How to Build an Effective AI Content Workflow [+Template]
Table of contents
In the past year, I've managed to run a monthly content workflow that is:
- Heavily based on AI
- Costs more than $10K per month, and successfully returns the investment
In this post, I'll share the entire process, but first, here's my personal secret sauce for workflows:
Successful content creators are just as good at project management as they are at writing.
They use a content workflow template to help them plan, organize, and keep track of their content creation process. This includes setting up tasks and deadlines, assigning roles and responsibilities, and tracking progress. By doing this, they can make sure that their projects are completed on time and up to the highest standards.
Below, you can see the content workflow I use to manage the five blog posts we publish every a week.
Let's go over my template and tips, while helping you build a similar workflow of your content effort.
Quick article workflow using AI
Content marketers are already creating articles at record speeds using AI and a structured workflow.
Here's how to do it.
- Brainstorm ideas with AI. Ask your AI writing tool to brainstorm ideas around a given topic.
- Identify the topic to be written about. Use AI to research the topic you want to write about.
Example topic: best freelancing sites.
The questions that will guide you include:
- What are the top 5 articles on the topic.
- What are the main angles for each article (use AI to summarize them)
- Use AI to generate the outline and draft. The fastest way to optimize your content workflow is to incorporate AI to speed up the draft writing process on your blog. This works whether you write the content yourself, use freelancers or have inhouse content writers.
- Use AI to edit and proofread the article. AI can edit and find spelling and grammar mistakes and suggest corrections. It can also give valueable feedback on the overall structure and flow of the article.
- AI can help with the publishing process. Once you have an edited draft, use AI to give some further SEO optimizations to the text.
- Increase article distribution with AI. You can repurpose some of the content into byte size tips to be shared on social media. This will help with the distribution of the piece.
To run an even faster workflow, Run a periodic content workflow analysis to ensure everyone is aligned and content creation flows smoothly. In addition to bringing clarity to the scope of deliverables, this step also helps plan and prioritize resources, align stakeholders, and avoid nasty surprises.
During the analysis, you need to:
- Meticulously define the workflow.
- Work out the details - thinking through each step, and finding the bottlenecks that cause delays and inefficiencies.
- Identify ways to make processes smarter and more efficient. I can assure you that the processes reveal both inefficiencies and opportunities.
It is in the creation of the individual content pieces that the rubber really hits the road when it comes to content marketing.
Unfortunately, going from a content plan to actual finished pieces of content is not as easy as handing out topics to creators and waiting for the finished product to land in the inbox. The complexities and dynamics of more briefs across more formats, more stakeholders, and more freelancers often throw all carefully laid plans off the rails.
That is why, when you are growing fast, scaling rapidly, and do not have time to lose, AI-powered technology can make a significant impact at each stage of the content workflow: planning, creation, optimization, publication, distribution, promotion and measurement. You can think of this as working along two axis:
- Automation for ongoing improvement in speed, efficiency and resource allocation
- Intelligence for ongoing improvement in performance outcomes
In fact, of 45 dominant use-cases, the Marketing AI Institute found that content marketing activities topped the list of highest-rated use cases for AI in marketing.
Ready to find out how AI-powered tools can be leveraged with most content workflow tasks to make it smarter?
How AI-powered content tools make good workflows great
In the rest of this guide, let’s examine the start-to-finish content workflow to produce one long-form text piece. Such anchor pieces typically consume the most time and effort; and are used as the foundation for many different formats, including landing pages, video scripts, blogs and social media posts.
We’ll go through the tasks in each of the 4 content workflow stages, and identify where AI-powered tools can make each task smarter:
Let's get going...
Content planning workflow
Invest some time in proper planning before writing down every thought you have.
Identify the topic idea
When it’s time to get specific with topic ideas, there’s always the tendency to look for unique topics to break the clutter. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the right approach is not to find never-been-done topics, but to find the topics your audiences want to read more about. The challenge is to find a unique twist or angle that helps audiences think about the topic in new ways.
Here are three ideas to find the best topics to serve your audience’s needs:
- Titles of books on Amazon and Goodreads are full of interesting titles that audiences are actively reviewing.
- Scour community forums and social media channels where customers and influencers hang out - for instance, Quora, Reddit, Instagram, or YouTube - for topics and questions that get a lot of traction.
- Make lists of inspirational, educational and practical angles for each topic you shortlist, and then come up with a unique twist or angle to make it your own.
Make it Smarter
Got a really extensive content calendar to fill? Automate the idea generation process with one of the many AI powered tools available for topic research, such as SEMRush, Google Trends, Answer the Public and BuzzSumo.
Find your target keywords
Picking anchor and long-tail keywords for articles manually is a tedious process. Content marketers have been automating this for a while now, using tools such as SEMRUsh, Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner. Not only do they give an extensive set of keywords ranked by search volume (number of searches for that keyword) and difficulty score (are there easier-to-win keywords that you can capitalize on?), but also links to competitor articles that are already ranking on these keywords.
For an extra edge, go the extra mile:
- Read influencer and thought leader articles on platforms like Medium or Subsctack (or any niche publications that address your audience), and look for keyword ideas in the article subtitles
- The ‘people also searched for’ section of Google’s search engine result pages always throw up additional long-tail keywords, as does the Keywords Everywhere extension
- Check out industry events and conferences in your niche and find ideas in the session titles
Make it Smarter
Once you have the topic idea and keyword in place, feed them to Wordtune and watch it rewrite and generate multiple snappy article title options that are on-point and crisp.
Write the brief
The content brief is crucial for the writer to deliver a piece that checks all the technical boxes while adding the X-factor that makes for compelling reading. But writing a good brief takes time - perhaps hours. Well-considered briefs on each topic for each writer would likely take up days!
Not spending time on a good brief, on the other hand, results in too many reworks, which of course would cost even more time and money. It's a vicious cycle - content marketers shouldn’t have to choose between nailing the brief and reworking writer submissions.
Here’s how to make it smarter:
- Writing good briefs is faster and smarter with AI-powered writing tools, which can help rephrase your words to make the brief sharper and better structured
- Auto-populate sections of your briefs that need standard content, such as competitor links, product descriptions, boilerplates, ICPs, brand or product FAQs etc., to save your and the writer's time
- Add a section about potential questions readers would ask about the topic (and that the article should aim to answer) to help the writer understand the full scope of the article
Assign the brief
Assigning and managing writer deliverables at scale can very quickly become chaotic, as well as lead to lost weeks if the wrong brief goes to the wrong writer.
- Using workflow planning tools such as Monday, Asana or Trello can really help keep the workspace clutter-free, and the workforce on the same page.
- Many AI-powered tools even help match the brief to the right content writer. Start by asking:
- Is the writer an expert on this topic?
- Are they good at simplifying complex topics?
- Have they written long-form content before?
- What corrections and remarks do I usually give this writer, and can I avoid them?
Content creation workflow
Adding more content creators, whether in-house or freelance, can boost content volumes, but of course it also complicates the editorial processes in terms of keeping the brand voice consistent across multiple creators, campaigns, channels, and formats.
Here’s how technology can help reduce the time and effort of content creation while amplifying performance outcomes:
Research the topic
Balancing creative writing with subject matter expertise, SEO and technical accuracy is a challenge for the writer. It’s unrealistic to expect freelancers working on multiple projects to put in hours of research to understand the full context and nuances of the topic for each article they write.
Is there a smarter and faster way to gain an in-depth understanding of a subject and be able to write about it authoritatively? Yes, with AI to the rescue again!
- Ask your writers to watch videos or listen to podcasts of subject matter experts to get a faster understanding of the topic (AV content can be watched at a faster speed too!)
- Use tools such as Pocket to curate and share the best research-worthy content with your writers so they spend their time on high-quality content you’ve already vetted
Make it Smarter
Tools such as Wordtune Read summarize lengthy content such as PDFs, academic articles, white papers and reports into small, smart, easily digestible points. Busy content marketers can distill key highlights along with nuances and context; so writers can turn that understanding into expert content.
Create an outline and write the article
Content marketers often choose to work with subject matter experts who may not necessarily be editorial quality writers, because their in-depth insights are a competitive advantage, especially with longer pieces. But while they may get the content right, the actual piece may need a lot of editorial work in terms of readability and flow.
So, is there a way to write long, in-depth content that is also smarter, sharper and better?
Start with the right outline. For this, you can:
- Go through the table of contents of a number of high-quality articles and books on the same topic and break each section of the long-form article into heads and sub-heads.
- Industry conference agendas are often a storehouse of great ideas on how to break a topic down into a structural outline.
- Use time-honored lateral thinking tools such as mind maps to come up with an outline that covers all the bases of your topic.
Make it Smarter
Make the writing process smarter with an AI powered content generation tool or a content writing companion that helps make your own content better.
Content generation tools will create text based on keywords and phrases you feed it. The results may miss a lot of the nuance and context which only an expert can bring, but it works well for shorter formats such as product descriptions that don’t need a lot of depth.
Edit and optimize
Whether the content is generated by a human or a machine, a human editorial review is a must, especially for long pieces. However, editorial reviews are not just time consuming, they can also be vulnerable to subjectivity and lead to further reworks.
Make it Smarter
While editors have been using AI powered tools for copy editing with the sole purpose of catching and correcting errors, now it is also possible to get an intelligent writing and editing assistant to actually improve the overall writing quality.
- Save editorial effort with Wordtunes’ sentence reworking and reframing capabilities that offer busy content editors several sentence construction alternatives to choose from - a task that can usually take editors several hours of work.
- Save time on refining article length - shorten (make selected text more concise and strong); or expand (give sentences more depth without impacting readability) text to avoid thin content and wasteful writing.
Putting equal emphasis on post-publishing tasks is crucial for content marketers. By using AI and automation tools, they will be able to do this more easily.
Rewrite tools like Wordtune can help you generate the original anchor texts that go into each social platform. Use the same rewrite tools to perform content refreshes and give a fresh spin to an old article.
While understanding the content performance in terms of traffic and shares is important, it is equally important to understand the true cost of your content workflow. Save time and money in each task of the content workflow with your stack of AI-powered content workflow tools. Measure results by the volume of additional content being generated in the same amount of time, reductions in editing costs and resources, and lower number of iterations and reworks.
While the ROI is bound to be better with an AI-powered writing companion, content marketers also benefit from a reduction in stress, pressure and unpredictability they had to live with so far.
Optimize your workflows and your time with smart content tech
It's crucial for content marketers to prioritize where their time and expertise should be spent in the long and complex content workflow. The challenge is to not just generate more and better quality content, but to do it at better cost, time, resource and performance metrics.
If you are part of a large marketing team that needs to create great content at scale, then choose the right stack of AI-powered content workflow optimization tools to make each task in the workflow smarter and faster.
Not only will you automate repetitive tasks and free up valuable time and resources, you will be able to balance quantity with quality across a wide spectrum of content formats from product descriptions to meta descriptions, blog intros, articles and eBooks, translations, video and audio scripts, email, social media posts and more.