Content epics content ops

Scaling Content Operations – The Most Difficult Piece of The Puzzle

How to scale content operations? I’ve heard this question over and over, asked both by agency owners and in-house content managers. Scaling content ops is notoriously difficult because there are so many moving parts, and it’s so hard to create standardized operating procedures for such a creative task as writing. I had the same problem when we decided to up our ante with content creation and publish 32 blog posts per month. Initially, I thought hiring 2-3 full-time content writers would solve the problem – as we were publishing really niche content that required specialized knowledge and hours of training – but it didn’t. The content writers were burning out double time and we were nowhere near hitting the target post number. The number of posts we were able to publish consistently

Then, after another content writer resigned (that was the third one in 3 months, btw.) I sat down one weekend, back to the drawing board, and spent about 40 hours just reading, thinking about it, and talking to other content managers. Then, suddenly, I talked to an…engineer. He told me development projects are arranged in epics.

And that got me thinking and ultimately – I came up with a solution in less than 10 minutes, that now allows us to publish around 40 blog posts per month consistently.

It’s simple, but it requires you to think completely differently about your content operations.

Content Epics – The Way to Improve your Content Operations

The first step to create a scalable content operations workflow is to divide your content plan (keywords + topics) into epics.

Epics are “content clusters” – lists of blog post topics revolving around one overarching theme. For us, it was e.g. “Product Adoption”, “User Engagement”, “Retention” etc.

Each content epic is a task (or “milestone”) with each blog post listed as a subtask in your project management tool (I’m using Asana here): 

Content Epic Details - Subtasks

Now, let’s look into how to organize your epics, and how many you need. 

How many content epics should you have?

That really depends on two factors:

  1. Your product: you should come up with the ‘themes’ for your epics around the problems your product is solving, but topic ideation is a topic for a completely different post.)

2. and how often you want to publish.


I created this workflow to have only 1 freelancer working on each content epic, and write only 1 blog post per week.

Which means – with 10 content epics, I had to work with at least 10 freelancer. 

You can of course use fewer freelancers and have them write several posts per week, but I find this very unreliable.

The more ‘single points of failure’ you have – the easier it will be for one rouge hire to derail your workflow.

For instance – if we aim to publish 10 posts per week, and relied on only 3 freelancers to write 3-4 posts per week – loosing one for whatever reason would also mean losing 33% (or more) of our weekly posts. 

And trust me – this happens all the time. Life happens to even the best writers with the best intentions. 

So if you want your content workflow to be scalable in a reliable way, you need to build some redundancy into the system. 

I recommend assinging one writer to one content epic at most, or better still – alternating between two every other week, so you have a “backup” in case someone gets ill, ghosts you, or simply overstreaches themselves and can’t deliver your post in time. 

How to organize your content epics?

The order of topics in your epics should depend on your content priorities. I would recommend arranging the topics in the content cluster in the following way: 

Now that you know how many epics you should have, and how many writers you need, and how to orgnize your epics – let’s see how to organize your workflow. 

Your Content Workflow in Asana

Now, with content clusters in epics, you can publish as many blog posts as you want per week.

If you’re an agency, you can also organize your epics can also be your client accounts.  If you run the whole content ops for each client, and handle all their content epics, you should duplicate the whole Kanban board for each client and run it as a “project”. 

I’d suggest arranging it in the following way: 

  1. Build a Kanban board in a project management tool (I’d highly recomment Asana for this – I’ll explain why in the following points.). Give it the name of your company or the client account you’re building it for.
  2. Create the following columns in the following order: 1. To-Do 2. EPICS, 3. In-Progress: Writing 4. Editing 5. SEO + Publishing. In this order – why? I’m explaining it in the next point. 
  3. Create your Content Epics as ‘milestone tasks’ in the project. Create all the blog posts you want to write in an epic as ‘subtasks’. Then, when you’ve created each subtask, click on “Tab + P” and add the subtask to the main Project. It will land automatically in the first column of the project, which is why you should add “To-Do” before “EPICS”. 
  4. Put a day of the week next to each of your Epics’ names. This will be the publishing day for posts in this epic.
  5. Assign all your subtasks in an Epic to the writer (or writers) responsible for it, to be delivered on or before 9 a.m. on the day indicated in the Epic’s name. Set all your due dates in Asana accordingly. 
  6. Ask the writers to move their tasks from “To-Do” to “In Progress” when they start writing them. Ask them to move them to “Editing” when they are done. 
  7. The Content Editor picks them up from “Editing” and checks whether they have been written in accordance with the brief (more on that in the next point.) 
  8. When the Editor is done checking the post, they move it onto the “SEO and publishing” – where the Sub-Editor checks it against the SEO checklist (a topic for *yet another* post) and pushes it into the world on the same day. 

We use Notion to write all our content briefs. 

content brief template

Now, as you’ve probably noticed – I mentioned two roles that make it all happen in the paragraph above – the Content Edior and Sub-Editor. Let’s talk more about them below. 

Content Editor – the Most Important Role you Need to Implement Content Epics

In order to make the whole system work, and maintain high quality of work as you scale – you will need to hire Content Editors, ideally as full-time members of your marketing team. You will also need a Sub-Editor (another person) to handle the final SEO checks and publishing. Let me explain why. 

If you hire so many writers, you also need someone to manage them. 

And don’t be fooled that you can find writers who will know exactly what to write in a new niche from the get-go, be SEO experts, understand your tool, audience, needs etc. 

Investing in building that up in freelance writers is time-consuming, expensive and…risky. Because if they leave, they take all the knowledge away with them. 

It’s much better and more scalable to invest that time and resources into training content editors, who will manage your writers and make sure your content is up to a really high standard. 

The content Editor is the person that will be responsible for creating super-detailed briefs, including all the images your writers should use, and making sure your writers write according to them. 

The briefs need to include: 

  1. Title 
  2. All the H2s and H3s to use, optimised for SEO, verbatim 
  3. Talking points for each paragraph in bullet points 
  4. Notes allowing the wirters to write up content without doing much research
  5. Links to resources they should read to research specific points 
  6. All the internal and external links to include in the content piece, with instructions where and how they should be included (as a do-follow or a no-follow link, under which anchor.) 

If that sounds like a lot of work – it’s because it is. But it’s also a lot less work than fixing or rewriting terrible copy done by content writers who didn’t know your expectations. 

And even if you hire the best content writers in the world – they will need to know what you want. 

A good content editor can write 2-3 briefs per day. A good content writer can’t write that many. 

Plus, it gets easier and easier once you develop your Brief Templates:

content brief template

After the post is done, the content editor should read it and check for quality – whether the post conforms with what the brief and standards. 

Then, another person (a native speaker of the language you’re publishing it) should give it a final look with a fresh eye – proofread it for any language errors, as well as checking it against the SEO checklist (are all Alt Text in images there? Are all links that should be no-follow no-follow? Is the primary KW where it should be?) 

Content Editor’s Workload

Now, you may be wondering – how much work should you give to your content editor? 

If you’re writing long-form posts (2000 words +) for a challenging, technical B2B niche – I’d advise you to give no more than 5 Epics to one full-time editor. That way, they can easily write one content brief per day, and then edit one post. The system of labelling your Epics with publication days will help you organize your work immensely. Simply assign the epics for the 5 days per week to a specific content writer and let them “own” the outcomes. 

Writing a challenging brief may take up to 4 hours, and editing a post written based on it – up to 2. The remaining two hours will be left as a margin of error + for any other management or admin stuff, including meetings. 

If you’re writing shorter, and less demanding posts for well-known niches (e.g. lifestyle, food, fashion, travel) you can have your Content Editor produce more briefs and edit more posts peer day. 

If you find your Content Editor can handle more and is getting bored, you can assign them more posts. 

A sub-editor can be a part-time role and they can handle publishing as many posts as they have time for. The final edits and SEO checks + publishing shouldn’t take more than 1-2 hours. 

Final thoughts

I have used this workflow for about 3 months now and it *works*. The biggest bottleneck is still hiring competent writers and making sure the briefs are clear enough for them to follow, but in general – I believe it is a scalable system for content operations, both in an agency and a startup. It guarantees output of course, not the outcomes in terms of how your posts rank and how many conversions you get from them – that’s something that depends on your content strategy of course. 

Let me know what systems you use in your content workflows – and happy writing!

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Emilia is a passionate SaaS marketer specializing in content marketing. She's currently the Head of Marketing at Userpilot, a Product Growth Platform for SaaS.