I used to often get asked “what is it that you do exactly”,
back in the day, when digital marketing was still a novelty rather than the norm. I used to say “I am a creative project manager”, as it both seemed to answer the question well, and get the point across.
Not much has changed since then, except the fact that I now don’t need to go into too much detail. Content marketing manager, or whatever I choose to call myself, goes down quite smoothly.
Yet, what I am is still a manager of projects, and here I am today, trying to sum up some of the things I’ve learned so far and help you combat the same issues we all face, in one form or another.
Let’s dive right in:
Facing short deadlines
Short (very short, often quite impossible) deadlines seem to be the norm in certain industries.
As a content writer turned content manager, this is the number one issue I am faced with on the daily. And no matter how many times I try to explain that creativity takes time, I often get that “time is money” cliché throw back at me, and not much good will it do me.
If you are working with short deadlines (be you in a creative line of work or not), the smartest thing you can do is plan for disaster. There will come a day when you are not able to perform your best, and if you set yourself up with very tight margins, you won’t have time to dig yourself out. If a client wants project X on their desk by Monday, argue the case for Wednesday.
Another important point is to never forget to take a break, preferably away from your desk, preferably outside. Resetting your brain is the only way to get through a pile of tasks – NOT chaining yourself to the chair until you get them all done. That is the road to burnout, my friend, and not a road you want to tread on.
Lacking a sense of direction and purpose
The one thing every project needs is a goal, a purpose, an endgame (have you seen it yet?) – not having one will only have you muddling in the fog and not making any headway.
One of the blogger outreach lessons I have luckily learned along the way is that having a plan in place, taking the time to do proper and informed research, really understanding what you are trying to achieve, will take up a lot of your time. However, that time will reap significant dividends when you come to present your results. While it is true that we can only plan for so much in life, the more you know, the more facts and figures and scenarios you have at your fingertips, the easier the job will be, the more enjoyable and the less stressful.
Take a leaf out of my book: write out an outline for every task. Funny how many wrong steps you will find yourself about to take.
The value of content has never been higher, yet price per word seems to be plummeting. At least that’s what I seem to be seeing, as everyone thinks themselves a content writer, a copywriter, a blogger, and they all want to earn some easy money on the side, typing at the beach.
Which is partly the reason why content marketing projects are notoriously underfunded.
If you are faced with the same issue, I’m afraid I don’t have the answer for you. I have no idea how to cope.
All I can advise is to try to outsource some of the work, if you can (how hypocritical of me, right?), and try to educate your clients on the prices you demand. Bear in mind, if you produce mediocre results with your stellar content, you won’t have much on your side.
Bringing together a really superb content team is a task you may spend a decade on. In the meantime, try to calculate hours of work needed per task, cost of living, ROI and other similar factors, and see how you can get the math to come out on your side.
Nosy and annoying clients
We’ve all had that one client who knows it all, wants to be a part of everything and is never satisfied.
When faced with such a species, the best things you can do are small, yet effective.
Set up a clear schedule of meetings and calls, and stick to it. If they get in touch out of those hours, don’t pick up the phone. Don’t answer emails outside your email answering hours either.
Say no when you need to say no. You may lose the client, but you may lose them anyway, so save yourself some stress.
If you want to fight, pick your battles very carefully. Not everything will be as worth it.
These types of clients won’t likely stick around long – be ready to accept this fact.
Burnout and how to avoid it
The ultimate plague any project manager is faced with is the burnout of their team. Some will push themselves out of sheer drive, others will be masters of procrastination and the cause of their own misery, yet no matter the cause, burnout can be deadly.
Make sure you get your staff to rest, try to reduce their stress levels, and let them know you are always on their side (even if you secretly think they are wrong).
Your job is all about facilitating progress. And oftentimes, that will involve making sure the troops are well fed, have a clean pair of socks, and have had a letter from home.