Content Supply Chains: A Primer

  • Nick Donaldson

    Nick Donaldson

    Director of Growth Marketing, Knak

Published Jun 6, 2024

Content Supply Chains: A Primer

To quote Bob Dylan: "The times are a changin'."

The rise and popularization of generative AI is changing nearly every aspect of the digital content lifecycle. Sometimes, we experience progress as a smooth, linear line; other times, progress feels like being launched from a catapult.

For content creation, Gen AI is about as subtle as a cannonball – and we can see the effect everywhere, from social media to email marketing.

The term "Content Supply Chain" is quickly becoming part of the new AI-infused, digital marketing vernacular. But is this a case of the past is prologue? Does the concept of a content supply chain build off past concepts or is it a net new trend we ought to pay close attention to?

Let's unpack this and learn more about Content Supply Chains.

What is a Content Supply Chain?

A content supply chain is the systematic process that an organization uses to plan, create, manage, distribute, and analyze content. It integrates technologies like generative AI and digital asset management (DAMs) to streamline content creation and distribution.

You may agree that the idea of a content supply chain is well-founded in our digital workflows, whether those are formalized or not. At an enterprise level, content needs to meet a number of requirements to be approved, created, and then distributed across digital channels. While the concept is not entirely new, the content supply chain methodology brings a systematic approach to content creation which is valuable.

Stages of the Content Supply Chain

The content supply chain lifecycle uses the following stages:

  • Strategy and planning
  • Content creation and production
  • Asset management
  • Content distribution and delivery
  • Reporting and optimizations
Stages of the Content Supply Chain

Strategy and planning

At this stage, you're setting up your content calendar or evaluating how pieces of content fit into the broader picture. The strategy component is key and it will inform how you set up your workflows. Without a sense of the overall direction, it's hard to plan out the tactics – which is where the benefits of the content supply chain start to compound.

Content creation and production

Ideas are transformed into content. The thought put into the strategy and planning phase allows creative teams to do what they do best, create impactful content. This stage will involve your no-code tools and ideally integrate with your project management systems to keep everyone in the loop.

You could easily break this stage into smaller substages focused on content creation, review, quality control, and approvals.

Asset management

The ability to create content faster and more efficiently than ever before requires a matching ability to manage that content at scale. Managing the content in a centralized repository is key, but so is tagging that content and using metadata to make that content easy for internal teams to find and use.

Content distribution and delivery

While many proclaim content is king, you could make an argument that context is actually the true king of content: how you deliver your content, who gets that content, and the format of that content has a huge impact on your success. Getting distribution right, as we'll see, is a core part of the content supply chain.

Reporting and optimizations

The final stage involves analyzing the performance of the content. This means reviewing platform specific metrics, like social media performance or SEO performance. From there, integrating those findings into future pieces of content or optimizing the content is how you go from creating good content to content you cannot ignore.

Benefits of a content supply chain

Enterprises that adopt a content supply chain methodology successfully enjoy some significant benefits. Here are the benefits of a content supply chain:

  • Increase efficiency and speed to market
  • Enhanced transparency in content process
  • Utilizing advanced tech like generative AI
  • Scalable, flexible content process
  • Improve content quality
  • Better resource management
  • Data-informed decision making
Benefits of a content supply chain

Increase efficiency and speed to market

Content supply chains streamline workflows and use automation to speed up content delivery. In many cases, you may even find you don't have any processes in place today for getting content ideas approved, moved to the creation stage, and then getting final approval. Sticking points like meeting brand guidelines are a common problem – one that our toolset addresses head-on with approval workflows.

Enhanced transparency in content process

By outlining and adhering to a defined process, you can identify all stakeholders and map out critical communication milestones. When does your Creative Director need to be notified that an asset is ready for review? When is your social media team able to promote that new piece of content? Content supply chains invite transparency into the process to better coordinate everyone involved in the content process.

Utilizing advanced tech like generative AI

Tools like generative AI have played a key role in creating the need for a content supply chain methodology. The time it takes to create high quality content has been dramatically reduced which has created its own set of challenges and opportunities. The content supply chain provides a workflow process to make the most of this technology while still maintaining high quality and consistency.

Scalable, flexible content process

A scalable process is one that is able to keep up with increased demand without additional errors or delays. Content supply chains use modern tech like generative AI, marketing automation platforms, and no-code content creation tools to produce high quality content. Add in tooling like project management and collaboration tools, and you've got a process that keeps everyone informed and productive.

Improve content quality

The structured processes within the content supply chain ensure that content is not only high quality but also relevant to the audience. Key steps in your workflow include outlining the reason why you're creating content, your audience, and your distribution channels. Right from the get-go, you've got a roadmap for delivering high quality content.

Better resource management

A key component of content supply chains is the management of assets. Whether you use a digital asset management platform like Adobe Experience Manager or another solution, by making the content easier to store and manage, you can reduce redundant content and help everyone access content.

Data-informed decision making

After your content is distributed, the real fun begins! The emphasis on analytics, reporting, and optimization in a content supply chain means you've got resourcing to measure results. This creates a feedback loop by which you can continuously improve the quality of your content.

Addressing Common Bottlenecks and Enhancing Scalability of Content Supply Chains

In practice, many organizations face challenges in scaling their content supply chains due to inadequate technology or cumbersome processes. Despite the effort put into architecting a process, these types of issues can result in content creation much longer than necessary.

How do you counter these issues?

You need to start with a strong implementation plan that is based on facts on the ground and make sure you support your plan with investments in technology. Selecting the right technology stack that integrates with your existing tools and process is critical. Automation and real-time collaboration should be aimed at reducing manual intervention; oftentimes, manual efforts are good starting point to figure out exactly what you should be automating.

The premise of a content supply chain is that allows for decentralization of the content creation process by empowering individual marketers with the right tools and clear guidelines to mitigate and avoid bottlenecks. Centralized workflows through technologies like digital asset management systems, campaign creation software, and automated approved processes can streamline operations.

In the next section, we outline an implementation strategy to help you avoid these pitfalls and set yourself up for success.

How to implement a content supply chain

A content supply chain combines people processes with technology to develop content creation and distribution workflows. Both components–the human and the technological–are equally important. You likely already have some of these components in place but organizing yourself and the team will make developing a content supply chain much easier.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Create a content strategy
  2. Establish a modular content architecture
  3. Select your technology stack
  4. Fine tune your content production tools
  5. Plan delivery and distribution channels
  6. Configure analytics and reporting
  7. Set up brand and legal compliance workflows
How to implement a content supply chain

Create a content strategy

Even if you have a strong content strategy, it's important to revisit first principles from time-to-time. You can start by reviewing or defining your content KPIs to ensure they align with your marketing objectives and business strategy. Nothing is worse than creating content just for the sake of it: what does your audience want out of the content you produce?

Establish a modular content architecture

The term modular content architecture is really just a fancy way of saying, "make your content easily adaptable to multiple platforms." Your objective is to bake into the process a requirement to make sure content created on one platform works on all others. For example, you may set up a workflow in blog creation to ensure the content team also repurposes that content for email, social media, and even multimedia like YouTube.

This architecture is key to establishing clear requirements for each piece of content you develop so you're not scrambling at the last minute to get approvals on a social media post that should've been drafted earlier in the process.

Select your technology stack

No matter your marketing operations model, the technology fuelling your content process is key in enabling your team. Components of your martech stack may include:

  • Digital Asset Management system
  • Project management tools
  • Content creation tools
  • Generative AI software

Of course, integrating this technology into your content process isn't as easy as signing up for new software services. I recommend creating a workflow diagram that maps out each manual and automated component of your current process. Then, start to layer in the technological bits – this will help you improve existing processes and identify opportunities to automate tedious parts of your content system.

Configure analytics and reporting

At the outset you defined your content strategy and KPIs; in this step, you're going to set up your measurement strategy. Based on your distribution channels, you'll need to set up analytics tracking across web and email channels, and have a clear idea of what social media metrics you want to measure.

Behind the setup is the penultimate question, why? Or, why measure each of these metrics and what does it tell us? This will help with optimization and provides insights for our feedback loop. If your email open rates are high, but your click rates are low, then you've got an opportunity to do some A/B testing.

The ideal state of a content supply chain is to enable teams to work efficiently and effectively. One of the most common challenges in delivering content is getting content approved by brand and (potentially) legal teams. The mistake too many teams make is that they see this as the last step, and not the first step.

With a tool like Knak, brand guardrails are easy to establish upfront so teams can be creative without coloring outside of the lines. Making sure that content is approved from the get-go and has clear guidelines is critical. This can be enforced through technology or through training the people creating content.

The role of generative AI in a content supply chain

The role of generative AI in a content supply chain

An important component of the content supply chain trend is generative AI. I'd argue it's the catalyst behind creating such formal, process-oriented workflows around content. Why? Generative AI can help content creators in the organization such as customer support, product development, and marketing.

The ability to create high quality content at scale with generative AI necessitates some sort of countermeasure. Processes, like the ones we've been outlining, put in place both human and technological workflows to harness the potential of AI without causing more harm than good. For example, a well-meaning field marketing team could use AI to generate material for a campaign event but make a number of brand or legal compliance errors in their material.

If generative AI tools are thoughtfully deployed, they have a lot of potential in a content supply chain. Here's how generative AI may have an impact:

  • Speeding up content production
  • Augmenting the creative brainstorming process
  • Automating routine tasks
  • Assisting with personalizing content at scale
  • Providing a content quality check

Conclusion: The secret to scaling your content supply chain

A content supply chain is a merger between human and technological processes. This merger shouldn't feel like an uneasy alliance but rather a path to creating clear instruction sets for developing high quality content.

One element that every content supply chain needs–and the secret to scaling it–is having the right tools in place to enable collaboration and consistency. It's been argued that front-end marketing technology tools are becoming increasingly indispensable in the age of generative AI. The tools themselves help to put in guardrails to ensure brand consistency and tone at the moment of content creation. Follow-up reviews by humans can then be a formality and a final step in the process.

Generative AI within the content process will require rethinking brand guidelines and put more importance on having controls baked into the technological process. Tools like Knak are at the forefront of this process by combining content creation (email and landing page design) with brand controls and collaboration.

Share this article

  • Nick Donaldson


    Nick Donaldson

    Director of Growth Marketing, Knak

Why marketing teams love Knak

  • 95%better, faster campaigns = more success

  • 22 minutesto create an email*

  • 5x lessthan the cost of a developer

  • 50x lessthan the cost of an agency**

* On average, for enterprise customers

** Knak base price

Ready to see Knak in action?

Get a demo and discover how visionary marketers use Knak to speed up their campaign creation.

Watch a Demo