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Collaborating With Engineers Part 4 - Collaboration Structures and Workflows

Collaboration Structures and Workflows BAnnerSo, you understand the importance of involving engineers in the content creation process (Part 1), you’ve identified a handful of contributors (Part 2), and you’ve brainstormed a list of topics that you and your team of engineers are excited about (Part 3). Now the hard part begins - creating content!

All the individual components of a successful piece of content are in place, your job now is to determine the optimal way for those components to fit together. In other words, you need to develop a project plan that works for you and your engineer contributors. Should marketing create the first draft and then pass it over to engineering for a technical accuracy check, or should the process begin with engineering?

Well, the answer really is - it depends.

How complicated is the piece? How technically specific is it? Does it draw on insight only the lead engineer of a project would have? Is your audience engineering professionals, manufacturers, students, or hobbyists?

We’ll examine four different methods that have worked for us at and provide examples of when each method may be best to use.

But first, a warning.

Trust the Process

Engineers are inherently process-oriented; maximizing the efficiency of how different parts of a whole interact is intuitive to them. However, some marketers reading this might think differently: why slow down the creative process with all this talk of “structures” and “workflows”? Just get on with it!

“Process management” typically isn’t a term you associate with creativity. But when contributors from entirely different departments (e.g., marketing and engineering) start working together, a lack of structure can lead to confusion, unnecessary back-and-forth, and ultimately a decline in productivity and a reduction in the flow of content.

Consistency is Key

Having a clearly defined workflow structure set up ahead of time leads to more consistency between pieces of content. If you can get the creation of content down to a science - as engineers are wont to do with most things - then you can create more content in shorter amounts of time while keeping the voice of the author/creator relatively consistent. 

Setting Clear Expectations

Without a clear process in place, it also becomes easier for contributors to shirk responsibility or under-deliver - intentionally or unintentionally. A breakdown in the content creation process can quickly devolve into a game of finger-pointing without clear expectations in place. Avoid this situation by instituting clear responsibilities and timelines from the start.

Avoid Delays and Keep Chugging Along

Ultimately, you want to keep the creation of content chugging along at a regular and consistent pace. When you define a collaboration structure ahead of time, you’re able to track the creation of content step by step, so you always know at what stage your next article, podcast, or video is at and when it’s expected to be completed.


4 Collaboration Structures for Success

Below are four examples of collaborative structures we have used at which have worked for different pieces of content. It should be noted that none of these scenarios exist in a vacuum; no one method is perfect, and you’ll find more often than not that a method that works well for blog content may not work well for podcasts or for videos, and a method that works for one contributor might not work for another.

With this in mind, let’s dive in!

1. Start with Marketing

With topic in-hand, have your marketing team put together a detailed outline for a blog, podcast episode, or video script. The marketing team can pre-structure the blog for SEO or ensure talking points in a video are relevant to YouTube searches on the topic before the creation of content begins.

Once you have a detailed outline, pass said outline over to the engineering team for actual content creation. With a clear roadmap outlined for them, the engineering team can fill in the subheading structure of a blog with actual written content, or they can fill out a video script with dialogue and ideas for accompanying visuals. In this instance, engineering is doing most of the actual content creation; while it is likely that engineering will provide some feedback on the outline, the marketing team will have done their job if they can provide some guidance and structure to the engineering team before they start writing or recording.

With a first draft created, the piece should be passed back to marketing for review and refinement. In addition to actually distributing the content, marketing should always be responsible for doing thorough quality assurance before publication. This ensures any out-of-place audio in a podcast, strange edits in a video, or awkward sentences in a blog are caught and fixed before the piece goes live.

2. Start with Engineering

Much like the first workflow but reversed - let engineering create a detailed outline for the piece of content. This method ensures that the work will address all of the points that important from the engineer’s perspective. Ask engineering to create a detailed outline complete with headings, subheadings (or segments of a video/podcast), and even paragraph or section summaries that a writer can later use to build from.

Once the outline is complete, pass it over to marketing to build out the content. If it’s a video, the marketing team can build out a script based on the content outline that the engineer has put together and even begin filming (pulling in engineering video talent as needed). If it’s a blog, the marketing team should be able to create the first draft using the detailed outline and paragraph summaries provided by engineering.

The added step associated with this process is the return to engineering. Because marketing is drafting the bulk of the content, engineering has to be consulted again for a technical edit - something that might be time-consuming if your marketing department isn’t well-versed in the ways of the engineer. Following a technical edit, let marketing take one last look at the piece before it’s published and distributed.

3. Engineer as Editor

Leaning more heavily on your marketing department, let the engineering team be part of the topic brainstorming process but then have them step away from the actual content creation. If your marketing team is familiar and comfortable with engineering principles and concepts, then this method might work best for you.

Once marketing and engineering agree on a topic, let marketing run with the idea and put the initial piece together. Then, pass the first draft over to engineering for a technical accuracy check.

The upside to this approach is that the content will likely be created faster. If all goes according to plan, if content creation begins and ends with a single person or department (save for a technical edit), then the piece should be finished faster than if it were assembled by committee. On the other hand, if all does not go according to plan (e.g., marketing makes a number of technical errors, engineering is unhappy with the first draft from marketing, etc.), your content engine may stall.

4. Work Together

If all else fails, simply stick a member of the marketing team and a member of the engineering team in a room together until they figure it out.

Just kidding - kind of.

This approach likely won’t work for an article, but for a podcast or video it just might do the trick. If you encourage a member of your marketing team and a member of your engineering team to work together throughout the content creation process, it can sometimes speed things along if both people are aligned. However, the flip side of this approach is that marketers and engineers rarely think exactly alike, which can lead to confusion and misdirection over the direction of the piece. Use this method with caution!

Guidelines for Success

I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts on the content creation process and some tips for ongoing success.

  • Set realistic expectations and get the engineering team’s buy-in. If you take into account engineering’s existing workload when setting deadlines, then engineering will be far more likely to give their continued best effort.
  • On the flip side, marketing should be responsible for driving the process and meeting deadlines. If marketing starts canceling meetings and delaying delivery, why should the engineering team feel the need to deliver their responsibilities on time?
  • Share the love with all members of the content creation process. Before publishing, be sure to show the engineers involved exactly what the final piece will look like and why changes were made (if any were). Remember - engineering is doing you a favor by contributing to content creation, so heap praise on them when the task is complete!


Our next blog in this series will examine how you should approach the editing and revision process when working with a team of engineers and marketers. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date!


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