In-Ear Insights Content Supply Chain Management

In-Ear Insights: Content Supply Chain Management

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast, Katie and Chris discuss what the term “content supply chain” really means. You’ll learn whether this buzzword can improve your content creation process. Discover how to use both people and technology to create an efficient content workflow. Find out if the “content supply chain” delivers on its promise to reduce costs and improve your content quality.

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In-Ear Insights: Content Supply Chain Management

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:00

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, let’s talk about the content supply chain.

So the content supply chain is a concept introduced by some very enterprising content marketers that basically is, how do what is the process from ideation all the way through distribution of getting a piece of content made, and there’s a number of processes and people and vendors along the way.

Katie, when you hear content supply chain, what does that mean to you?

Katie Robbert 0:32

It means that somebody got paid a lot of money to create a new term for an old thing.

What but in reality, what content supply chain? What is content plus supply chain mean, to me, I feel like I’m about to write a fifth grade essay.

But basically, it says to me, it’s the process in which you produce content.

It’s whether you’re using technology or people or a combination of both.

But it’s how you’re getting from ideation to finished product and how it’s getting disseminated.

It’s a supply chain, you know, are you sourcing it from third parties? Are you creating it yourself? But it all comes down to defining the process?

Christopher Penn 1:06


And, as you said, this is not a new concept by any means.

In fact, we’ve been talking about the components of content supply chains, for 25 years now, the current, the construct is pretty simple.

In fact, we have a framework from a long time ago, I think it was 2006 was the original version of this.

But it’s basically this create, distribute, activate, measure governed by your strategy.

So you have to create the content and all the people processes and platforms to do that.

You have to distribute it.

So where’s this going to go? How are you going to get it out there? You have to activate it through things like advertising and influencers and SEO? And they have to measure it did did it do the thing? Unsurprisingly, this sounds an awful lot like the five fees.

And yet, as you said, there are folks who are in many cases working for vendors or very expensive consulting firms who are positioned content supply chain as something that is new and innovative, rather than something that is literally decades old.

So from that perspective, Katie, what are the things that if someone’s saying, hey, we need to evaluate our content supply chain? What do you say to them? How do they how do they do that using the five P’s?

Katie Robbert 2:25

The first thing, unsurprisingly is what is the purpose? So we need to evaluate our content supply chain? If you said that to me, I would look you in the eye and say, why? What the heck are you talking about? Can you just say it in plain language.

So let me take a step back for a second.

So the reason why consultants, consulting firms come up with new ways to spin old things, is because it sounds innovative, it sounds expensive.

And a lot of companies are driven by I want to be the best in class, I want to be the most innovative.

So if I can say I have a content supply chain, versus I have a content strategy, people go, I think I need a content supply chain.

What do you have a content supply chain? I, I have one.

And so that’s why consultants are the worst.

And they continually invent new terms for old things.

So getting back to the point, Chris, if you said we need to audit our content supply chain, the first question I would ask you is why? To do what with? What would we do with that information? So that’s where you would start with your purpose? What is the purpose of auditing? Your content? Basically, what’s your inventory? What do you have? How are you creating it? How are you disseminating it, all the things that you just said, you know, with the older framework, why are we doing this? What are we going to do with the information? And the next would be, well, who’s going to do the work? You know, is it a matter of you know, first you and I need to go through and handpick what we want to go through because we have a lot of content that we’ve created over the past six years.

And so it’s not a small ask, in order for us to audit all of it.

So are we auditing all of our live streams? Just our written content? Are we auditing all of our transcripts? And so on and so forth? And then the process will how are we going to audit it? Or like, what are the metrics that we’ll be looking at in terms of auditing? Is it just cataloging everything? Is it looking at everything in terms of how well it performed? You know, we can make a lot of assumptions that goes back to having a clear purpose, what are we going to do with this information? The platform is the least important part of understanding this because if you don’t know why you’re doing it, or how you’re going to do it, then the platform is irrelevant.

If you say well, we’re just going to look at WordPress, which is where we house a lot of our content, okay.

And do what with it, just go stare at it.

Gonna bring up a webpage.

We need to understand why we’re doing in the first place and then our performance in the As case, it’s what are we gonna do with the information once we audit it? And can we do something with the information once we’ve done the audit.

And so it’s very similar to your point, Chris, of this antiquated content distribution framework, which may be old, but it’s still relevant, you still, it’s still the process hasn’t changed, whether it’s a supply chain or a strategy or whatever, you have to create it, you have to put it out somewhere, and you have to measure it.

Christopher Penn 5:27

I think one of the things implicit in a term like supply chain, like content supply chain is invoking other consulting practices like supply chain management and the point of supply chain management, you know, going back to the first P isn’t necessarily performance per se, it performance is part of it.

But the purpose in a lot of cases, when companies do supply chain management audits, is cost reduction.

Right? They say we want to make our processes faster.

We want to optimize our vendors, we want to reduce our costs and things.

And it it and this is something that I know a lot of folks in the creative space really object to it essentially says that content itself is a commodity quality is assumed.

And the the the mechanism for management is a cost of it.

How can we reduce? How can we use supply chain management principles to reduce the cost of content production and increase our efficiency in this as though content we’re just kind of as a amorphous asset like petroleum? So how do we how do we increase the efficiency of our, our supply chain to produce this stuff, and move it down the pipeline as quickly as we can.

And so when we hear people talking about content supply chain content Supply Chain Management, I think what we’re subtly hearing also is, hey, you shouldn’t be buying our software.

And your content costs too much to produce, you shouldn’t be producing more content at lower cost.

And there’s no mention of quality.


Katie Robbert 6:56

and I think that, you know, to your point, using the term supply chain, it implies consistent churning of content, so you’re just gonna keep churning out content as a supply chain, because its supply chain is that it’s a chain of supplies.

And so you think about, you know, manufacturing, you know, a literal warehouse, where things are coming down at assembly line, like one after another, it’s how they scale, and everything is the same.

And I think that that’s the thing that isn’t being talked about with content supply chain is the sameness in order to turn out that much content consistently, you’re going to have very little variation.

And that’s sort of one of the, you know, challenges and push backs of generative AI right now is that there’s a lot of sameness being produced, if people are trying to use generative AI to scale their content practices or create a content supply chain with you know, other software and not people and not creative teams and not writers, you’re going to get what you’ve asked for, which is you’re going to get a lot of contact, it’s going to be very similar, it’s going to be very similar to the guy down the street who bought the exact same software,

Christopher Penn 8:09

I agree with you in that’s the way people are, are somewhat ineptly using generative AI, but we’ve actually been part of the supply chain.

In the past with other clients.

We had this one client a long time ago, where we help them manage the stable of 150 writers.

And that was 100% Supply Chain Management.

Here’s the brief.

Here’s the time period, here’s the pay.

You know, this is the Edit cycle.

This is revision cycle.

And it really was the performance measure was minimally acceptable quality.

But a production speed of it was two pieces a day was what was required is and they were given a lot of latitude on the topics.

But it was all basically small business related, but they had to produce two pieces of content a day.

That was that was how the supply chain success was measured.

Katie Robbert 8:56

But do you know why that was? So that why that worked? Why? Because there was a really strong process that people did not deviate from, we had a clear purpose, which was to create X number of pieces of content with this criteria.

We knew who the people were, we had the stable of writers, you know, and we could bring on new writers because we knew what we were looking for.

But basically it was like, here’s the one person in charge of all of this.

This is the client.

These are the writers like we knew who all the players were.

It was the process that was the linchpin of this whole thing.

Because it was here’s the outline, here’s the artwork.

Here’s the topic.

Here’s the timeline.

Here’s the criteria.

Here’s this, and there was no deviating from the process.

It was essentially a human well oiled machine because there was very little tech involved because you had humans writing the thing.

That’s what generative AI is promising to replace.

But what you’re missing is all of these different writers 150 writers with a 150 different life experiences, bringing that to the table.

And that, yes, generative AI can replicate that.

But that’s not how these companies are building that they’re not saying, Let’s inject 150 150 different life experiences.

So that today it’s writing like Katie tomorrow, it’s writing like Chris.

And on Thursday, it’s writing like, John, that’s not happening.

That’s where the same is.

So yes, it can replicate the process.

It cannot.

It is not, it’s not that it cannot, it is not replicating the people.

The way that you know, that other process was that we were just talking about.


Christopher Penn 10:39

could you maybe not with 150 people, could you take 15 People spraying them as really good prompt engineers, who will do more than like, write a blog post about, you know, accounting software, but could actually come up with decent multi page prompts that are highly detailed, very specific, and have them be suppliers within the supply chain that are just as effective, not more effective than when they were writing when they were actually, you know, putting fingers on keyboard just doing the writing themselves? Because you still would have that diversity of life experiences and points of view.

But now, you’d be having them guide the machinery to produce those highly specific pieces of content?

Katie Robbert 11:23

I mean, you could, you absolutely could, the more diversity you have, in who’s training the models, the better the models are going to be, you know, we were talking about this in a different episode of this podcast, where you were concerned about one single person using generative AI to run a whole business, that is the problem, because it’s one person’s opinion, one person’s life experience, they’re not getting that diversity.

But in this example, if you get, you know, 510 15 different people with different life experiences with different skill sets, different backgrounds, to train a model, you’re going to get a much more sophisticated model that’s unique versus the sameness of what’s out on the market today.

Christopher Penn 12:11

Now, when you look back at that old team of 150, how was the quality of the content? Cuz I know you helped to manage the team that managed that stable? How was the quality of the humans?

Katie Robbert 12:25

It was good.

The quality was? So you know, our success criteria was, could you meet the timeline? Could you meet the criteria of the writing? You know, so X number of words on this topic, so and so forth? And then what was the performance of the content? And as long as the content performed? Well, and I’m putting well in air quotes, you know, because we had to find like, what that means, you know, traffic, and so on, so forth, your basic website metrics, then I would say it worked, could it have been better, always, there’s always room for improvement.

But when you’re trying to write at that scale with that many people, you have to be somewhat realistic about what you can accomplish.

And for that client, as long as it kept them, you know, top of the search results, they were getting traffic to those pages, people weren’t complaining that it was terrible than for them.

Those were the success metrics.

Christopher Penn 13:25

So when we look at a content supply chain, let’s take a company that says, hey, we need to create some new content, we’re not creating enough.

And there’s, there’s a minimum level of quality would be okay, it’s readable.

And it says something that is absolute garbage, right? Okay, maybe it’s something on cooking.

And you know, the recipes have to be coherent recipes, they can’t be, you know, poisonous, when you have on one hand, a boutique of 1525 human beings who crank out content, and they do so one piece, you know, every four or five days.

And on the other side, you have your three or four people who are highly skilled with generative AI, they can crank out one piece every three or four minutes.

Same level of general level of quality.

If you’re evaluating your supply chain, which partner will you choose as, as an executive am as a person who supervise these kinds of operations? It depends.

Katie Robbert 14:23

I mean, it depends on what my needs are, you know, so, and this is where I always push back on you, Chris is so you’re talking about people who can write multi page prompts, in order to get one single piece of content? Why wouldn’t they just be writing the content versus writing multi page prompts? You know, and so in that way, I’m like, Am I really getting something other than they have to keep writing multi page prompts in order to get one single piece of content, but then somebody still has to edit this content.

So am I going for volume Am I going for you know, traffic or am I going for thought leadership? up, which to me is not something you necessarily want to farm out to generative AI, you know, people do we know this, right? And so it really comes down to like, what is my goal? What is my purpose of doing this in the first place, if my goal is volume, and I just want to increase my awareness, and I just want to get more content out there so that I’m dominating search results, so that people know, you know, who we are, what we do, then yeah, I would say that, get a couple of people who are really good at generative AI, and set the bar lower in terms of performance to say, Great, so now you’re going to churn out 10 pieces of similar content, but they’re going to do pretty well, versus two pieces of really high quality content, that are going to, you know, do really well.

And people are gonna be like, Yes, I absolutely need to hire that person there.

You know, opinions on this thing are exactly aligned with mine.

Christopher Penn 16:01

I’ll give you an example one of the multi page promises, so can help folks, if you’re listening to this, you want to head over to the Trust Insights YouTube channel, go to AI slash YouTube to see the video of this.

So this is a prompt, this is actually for a critic or an editor, not a not a writer.

But the point of the bringing this up is to demonstrate that the prompt itself contains an enormous amount of information that will help it do its job apply to a mult to multiple scenarios.

So yes, it took a while it took a good hour to develop this prompt.

But now it is reusable, ad infinitum can be used on pretty much anything to to critique a piece of of content saying like, Hey, here’s the things that you screwed up.

Well, that’s why I haven’t written for, in the same way that if I was building a prompt to write content, I wouldn’t necessarily write this like the prompt for a piece of content, I would write this prompt to create the role of a skilled content writer within a specific domain to basically say, this is this is your synthetic life experience.

This is your character card in a role playing game called life.

And then that caught that that persona would be the generate in the same way that you and I built an ideal customer profile, like, we’re not going to build an ideal customer profile for every piece of content, we will build an ideal customer profile for a big concept, and then ask that profile like, Hey, I’m gonna write a piece of I want to write a piece of content on this.

What are the things that you would care about? Yeah, if I was to write a piece of content about that supply chain, right, and our profile might say, that’s a BS term, I don’t care about it, right? Or it might say, That sounds interesting.

Here’s what I would want to know.

And then from there, you would have a language model build from that.

So you would you have these master prompts that are our big swings to give a that synthetic person almost a synthetic persona, that then can generate 50 100 200 500 pieces of content that’s much more unique, because we invested the time upfront to build that person, that persona to begin with.


Katie Robbert 18:06

I think that that’s where you and I are describing the ideal scenario.

I don’t believe that that’s how companies that are shilling content supply chain software are doing it.

And I think that’s the thing that buyers need to be aware of is that sameness.

And so you know, we the sameness is sort of it’s not a new topic, it’s something that is a huge concern with generative AI.

And I think that companies that are saying, we can improve your content supply chain, are giving you that sameness, they’re not taking the time.

And so the question is, if I invest in software, that is going to increase my content supply chain, can I then inject my ideal customer profiles into it to reduce the amount of sameness to increase the amount of uniqueness and still get that content at scale?

Christopher Penn 19:08


And the companies that are in that space doing constant supply chain work, are they aware of how to use the technology fluently so for example, Gemini, the new version of Gemini and the new version of Claude both have 1 million token context windows they have a short term memory conversational Memory of 700,000 words.

So if you’re using a tool like that to generate content, one of the things you would want to say is hey, we’re going to write some content about Instagram marketing today.

Don’t reuse any of the stuff you’ve already written right new unique stuff and because that that memory is so vast, it can it alone can power a lot of that up uniqueness to say like, oh, yeah, I’ve already referenced you know, you know, understand your Instagram niche.

I don’t need to say that in every single piece of content.

I don’t need to say very your content types, you know, reels and stories and stuff like that, that we already said that.

So a lot of content Supply Chain Management for the buyer is understanding the capabilities of the of the vendors within your supply chain and going, how do you how do you account for this or that.

And that really comes from requirements gathering.

So if you are doing evaluation, your content supply chain, you have questions that you want to know what questions to ask vendors, let us know it’s something we help with go to trust services, because we can help you evaluate, evaluate your vendors and see how much is smoke and mirrors, which is versus how much is the real deal.

Katie Robbert 20:40

And if you’re looking to bring on a content supply chain vendor, the first thing that you should be looking for our release notes, our developer notes, how are these models trained? How often are they updated? What are they trained on? Because that’s going to be a big deal in terms of the quality of the content that you’re creating? Is? What’s inside the box? How like, is it just a really fancy interface on top of the existing ChatGPT? Four or Google Gemini? Great, you then you don’t need the interfaces, then you’re paying a lot of money for someone else to take all the credit, you know, but those are the questions that you should be asking is what is the model? Can you create a model based on my stuff? Can you create a custom model? What does that look like? How often is that updated? You know? And so there’s a lot of questions that you should be asking if you are thinking of investing in a content supply chain software, because you are going to if you don’t ask those questions, your content will be exactly the same as everybody else’s.

Christopher Penn 21:46


And even things like persona development and stuff the asking how a company does that.

Asking what tools they use, and then asking how it takes into account your your points of view is really important.

And it’s something that these models can do.

Like there’s very little fine tuning you need when you’re in the most modern models today, like quad three Opus and Gemini 1.5.

You don’t really need to to them, right, because their memory is so vast, they already pretty much know everything about everything, but they know it in an unindexed way that needs skillful prompting, and skillful engineering around them.

So if you’re if you’re looking at your your content supply chain, and you see these tools are in place, it’s like saying go walk into someone’s kitchen, saying that you have really nice appliances, you still gotta go well, do you know how to cook? Like, do you have the ingredients to do you have a recipe, you’ve got great tools, you spent a lot of money on those tools that are real shiny on the countertop.

But if you’re still putting, you know, he’s still putting toasted bread in the refrigerator instead of the toaster, and you’re wondering why your toast is cold.

It’s because you’re using the tools the wrong way.

And that’s that I think is probably one of the biggest risks of things like content supply chain management is if you’re focused solely on a very narrow purpose of hey, let’s make our content cost less.

The rest of the five keys aren’t there.

Katie Robbert 23:13

I would agree with that.

And if a vendor or a consultant comes to you with a fancy term, look him in the eye, don’t blink and say, Tell me what this really is.

Christopher Penn 23:23


If you’ve got some thoughts or you’ve been sold some content supply chain management software or services and you want to share your experiences pop on over to our free slack group go to slash analytics for marketers, where you over 3000 of the Marcus’s asking and answering each other’s questions every single week.

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