How To Set Up a Content Publishing Process


Creating content gets a lot of attention. But it can’t get an audience without a well-executed content publishing process.

Content production requires systems and easily repeatable processes to get the content ready for the publish button and everything that happens after that.

To accomplish that, your team needs an operations leader who oversees and often implements all those steps in the content publishing process. They typically work with the assistance of software tools to help organize content production, whether that’s project management systems like Trello and Asana or a simple shared spreadsheet.

If you’re new to the role, exploring how to improve your operations, or looking to set up a content publishing process, Lisa Dougherty, CMI’s blog operations and community director, can offer some help.

She explains how she organizes the editorial operations that make it possible for CMI to publish and promote fresh content every weekday on our primary website (www.contentmarketinginstitute.com).

The content publishing process Lisa honed over the decade helps us keep track of content from multiple authors through the many stages of editing and production. It also serves as the connecting point for CMI team members who promote the content through email and social media.

Here’s how Lisa does it:

Get organized to track content progress

The team member responsible for the content production operation must know the status of each asset. At the same time, they must create and maintain the post-production publication schedule. These two documents can be closely tied to your editorial planning.

In CMI’s case, the team uses separate sheets (tabs) within one shared master spreadsheet called the tracker. One sheet details the status of the content assets, and one serves as the weekday publication calendar. Lisa manages both sheets in the tracker.

Content development status tracker

The content development tracker shows the status of every editorial article in development. It lists the topic, the person responsible for creating it, due date, status (creating, editing, ready for production), along with any related notes, such as links to include, special calls to action, etc.

When a task is complete, the person responsible updates the status column.

Some tools trigger notifications to relevant team members when an asset’s status changes. At CMI, checking the status on the tracker is ingrained into each person’s workflow, so such notifications are rarely necessary. Other content marketing teams use the notification feature in their project management software when an asset moves to the next step on the dashboard.

Content publishing production tracker and calendar

A second sheet in the primary document acts as the publication production calendar. It shows each day’s content (CMI publishes five days a week) along with key information needed to publish the asset.

Your production tracker might look different depending on publication frequency, formats, channels, etc. CMI’s version includes these columns:

  • Publication date
  • Author
  • Production status (two options: loaded in WordPress or proofed in WordPress)
  • Notes (Lisa lists the date she requested the cover image, any not-yet-complete elements like video embeds or graphics, and the date she sends a preview to the author or featured sources.)
  • Headline
  • Category (primary topic based on CMI’s core categories)
  • Preview copy (what appears in daily email)
  • Excerpt copy
  • Call to action
  • URL

TIP: Don’t rely on the default URL your content management platform creates. Change the default to include appropriate keywords (use hyphens to separate words) and stay within 50 to 80 characters.

Manage content from multiple sources

Content operations managers often coordinate content as it comes in from internal and external sources.

Submissions, drafts, revisions, and updates from guest content submissions, internal subject matter experts, and members of the content marketing team add up to a lot of files to manage.

You can make this process more efficient with these tips:

  • First, the content should be saved in a centralized location that is accessible to everyone involved in the creation, review, and publishing process. CMI currently uses Microsoft OneDrive. Other teams might use Dropbox, Google Drive, or other cloud-based platforms.
  • Second, set up a standardized process for organizing files and naming conventions. This helps with version control. You never want to publish an outdated version of the content, and you don’t want to have to ask three people to figure out which version to use.

Here’s how CMI organizes the content on its server:

  • The master folder — CMI Editorial Team — includes all the content.
  • Under the master folder are individual folders for each asset in the content publishing process. It follows a standard naming convention:
    • Author First Name Last Name – Topic
      • Example: Jodi Harris – Customer Retention

Each asset folder includes:

  • Folder labeled “drafts” and contains the original and edited versions
  • Folder labeled “images”
  • Final version labeled “AUTHOR LAST NAME — Topic — editor initials CLEAN EDIT content manager initials date FINAL”
    • Example: HARRIS – Customer Retention – ag EDITS CLEAN ld 10-12-23 FINAL

Once an article is published, Lisa moves the asset folder to the Articles Published folder.

Some content teams label the asset folder with its publication date. Lisa prefers not to do that because the date may change, but the author and topic will not.

Finalizing the content for publication

With systems set up for tracking the content’s progress, the publication calendar, and the content production status, the operations person moves on to the more detailed work — readying the content to go live.

Since this process often involves only one person, you may be tempted to just do it and not take the time to document the process. Don’t. Standardizing the content publishing process and writing it down are essential so another team member can step in and execute it if the operations person isn’t available.

CMI uses a checklist to ensure the process is followed and no one forgets a step. It includes:

  • Conduct a post-editing review to ensure basic readability and understanding.
  • Check all names of people, companies, and tools mentioned in the content.
  • Identify internal linking opportunities, adding them to relevant words and phrases and the handpicked related content listing at the article’s end.
  • Find or create images and insert them into the document.
  • Add embed code for videos, GIFs, etc.
  • Review and update the headline and call to action as necessary.
  • Run document through Grammarly Premium.
  • Import Word document and add visual elements into WordPress.
  • Add audio, listen for mispronunciations, and correct them.
  • Schedule for publication.

TIP: Internal links and handpicked related content features in CMI articles are top-performing content on the site. Traditionally, CMI uses older popular posts for internal links attached to keywords and newer popular posts with their titles in handpicked related content listed at the end of each article.

After the content is loaded into WordPress, a proofreader gives it one last review while ensuring all the links point to the right source and open in the correct window (CMI links open in the same window, while outside links open in a new window).

Last steps before publishing

With everything ready to go live, communication is sent to all relevant stakeholders, from the creators and sources to the social media and email production team. You can do it automatically through your project management software or manually send an email or direct message to the stakeholders. The team should agree on the notification delivery method.

Click to enlarge

TIP: Lisa sends a standard email to all authors and sources for whom she has contact information. She attaches the Word document so they can review (approval is not required to publish), includes the URL where they can view the article once it’s live, and notes how they can help promote and share their work on social.

Get organized

It takes a lot of work to get your content ready for attention. By detailing a content publishing process, your content production will take less time, frustrations will be minimized, and mistakes and omissions will be rare occurrences. Your audience may not give thanks publicly, so just know all those content consumption statistics reflect your good operations work.

All tools are mentioned by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, tag Content Marketing Institute on social media.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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