How to Use Scrum for Content Marketing

Certain Agile concepts and ideas have been part of the content
marketing conversation for some time now. Scrum is one concept
that’s often part of these conversations. But bundling it with
Agile causes all kinds of confusion.

This article focuses on how a Scrum-based approach to content
marketing could work, as told through the experience of a
hypothetical content marketing team.

Scrum is incremental

The Scrum concept revolves around
iterative, incremental delivery
. In software development, the
Scrum team strives to deliver increments of working software in
short, time-boxed iterations called
. These sprints have a clearly defined beginning and end
(between one and four weeks) and a clearly defined goal.

A content marketing Scrum team would operate similarly, with a
set sprint length (which should remain the same for all sprints to
make track efficacy easier) and a defined goal or goals. The
content team collaborates to reach that goal within the designated
time frame.

It may seem counterintuitive to adopt the Scrum approach for
something like content marketing, which is an ongoing effort. In
practice, however, this way of doing content marketing can be quite

Scrum for #contentmarketing seems counterintuitive, but can be
eye-opening. @BabicJug

Click To Tweet

Example: The content team decides on a two-week
sprint. The goal is to write a comprehensive post for the company
blog (complete with
keyword research
, etc.), to share the post on social media, to formulate
a link-building strategy, and to reach out to third-party sites for
the purpose of building links to this article.

Scrum benefits for content teams

This iterative approach gives the
content marketing team
clearly defined increments of work,
which can be analyzed and modified quickly without
wasting time
on something that provides no value to the blog,
the company, or the readers.

Scrum’s emphasis on

encourages Scrum teams to be fully transparent, to
review and analyze their work, and to adapt accordingly.

Sprints provide added structure and focus for the team, enabling
it to identify and work toward achievable goals. This aspect of
Scrum creates an atmosphere of steady accomplishments, which is
important because content marketing can feel like an endless

Finally, executing content marketing in sprints helps teams
better understand how much time and effort is needed for certain
types of work, so they can improve their planning.

People on a Scrum team

The official Scrum Guide™
(you can
check it out here if you wish
) prescribes three distinct roles
with distinct responsibilities for an optimal functioning Scrum

  • A product owner, whose main responsibility is
    to maximize the value delivered by the Scrum team. The PO maintains
    the product backlog (I’ll explain that later), clearly defines
    and orders the product backlog items, and makes sure everyone
    understands them well enough to work on them.
  • A Scrum master, who acts as a servant-leader
    for the team. The Scrum master helps everyone understand and
    practice Scrum through advice, coaching, and making sure the
    framework is applied properly. The Scrum master is also responsible
    for removing any impediments (internal and external) that prevent
    the team from doing its work.
  • A development team, which includes people who
    deliver a “releasable increment of the product” (more on this
    later) and which has the final say in what will be done in a

The development team has no hierarchy, titles, or sub-teams.

Some teams have product owners and Scrum masters who dedicate
their time to their roles. For content marketing Scrum teams, it is
more likely the product owner and the Scrum master also will be
part of the development team, i.e., doing practical work.

Organizing content work

Scrum provides a great structure for organizing the work in a
way that makes clear who is working on what and why something is
being done.

Scrum helps #contentmarketing organize work so teams know who
does what and why. @BabicJug

Click To Tweet

Product backlog

The product backlog is a prioritized list of everything needed
for the product. For a content marketing team, that product may be
successful content pieces that bring in leads and boost conversion
rates (or anything else that your team is focusing on).

The product backlog includes product backlog items (PBIs), which
describe the work the team must do to add value to the product
(successful, sustainable content marketing).

All PBIs have the following:

  • Clear descriptions
  • Order in which the items will be done
  • Value (determined by the team)
  • Estimate on how long it will take to complete

As I mentioned, all of this is the responsibility of the product
owner. The product owner can (and should) consult the rest of the
content marketing Scrum team about the product backlog. But, being
the sole person responsible for the backlog, the product owner can
bring focus and clarity to it.

Not all product backlog items are described in great detail. The
product owner only goes into details on product backlog items being
addressed in the next sprint or two. Also, remember the product
backlog is a living thing and can change over time.

Sprint backlog

When it’s time to start a new sprint, the development team
pulls the product backlog items needed to reach the sprint goal
into the sprint backlog – a list of ordered PBIs to be worked on
in that sprint.

Example: Our content marketing Scrum development team pulls
these product backlog items into the sprint backlog to execute in
the new sprint:

  • Decide the topic for the blog post
  • Research the topic
  • Research keywords for the blog post
  • Write the blog post
  • Create visuals for the blog post
  • Proofread the blog post
  • Publish the blog post
  • Set up a social media sharing schedule
  • Create visuals for social media sharing
  • Work out a strategy for link building
  • Research possible websites and owners
  • Write outreach emails
  • Start an outreach campaign

No one decides on how all of this will be done except for the
development team, i.e., the people who will be doing the work. For
example, the development team would select the tools and the
process to use to
find the topic
research keywords

The development team is the one with the final say on what will
be done in a sprint.

Scrum board

While it’s not a formal concept from the Scrum Guide, most
Scrum teams use a Scrum board to visualize the work in a sprint. It
can be a physical board with sticky notes or it can be a virtual
one for teams that use Scrum software.

Here is an example of what a Scrum board would look like for the

You can see all the product backlog items have been pulled into
the sprint. Some of them are completed, while some are in progress
and some still need to be started. This example illustrates how
work moves across the Scrum board.

As you can see, Scrum enables a clear, transparent, and
effective way to organize work, providing data on who did what,
where the holdups might be, and how the sprint is progressing.

Organizing work this way encourages
among team members to move them toward the sprint
goal without wasting time and resources.

Organizing #contentmarketing work on a Scrum board helps teams
collaborate, says @BabicJug

Click To Tweet

For example, if the team notices that the PBI “work out a
strategy for link building” is stuck too long in the “In
Progress” column, additional team members can jump on it and get
things rolling again.

Scrum meetings

Scrum meetings are held regularly and help improve the teamwork
and the product.

Sprint planning

The sprint planning meeting happens before a sprint starts. At
the planning meeting, the product owner suggests product backlog
items that the team should work on and the development team then
discusses what to take on and the best way to do the work.

Example: The content marketing Scrum team’s
product owner suggests that the team should write a blog post,
share it on social media, and conduct an extensive link-building
campaign for it. The development team points out there is no way to
accomplish all of that in a two-week sprint. The team agrees to
take on writing the blog post, sharing it on social, and planning
the link-building campaign. They then talk about how to do the
things necessary to accomplish this set of goals.

Daily Scrum

During brief daily Scrum meetings, the team talks about what
they’ve done, how everything is going, and what they plan to do
that day. It’s the perfect opportunity for the team to identify
possible bottlenecks and impediments and come up with a way to
resolve them.

Example: In a daily Scrum meeting, the
development team member working on the social media sharing
strategy has spent time on it, but it isn’t progressing as
quickly as necessary. Another team member offers to help to move
things along.  

Sprint review

After the sprint, the Scrum team members meet to review the work
accomplished. They talk about what they did well and what could be
improved in future sprints. The sprint review is also the chance to
showcase the team members’ work for others. It also can be used
to elicit feedback from other stakeholders in the company and
explain how the work done by the content marketing team will
contribute to the company.

Example: In the sprint review meeting, content
Scrum team members review the blog post and identify ways it could
be improved. But they agree that the social media content developed
for it went well and the link-building campaign is on solid

Sprint retrospective

The sprint retrospective focuses on how the team collaborated as
a unit, the obstacles they ran into, and how they can become a more
productive and collaborative team. The purpose is not to assign
blame but to have a positive meeting that reinforces the feeling of
belonging to an ever-improving unit.

A #content sprint retrospective isn’t about blame. It’s
about being part of an ever-improving unit. @BabicJug

Click To Tweet

Example: In the sprint retrospective, the
content team realizes that crucial input was missed because one
person felt uncomfortable voicing their concerns about another team
member’s ideas. The retrospective enables the team to be open
about things often swept under the rug and to correct this kind of

The main goals of all these Scrum meetings are to promote
transparency around what the team does, to honestly and objectively
inspect the team’s work and how it works as a unit, and to adapt
the strategy and the practices to ensure that the team delivers as
much value as possible.

TIP: Check out some
Agile tools
mostly aimed at Scrum teams to support your

A few considerations

Though it was once a tech-focused process, Scrum can bring
benefits to content marketing teams. But it shouldn’t limit
content teams from applying other practices and ideas. That’s the
point of Scrum – to provide a framework that will help establish
what delivers value and what doesn’t.

Scrum usually doesn’t come with instant success. It takes time
for teams to find the best way to work under the framework within
their company. Some teams might emphasize certain practices and
avoid others that make little sense for their situation (i.e.,
assigning value to individual tasks). But the key benefits of Scrum
– transparency, inspection, and adaptation – lead to better
ways of doing things.

Learn more about marrying technology and content to make your
content marketing programs more effective at ContentTECH in April
in San Diego. Register
and use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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How to Use Scrum for Content Marketing
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How to Use Scrum for Content Marketing