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In Content Marketing, Waterfall Works

November 8, 2021 - Content Marketing - ,
By: Chris Riley

“Waterfall” in the tech world has become synonymous with antiquated processes and lack of execution. So it might seem strange that a content marketing agency like Fixate – who specifically serves tech vendors – champions waterfall content creation processes. The reason: it’s what works. And we know that from experience.

Fixate actively pursues ways to create content on demand, and we will not stop this quest; just like most DevOps environments seek to release their application many times a day. From time to time, when we have to create content related to a product launch in response to some public relations event or to react to market forces, we do create content in short time-frames.

In general, though, our waterfall process goes something like this:

  • Curate topics
    • Create content
      • Deliver to clients

It’s a simple formula, and we are steadfast in applying it. Any time we’ve tried otherwise, things get wonky. This three-part process organizes a multitude of variables into an efficient sequence.

We start with the client (aka, the vendor). We move on to content creation, which includes contributor recruiting. The final stage leverages the collaboration that started at the top of the waterfall and culminates in meeting expectations and deadlines.

The middle is the easy part. If all we had to deal with was the operations and automation to create content, no problem. But we have highly variable elements on both sides of that point in the process; namely, humans. The flavors of humans range from the marketer who chases shiny objects to the techie who has commitment issues and are collectively massive procrastinators. Added to that, DevOps vendors are also capable of procrastinating on topic approvals and content reviews.

So this is why waterfall is so successful when creating content:

  1. Deadlines help everyone … to know when they have to get topics in, when they have to complete content, and when they will have it in their hands. Clear deadlines prohibit setting subjective dates and explicitly add commitment to the process.
  2. We process content in batches. Everything starts at once. All topics are approved at one time, and all posts are delivered at one time. Otherwise, if you dole out topics and posts at different times, it’s hard to keep track of what has been assigned, completed, and approved. There is a lot of confusion when numerous posts are in different stages. The result is: stuff gets lost very fast!
  3. A big reason vendors use Fixate’s services is because they don’t want to herd cats to get content created. We do that for them. Sometimes we have to swap out contributors for a topic mid-cycle. Other times content gets rejected by our editorial team, and we have to start over. Along the way, we periodically recruit new contributors. This is the black box our clients don’t see, nor should they need to.

Creating content in waterfall helps us to keep that black box out of sight. Topics go in, content comes out. It’s that easy.

Our waterfall process works great for Fixate and for our clients. It works especially well for vendors who are doing content creation in-house. You know that editorial calendar you always say you will create and follow, but never do? With waterfall content creation, you can! You end up with an inventory of content that drives your planning process. 

It’s simple, too. Pick a volume level, and set your waterfall sprints based on that volume. We do it in four-week sprints simply because that simplifies the terms of our contracts; but the sprint frequency can be whatever works best for you – by month, quarter, or year.

We believe that some day soon we can develop automation that mitigates the messiness of procrastination, disorganized humans, and competing priorities. But until then, waterfall content creation processes for high-tech content makes sense, and works really well.

For practitioner-created content for your website, contact us.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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