In search of quality content? 11 lessons we learned from ISO9001 Quality Assurance

Quality or quantity?

In the world of content marketing we definitely have the ‘quantity’ bit nailed. More content is being created every 48 hours than from the dawn of mankind to 2003. But who decides if your content marketing is quality or not?

It’s the classic value exchange. If you give your customers really useful, quality content they give you their time and attention. All-knowing, all-seeing Google will then reward you with page rank and indexing.

In a nut shell quality content is “what savvy marketers strive for, and what Google and people look for”. Thank you Forbes.

So if you are not generating quality content, you may as well hang up your hat and go home.

A quality content marketing process

Many marketers struggle to create quality content, especially in volume. This can be down to resourcing, but it’s also a symptom of poor strategy and process (or in many cases a lack of one or both).

In a CMI survey creating engaging/quality content was a challenge for 69% of respondents.

For a creative endeavour like content marketing, quality and process is critical. Yet in survey after survey, marketers admit to having no written strategy or process in place to handle the content creation and amplification process.

In business, as in content marketing, you have to nail it before you can scale it. But you will never scale your content marketing unless you nail your process. Or, if you do manage to scale, your content quality will definitely suffer.

We feel so strongly about this at 256 Media that we’ve been working really hard to become the first content marketing agency in the world to be certified for ISO9001 Quality Assurance Management.

Along the way to achieving this goal we began to notice something.  There are huge parallels between successful quality assurance and great content marketing (heck, we wouldn’t be content marketers if we didn’t spot a connection!).

Here are the 11 that immediately come to mind.

When quality assurance mirrors content marketing

1.     You need a champion

Quality assurance needs a champion. This is the person in the organisation who sees the bigger vision and pushes like crazy to make it happen. They’ll be great with people, communicating the purpose and the steps along the way. But they’ll also be really excellent at keeping written records, setting out milestones and delivering on a deadline. (In our company that would be Jen. Take a bow).

With a content marketing champion on board, a company has a decent chance of success with its content marketing programme. If you’re reading this, that content evangelist is probably you.

2.     Preparation is key

Achieving ISO9000 takes time and a lot of preparation and a ’til death do us part’ commitment. If you are not completely committed don’t even go there.

It’s the same with content marketing. Some companies are not prepared to put the effort in and give up after posting 5 blogs (that’s the actual average on corporate websites).  If you’re looking for a quick fix or an immediate pay-back from content marketing you may be disappointed. You’ve probably heard it said that content marketing is a discipline. We agree but with the emphasis on the discipline needed to develop and consistently deliver brilliant content assets. It’s not for the faint of heart.

3.     It must be aligned to the business goals

In many  content marketing workshops we’ve conducted, one question is often answered with a sharp intake of breath, followed by a long silence: “What’s the business goal?” It’s surprising how people from different parts of a company are stumped by this question.

It’s hugely important to align the ISO9000 Quality Assurance process to the business goal. But it’s just as important to do that with content marketing. At 256 Media our business goal is to make Ireland the content capital of the world. Aim high and all that.

4.     It needs to involve the team

Quality assurance and content marketing can’t work in a silo. They’re the responsibility of the whole team, not just the person who fits the job description. The best results are when the actions and function of one department work in sync with the others.

Each team needs to know how it impacts others. It’s not enough just to know your own bit. As part of the ISO9000 process each of our teams had to identify in writing how their roles align with the purpose of the business and also how they impact on others. This was a great exercise for each department to engage in and gave us some really useful insights.

5.     It doesn’t count if it’s not written down

It would be impossible to maintain your Quality Assurance standard if it wasn’t written down. An ad hoc approach just doesn’t cut it. Basically, you can’t have QA unless it’s documented.

The same is true for content marketing. How can you deliver a strategy that isn’t set out in writing? How do you know what to measure if you haven’t identified the metrics and how do you know how successful you are if you don’t have a benchmark?

6.     It can be broken down into steps

Your Quality Assurance process will break your activities into clearly defined steps. While content marketing is a creative business it has to follow clearly defined steps otherwise chaos (and time wasting) ensues. Hands up anyone who missed a deadline because of a ridiculous number of revisions to a piece of content? This can happen if the content creation steps are not clearly defined and agreed with the various stakeholders from the get go.

7.     It’s an ongoing process

Quality Assurance is an ongoing process, not a project. You can’t just build it and walk away.

This is equally true of content marketing. While a lot of companies can treat content marketing like a campaign activity, it’s main benefit is that it compounds over time.  Like a good blog, quality has to live in a business. It doesn’t work if you just dip in and out.

8.     If it’s not broken, do fix it

Quality Assurance has to be continually assessed. You’re only ever as good as your last audit. It encourages people to push for better ways of doing things, even if the current way is ok. In content marketing we’re continually looking for new ways to engage with our audiences, so it’s not just a case of trotting out the same-old-same-old.

9.     Aligning to a vision

Some people think visions and value statements are a bit naff. We don’t agree. At 256 Media our vision and values are referred to as St. QPR (well, we do like the footy). That stands for Satisfaction, Teamwork, Quality, Profitability (the cheek) and Respect. St QPR is our guide. And our Quality Assurance Process has to worship at the altar.

In content marketing it helps to have a vision and value statement to keep you on track.

 10. Feedback is a really important part of the process.

Quality Assurance thrives on feedback. It’s a must-have (so much so that we have a dedicated feedback email address for customers and staff.)

The Post Mortem process (as we call it) is also vital in content marketing. Define and measure your result in a structured way and get feedback from internal and external customers. Bring the team together to review activities, agree what worked and what didn’t. The aim with content marketing is to experiment and do more of what worked and less of what didn’t.

11. Find the right vendors and call them to account on quality

And finally, the only thing the team at 256 Media didn’t have right when it came to the ISO9001 audit process was our list of approved vendors. We have great relationships with our suppliers so we didn’t think to include our process for selecting them in our documentation. Let’s just say we got pulled up for that.

Our unspoken rule about finding companies to supply goods and services and collaborate with  is “surround yourselves with eagles so you soar”. We’ve just had to put that in writing.

When you think about it, the same is true for content marketing. You need to be sure you’re dealing with the right vendors.

 

If you would like a review of your Content Marketing process to ensure consistently high quality output without wasting resources, get in touch with us now.

 

About Karen Hesse

Karen Hesse is Managing Director of 256, a Dublin based Strategic Content Marketing Agency. An award winning journalist and publisher she has 25 years experience in creating hard working content assets for clients. She is Ireland's leading expert in content marketing strategy.