts looking sparse and any established readers begin losing interest, wasting your budget on the content you do produce. The solution: assign firm and reasonable deadlines and enforce them to get the most ROI for your spend.
8. Rotate content duties.
Writing or designing a project may sound fun, but when it becomes part of your daily responsibilities, that kind of sustained demand for creativity can become exhausting. Especially for a PR pro who also tackles urgent client questions and disasters on a regular basis. Instead of demanding articles from tired writers, distribute the workload amongst the team, freelancers and guest contributors. Interviews with top influencers are a great way to do less writing while guaranteeing increased promotion.
Through a combination of these strategies, your team should be able to wow your clients and keep your content budget on track. Got any recommendations for managing your budget effectively? Please share in the comments.