Brands are under increasing and constant pressure to produce compelling content, creatively, cost effectively and efficiently. Not only do they need to produce the content, but it also needs to be inter-connected, specific and relevant to every channel. Did you know that according to Salesforce, 55% of shoppers say retail experiences are disconnected across channels? The process of producing and making content relevant for every channel can be a stressful process especially when the demand is increasing alongside the costs of production but the supply stays the same (although in a business sense, this is also expected to increase).
Questions we often ask ourselves are:
- How do we make our day-to-day work lives easier and more effective?
- How do we automate our systems to minimise the repetitive tasks of our employees and save time?
- How do we integrate individual software programmes and get them talking to each other?
- More importantly, how do we achieve all of the above and STILL reduce internal costs?
This article explores the key challenges of content production and provides solutions to overcome them within each sector including print, digital and social.
Click the links below to jump directly to a section or read on to discover how to implement efficiencies in your business.
- What benefits could outsourced photography bring?
- How to use batch processing to save time & money
- How to streamline your production workflow
- Ensuring your finished product is manufactured as cost-effectively as possible
- How to automate content delivery across platforms
- How to identify and improve business processes
Outsourcing Photography, a Key Area of Print Content Production
Whether you run a magazine, an eCommerce store or an online publication, high-quality photos are critical for any brand. Taking great photos, however, can be time-consuming and the post-production process required to finesse them is quite complex. A certain skill set is needed, which may not be available in-house. If this is the case, research and compare full-service content production agencies who can help with photo editing and post production. Read a full case study on how leading UK fashion brand manage its photo production.
What are the benefits of outsourced photography and photo production?
- Improved productivity & employee morale – Chances are that even if you have a graphic designer on your team, more often that not they may be tasked with repetitive projects such as retouching photos instead of creative projects where their skill sets are truly utilised.
- Using an outsourced company - allows your designers to focus on their specialities rather than photo retouching and post production. This does not only improve productivity but also employee moralee and can even boost profitability if your employees are happy within their workforce.
- Cost savings on equipment - In order to create beautiful imagery your company will need to invest in powerful computers, high-quality monitors and external software tools. By outsourcing your photography post production, you can save on all of these expenses and allocate your budget elsewhere.
- Hiring in-house production staff – Hiring a new employee can be an expensive process to your business, thanks to training, the cost of recruitment and hiring bonuses. By turning to an outsourced company, you can save on all of these costs, and enhancing your profitability.
- Improved schedules – In most cases, outsourced post production agencies can offer last minute corrections for unexpected jobs or provide after-work hour services. This flexibility makes outsourcing a great option; even if you do tend to have your own staff working on the usual common post production photography tasks.
- Increase your output and extend your brand’s reach – Using an outsourced photo editing and production company, you can quickly and easily create custom images and graphics for a variety of outlets – from brand catalogues to magazines, social media, websites, flyers and print brochures, posters and more. This allows you to expand the reach of your business and your brand, increasing profitability and revenue.
Make your assets work harder for you through improved workflow & processes
Digital Content Production: How it Works
If you work on any form of marketing or content creation, then likely you’re already familiar with the term digital content production – but when it comes to outsourcing that content, whether it’s a large-scale campaign or single piece of digital work, there are many different cogs in the machine that make up the production process. The key is to ensure each of these cogs perform at optimum efficiency. At Rhapsody, we build intuitive, user-friendly workflows with an emphasis on automation and reduced manual intervention.
While traditional advertising or content creation schedules are designed with conventional media in mind, these techniques are outdated when it comes to surpassing your competition and maintaining effective communication as a brand or business. Employing a digital-first workflow, such as RGB first, can ensure the compatibility of your content in a primarily digital space, both technically and aesthetically.
This method allows for better multi-platform integration, allowing content to be effective in all range of mediums, from video campaigns to social media strategies, website content to digital publications. The future is digital, which is why your present content strategies should be too.
Employing a digital-first workflow enables the creation of content that’s far more versatile in design and can be applied to more flexible strategies. Being agile or proactive with traditional material just isn’t possible; but with a digital-first workflow, matching the current marketing environment is that much easier. Whether you plan to create a highly targeted campaign, you’re looking to evolve your brand image, or you’re launching a brand-new product, choosing a workflow that puts digital first is your best choice.
RGB and CMYK conversion
For vibrancy, accuracy in print and stunning clarity of colour, CMYK is the number-one choice for printed media and campaign imagery. From billboards to window displays, stickers to in-store promotional materials, CMYK is king of the print world. It’s a must to master faithful reproductions of specific products, to create on-brand materials and to create a unified campaign that looks good from every angle.
When it comes to creating content that spans both the digital and real-life realms, you want to maintain that high level of vibrancy, on-point colour and on-brand finish. That’s why choosing to work with a digital content production team that understands the necessary steps for perfect reproduction is a must for any business. RGB might be the language of digital colour, but the two need to work in harmony to create a cohesive content strategy.
That’s why working with a workflow that automatically converts RBG to CMYK – in picture-perfect reproduction – isn’t optional for any modern brand exercise. For imagery and content that looks as good on the screen as it does on paper, that service is a requirement.
Make Batch Processing Simple & Automated
Similarly, by using a creative production agency, you can save time and effort by delegating the regularly scheduled tasks such as batch processing of images and cut-outs through an automated workflow. This will allow your creative team to do what they do best – be creative.
The benefits for cloud asset storage platforms
A campaign doesn’t stop at release – and neither should your use of effective digital content for many different mediums. From last-minute advertising campaigns to sudden change requirements to existing content, a bank of cloud-based assets are worth their weight in gold. Not only does this allow for re-use of existing campaign materials, but it also allows for an easily accessible archive of all you’ve achieved; all in one, safe, backed-up location.
For many businesses, the act of throwing out invaluable assets and content after a single use is deeply entrenched. But in fact, by not maintaining access and availability of your assets, you could be missing out; both on the re-use of effective materials, and for additional content requirements further down the line. Recycling your assets isn’t a cheap trick; it shows unity and consistency across the quality of your content in the long-term.
Top tips for a better advertising production and editorial process
Clarify & streamline your production workflow
This is easier said than done, we know. Fighting with short lead times and turnaround times is an everyday struggle for those in the content marketing industry, especially when you add advertising in the mix.
Try to make your publishing schedule very clear. Organise each individual task that must be done – photography, photo editing, layouts, ad placement, copy placement, and other such tasks – in a simple, easy-to-understand workflow.
Are you looking for a set of ready made templates? Download our Content production toolkit: tips, templates and checklists
The more clarity your publishing schedule has, the easier it will be for you and your team to track your progress, stay on track, on budget, and on schedule.
Use efficient workflows for internal and external sign-off
Delays and deadline issues in content marketing are often caused by issues with efficient workflows.
There are a lot of individual tasks and responsibilities when it comes to creating a magazine or print publication – so you need to use efficient workflows to make sure you can easily get both internal and external sign-off.
The last thing you want is to be waiting around while you wait for a supervisor, an external partner, or anyone else to approve and sign off on your work. You need to develop a clear, consistent, and efficient workflow process, outlining things like:
- Who signs off on the final version of a photo or text?
- How soon is a response required after a message or email is sent?
- What steps must be taken for QA before an item can be approved?
- Who is responsible for sending layouts, photos and other items to clients or third parties for approval?
Adopting and implementing an efficient workflow for signoff will ensure that your publication is never delayed due to approval issues.
Are you looking for an efficient tools to manage your creative content production? Download our list here.
Systems like eMagine and ePublish help publishers and brands create online, real-time approval systems where each sign-off receives automatic alerts, backed up by a full audit trail. This can help enormously with the tracking of articles and pages throughout the production cycle in both print and digital.
Plan, Plan and Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is key when it comes to content production, and to make sure that your campaign can be finished on time. But you should not be too rigid when it comes to the layout and design of your collateral – though you should still follow industry best practices.
With regards to publishing, you also need to be ready to adapt to late sales – perhaps you tried to sell a two-page ad a few months earlier, and the company has just now gotten back to you, and is ready to have their ad placed in your magazine.
Your editorial templates, layouts, and lead times should be built to prepare for these situations – so that you can quickly change the design, adapt to late sales, and ensure that your product can still be released in time.
Create and use editorial templates for high efficiency
There’s a reason that programs like ePublish, which uses editorial templates to convert print material into mobile-friendly content, are so popular – and becoming widely used in the publishing industry.
Using templates to quickly and rapidly iterate on a content layout or editorial strategy is a great way to save time and money. Instead of manually designing each and every layout, you can create a handful of flexible editorial templates using a program such as Adobe InDesign, or another such print layout program.
This allows you to be more efficient when iterating on the design and layout of your magazine. You can “plug in” content, images, and ads, and see how they look – in just a few minutes. Then, you can use this information to develop a custom layout, and ensure that you maximize your efficiency and the speed of your workflow.
Maintain house style and brand guidelines
Appealing to a specific audience is how you can grow your brand.
As you begin to attract more readers in a specific market segment, advertisers will take notice – and this leads to higher advertising revenues. In contrast, accepting ads from just any company will dilute your brand’s value – which could lead to lower revenues.
Make sure every person responsible for content creation has sight of your house style, tone of voice and brand guideline documents and ensures they are followed across all types of content, print, online and social media.
Plan Your Product With Efficiency In Mind
With input costs ever-increasing, it’s important to know that your physical product is being produced with the utmost efficiency.
A creative production agency can help consult with you on the best way to produce your printed material, your catalogue, in-store POS or your digital output.
You’ll want to look at your printing configuration to ensure you are printing in the most cost-effective manner. Ask your printer for their imposition and from that you will know to plan your product in 8 page, 16 page or 32 page sections. This is a fundamental decision, which will have a massive impact on your printing costs.
Similarly, the size of your product will impact hugely on costs. Your printer will be able to advise you on the biggest size you are able to print within the press configuration.
An expert paper merchant or printer will also be able to advise on the best stocks to use, depending on your preference for gloss and opacity levels, shade and recycled fibres. A hi-bulk grade can save you a large percentage of costs by allowing you to drop a grammage level but still retain bulk. Our parent company, Walstead, offer this consultancy service - view their services here or drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Once you’ve chosen the type of paper stock that meets the objectives for your product, you can start to look at efficiencies in mailing and distribution. Size and weight will both have an impact on cost, so ensure your product fits one of the three Royal Mail size guidelines, and reduce if necessary.
Your data will also impact the cost of distribution as well so ensure your data has gone through a comprehensive health check before sending off to the mailing house. You’ll want to remove any goneways, unsubscribes and deceased from your mailing records to ensure the best delivery rate for your budget.
Employ the services of a Downstream Access postal agent who will be able to potentially show you a saving against standard postal rates, especially if your mailing comprises primarily of a city-based audience.
Understand which colour profile your printer is working to (which is dictated by your choice of paper) and ask your creative production agency to follow this when creating your repro, press-ready files. If a wrongly-profiled file ends up on press, this could cost you thousands in a reprint or online and in store returns and cause reputational damage with your customers.
A good creative production agency will provide pre-flight checking and colour swatch matching services, giving you the confidence that what is signed off, will be printed on press, without any costly errors or delay in getting to market.
The power of automation across different digital content channels
Automation, in the context of digital content channels, means preparing those channels to be able to run on autopilot so you don't have to keep doing absolutely everything manually. Whatever digital distribution channels you utilise, you should try to automate as much of the content production as possible. This way, your audience will get a consistent flow of content from you that keeps you on their radar and provides as many opportunities as possible to engage with your brand. And you won't have to devote hours of your precious time each day to manually posting and publishing that content, freeing you up to focus on the more important stuff.
There are many day-to-day tasks in the average business that can benefit from automation. And there are many automation solutions out there to help with those tasks. Here are some suggestions for solutions to ease your daily processes and improve your digital content production processes:
- Social media content. Use social media management solutions such as: HubSpot, Sprout Social or HootSuite to create and schedule your content across different social platforms. This can vary from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.
- Social media advertising. It is a great way to further increase the reach of your social media. Facebook ads can be prepared in advance to appear automatically within your chosen budget, placed in the newsfeed and right column of Facebook users who may be interested in what you have to offer. Instagram and Twitter offer similar paid advertising mechanisms, and once they are prepared you can leave them to work their magic on autopilot until the budget you allocated is used up. It can be a powerful method of attracting new customers, but requires that you develop your knowledge of how the advertising works in order to get the best results.
- Emails. Build automated user journeys using CRM’s such as MailChimp or HubSpot to send out follow up emails to your users. This can range anything from a confirmation of purchase, to an upsell or a simple introduction to your company once someone has requested information from your site or a landing page.
- Paid search (PPC) advertising. Paid search advertising (from providers like Google and Bing) gives businesses the opportunity to present their ads amid the sponsored listings at the top of search engine results and partner sites. This involves creating the ad (including a link to the product/service/content you want visitors to discover), setting a budget for the campaign, and then paying for the ad every time a user interacts with it. This is yet another automated process that you can benefit from - once you have created your ad, you submit it and allocate the budget and then just let it run its course naturally. It will be placed atop the search engine results for any user who searches the keyword terms you define, and only genuinely interested visitors will cause your budget to be used. It is an efficient and effective way of marketing on autopilot.
- Remarketing. Remarketing enables you to connect with individuals who previously engaged with your website or app. It is a way of strategically placing your ads in front of these people as they browse search engines like Google and its partner websites, thus pushing your brand awareness further and reminding those key individuals to make a purchase from you. This enables your advertising to be highly focused, targeting specific people who have shown an interest in your products or services already. It also gives you a large-scale reach, particularly if you remarket through a widely-used channel like Google.
- Publishing apps. Work with suppliers that provide you an option to send automated notifications or has “automated” workflow solutions that work with your print material i.e. inDesign files.
- Automated lead generation. Lead generation is the work you do to gain the interest of potential customers to boost future sales, and is important across both digital and print. In the digital age, companies can generate leads through a strong internet presence. Often, this is achieved via inbound marketing methods employing techniques like content marketing and SEO. There are many factors that impact on the success of lead scoring efforts, including the quality of the content you are producing, well-defined target audience archetypes, relevant interactions and strong sales efforts. From an automation perspective, lead generation software (like Pardot or Convertful) can be an incredibly useful tool that leverages the power of the internet to get results. Automated lead generation often includes lead scoring facilities that can do, in minutes, the work that it would take hours to do manually. This can include things like identifying the hashtags on Twitter that have the most potential for scoring leads. Making use of this automation is another way to save time for you and your employees whilst still doing the legwork of improving sales by finding and targeting the right people.
- APIs. Connect your team’s tools to send reminders, notifications or tasks using Zapier. Let computers do more work, by automating and integrating web applications. Finding as many solutions as possible to automate the advertising, content creation and management tasks that eat away at your time each day is essential for success. Be consistent and diligent with your social media activity, including paid ads, make use of PPC to target new customers on-the-fly, get the best out of suppliers by using their automated features and get automated lead gen processes to take some of the legwork out of your marketing efforts. Once you get the automated workflow in motion, you'll be glad that you did.
Importance of Systems and Processing
The Importance Of Streamlined Systems And Efficient Business Processes
If you’re in the world of publishing, media, or advertising, you know how important it is to have streamlined, efficient systems and business processes. When you’re working on a project – such as a magazine or a new catalogue – it’s important to keep all of the different workers, agencies, and companies you’re working with on the same page. Business efficiency is one of the major keys to profitability and business growth.
But this isn’t always easy. Inefficient, clunky and outdated systems and businesses processes are often entrenched in your workflow. And while you can take steps to boost employee efficiency, even the most hard-working employees will have trouble with their jobs if your business processes and systems are slow, inefficient, and outdated.
So in this section, we’ll discuss the challenges that poor systems and processes can pose to your company – from project management, to digital content production, and even printing.
The Challenges That Poor Systems And Processes Pose To Your Company
Inefficient processes and systems can hurt your business in a variety of ways. Whether you’re dealing with print systems, digital systems, or project management systems, operational inefficiencies make themselves clear with a number of negative effects.
Let’s take a look at the biggest challenges that are posed to your business by poor systems and processes now.
- The high cost of “siloing” systems and processes – The “Silo Effect” is very real, and can have high costs for your company. “Siloing” refers to business processes and systems which are being isolated – and do not share workflows. Siloing different systems from each other – such as pageturners and printing systems – means that you’re effectively doing twice the work for the same result. Though business process integration is not cheap, a properly-integrated business is much more efficient – because siloing can be overcome, and proper workflows and business processes can be used throughout your entire company.
- Bottlenecking – Bottlenecking happens when a slow, inefficient system slows down the rest of your company. For example, if you use a manual project management system to send print ads or photos for sign-off from clients and other external agencies, rather than an automatic system, and you must wait to get confirmation, this is an example of a bottleneck – because the rest of your design team must wait until you receive approval to keep working.
- Inefficient systems and process duplication Take the time to analyse if any of your systems or workflow solutions are redundant - perhaps, if you are currently using three... you've always done it, there could be opportunities to streamline. If you take the time to revamp your processes and use only one desktop publishing programme, you could save quite a bit of time, money and headaches.
- Poor overall operational performance – If you don’t integrate all of your digital and print workflow solutions and internal project, all of these issues add up to poor overall operational performance – from last-minute crunch to missing deadlines entirely.
How To Overcome These Challenges – And Enhance Efficiency At Your Business
So, how can you overcome the operational challenges that face your business, and increase efficiency? Here are a few helpful tips.
- Perform a comprehensive evaluation of your systems and processes – Take the time to sit down and think about each business process and system you use in your company. This is not an easy task – but by evaluating each and every system individually, you can discover inefficiencies that may have been hidden, and determine which issues need to be addressed.
- Ask employees about their experiences – Your employees know best. They’re the ones using your business systems and executing your business processes – so chances are that if they’re frustrated with a workflow, they have a good reason for it. Get input from your workers, and you’re sure to identify problem areas in your company’s workflows and processes.
- Identify the most important areas of improvement – Once you’ve discovered inefficiencies in your business processes, think about which ones offer the highest Return On Investment (ROI) – and prioritize the improvement of these systems first. Then, work your way down the list, and address each other inefficiency, based on its value and importance to your company.
- Make use of advanced, digital technology – The digital revolution can help your company streamline quite a few inefficient business processes – using tools like ePublish, eMagine, and Catalyst, you can collaborate more efficiently, and enjoy a smoother production workflow. It’s important to note that technology alone cannot solve the problems of organizational inefficiency – but empowering yourself with the right tools is a great first step, and can help you in your journey towards a more efficient, streamlined workflow.
- Focus on holistic, end-to-end efficiency – Try to see your company as a single entity – and think about what steps you can take to improve the efficiency of the business as a whole. Doing so will help you build a holistic vision for your workflows and business processes.
Combine Digital Technology And Organizational Change For The Best Results
It’s important to note that, while the right technological platform can help you with efficiency, it addresses the symptoms of poor workflows and processes – not their source.
You need to use the right digital platforms from companies like Rhapsody, but also examine your workflows and business processes on a more granular level, and make sure you identify any areas that you can address to improve efficiency.
So don’t wait. Sit down today, and take a look at your business processes, your digital and print workflows, project management platforms, and other such aspects of management – and see where you can identify areas for improvement.
If you would like to explore how Rhapsody can help save you time and money across your content production, please contact us here to set up an informal discussion.
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