How did you get a lead time on content?

Posted October 17, 2022 in
Content Content
Hi there, Content Community!

We are working full steam ahead at the moment, but for various reasons, are struggling to get any lead time on our content.

I've tried pausing publishing to build up a backlog and have tried to work on additional pieces per week to slowly build a backlog, but as of yet; no success there.

I was wondering - do you have a backlog and work with a lead time?
If so:
  • How long is your content lead time?
  • How much content do you have in your backlog that is written and ready to go?
  • What steps did you take to get the lead time/backlog?
All answers are much appreciated :) 
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Brian Casey
Hey Evelyn Gascoyne

I will make some assumptions here - tell me if I'm off base with any of them. 

  1. When you say content lead time, you're referring to how long it takes an article to be written (from ideation to hitting the publish button).
    2. When you say backlog, you're referring to a bank of publish-ready articles that are scheduled to be published in the future (from here on out I'll refer to this as a 'publishable article backlog')

    With those assumptions ^ in mind, here are some thoughts.

    First, make sure your article content calendar is planned out for at least 90 days in the future. That visibility into what you're working on is critical to building a backlog and helping you plan for articles. 

    I'd recommend having a 2-3 week, or 6-9 articles, publishable article backlog. This shouldn't be viewed as a saving account to dip into when content gets low. Instead, follow the FIFO method so the first article to go into the backlog will get scheduled to be published first. As a second article goes into the backlog, it will have the place of the next scheduled article.

    Every week you should have time allocated to 3 tasks (for 3 articles). Follow the rule of 3-3-3 every week
  • Publish 3 articles from the backlog
  • Edit and finish 3 articles and add them to your backlog
  • Start researching and drafting 3 new articles

In general, you should follow this process to create an article. As a writer, you'll be playing an active role in the research and planning phase, the SME interview phase, the first draft phase, the revisions phase, and the publishing phase. Others in your organization will play an active role in the review and final approval stages. 

Following this process means it'll take around 8-10 business days to go from ideation to publishing an article. That doesn't mean it'll wholly consume 8 hours per day for 8-10 business days, but the big picture that's how many days you can expect the process to take. Below is an idea of how long each part of the content creation process should take by the number of hours.

  • Researching & Planning - 2 hours
  • SME Interviews - 2 hours
  • Initial Draft - 2-4 hours
  • Internal Review - 1 hour
  • IMPACT Review (if working with IMPACT) - 1 hour
  • Revisions - 1 hour
  • Final Approval - 1 hour
  • Publishing - 1 hour

Now, if you're trying to implement this and you can't break through you have a couple of options to build a backlog.
  1. Pause for 2-3 weeks on publishing to build your backlog.
    2. Scale back on publishing. Take 1-2 (of your 3 published articles per week) to put in your backlog.
    3. Use others in your organization to write content while you're focused on 3 articles per week and use the surplus to build a backlog.
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Evelyn Gascoyne
Hi Brian. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to this. When I said lead time I meant publishable article backlog (so that we are writing 2-3 weeks in advance of publishing), so you were spot on there. 

As of yesterday we have got to pause publishing for a little while due to our site migrating to hubspot, so I am going to use this time to implement what you have said above and get that lead time. Golden opportunity here. Thanks again for taking time out to post all of that, I really appreciate it! :D The way you've set this out has given me such a clear path to follow. Sending all the good vibes your way! 
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