Content marketing can grow into a tough beast if not tamed properly.
Your team is lost in the jungle of to-dos.
You feel like you have to bushwhack to get through to this month’s content plan.
Due dates are roaring and scratching at you as they sprint past.
I know the feeling. Content marketing is rarely as easy-peasy as blogs make it sound.
As a blogger running multiple blogs and writing for multiple clients, I’ve found Trello to be a huge aid in getting organized, staying productive and developing a whole process (not just a schedule) that works.
In this review, I will show you how I—and other content strategists I interviewed—use Trello for content management and planning, and I’ll share a few creative hacks.
(Yes, content marketing can be creative! Who said only fiction writers get the privilege?)
How Trello Tames Tasks and Tracks Progress: The Full Review
The three main purposes of Trello are:
- Tracking progress on tasks and projects (and anything that works toward it)
- Collaborating with others
- Boosting productivity
Registering on Trello is free—you just sign up, verify your account and get started.
And Trello even has a guide to getting started, by the way.
I’ve found the interface to be intuitive and quick to get familiar with—I literally spent less than 30 minutes trying to figure out what I had to do to create my first board, when it generally takes me at least a couple days to master a new tool.
A Review of Trello’s Main Features
The first thing you see after registration is a Welcome Board to show you how Trello operates. It comes with demo lists, cards and other features that you’ll use later on. You can use this board to get familiar with Trello and how it works.
Once you feel confident enough to create your first boards, just go ahead and try it out. You can create as many boards as you like in the free version of Trello, so I created a board for each of my blogs.
All it takes to create a new board is adding a title in the blank field Trello gives you.
Inside those boards, you can create lists.
If you have to group different content marketing projects for a single client, the major projects—or categories of projects—could be your lists and their name or company name could be the title of the board.
For example, CoSpot could be my board, and my lists under CoSpot could be “Research,” “Writing,” “Blog Post Ideas” and so on.
The tasks you need to get done to complete those lists (representing content marketing projects) can be your cards in Trello.
Cards are single-project trackers and they come with a number of features:
- Labels — To group cards/projects and filter them
- Description — What’s this card/project all about?
- Checklist — The to-do list or milestones for this card/project
- Comments — Notes and interactions with team members who are following the card/project
- Activity log — What’s been going on in the card/project
- Due date — When the card/project is due
- Attachment — Where you can attach files to the card
- Subscription — Indicate non-members of this card who will get card activity notifications (members already get notifications)
- Members — Which members have been added to the card (click to add new members)
You’ll read in the second part of this review about the many creative—and effective!—uses of cards for content marketing projects in particular.
Trello gives you a complete menu (click “Show Menu”) that opens up in a sidebar, and that’s where you’ll find:
- Card filters — To quickly search for cards (by label, due date, assigned/unassigned task, etc.)
- Power-ups — Board add-ons and and app integrations. On Trello, popular tools like Slack, Dropbox and MailChimp are integrated via power-ups. With the free version of Trello you can only activate one power-up, but you get access to unlimited power-ups with premium Trello memberships.
- Stickers — Cute emojis and icons to beautify your cards
Team board features
Along with personal boards, Trello has options for teams to collaborate on projects.
On Trello, working together means making your boards visible to team members—thus turning them into team boards.
This really comes handy when you and your team work together on multiple projects!
Within team boards, you can use lists for topics and cards as task trackers for your team members.
Top Trello Tips for Creative and Efficient Content Management
1. Organize personal work and team work in one fell swoop
Having personal boards and team boards available, with the option to make the former visible to your team, it becomes easy to organize both personal work and team work—and to sync everything up as needed.
As an example, take a look at my “n0tSEO Sync” board.
This is for keeping track of guest posts, my own personal posts and general marketing tasks. I check off list items here after completing them in the main boards.
2. Keep track of milestones for each major goal
The flexibility of cards is especially handy when you have to manage bigger content marketing goals, like producing and publishing an entire blog series.
For my n0tSEO blog, I’m planning a blog series about achieving blogging success without Google. Trello is already demonstrating itself to be an awesome tool to get everything in line to achieve this goal, since such a series requires extensive research, preparation and organization.
The screenshot below shows how I used a card from my “NO SEO!” list as a project container to track progress on the blog series:
I also set a due date for the entire series to be ready for publication, so I know I have two months to work on all five posts, not a year. I recommend setting deadlines for blog series and other big goals to help you and your team focus efforts and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
This method works even better for collaborative blog series, where two or more members of your team are working together on a series.
3. Create a database of links and tools to use later
It makes content marketing work easier to have authority links and key tools always ready to go, rather than having to browse Google SERPs to find that one tool or that one resource over and over again.
Trello comes to the rescue—here’s the screenshot of my toolbox board for existing “character blogging” resources (that’s a super tiny niche):
Katrin Anger, CEO and founder of inspirITing, creates boards, ordered by year, where she collects:
….resources (websites, articles, etc.), whereas the lists are date found and the cards are each a resource. I then use filters to distinguish between areas, which allows me later to quickly find articles relevant to a certain topic.
The editor and strategist for Online PR Pixie, Jessica Hodkinson, also uses Trello:
…to keep track of any useful links I come across or to record the pages where I’ve found interesting content. It’s like an update notepad that I never lose, so if I’m looking for inspiration I can find it easily. I use different boards for different clients at work and I also use it for my personal blog and have boards such as SEO, Online PR, Marketing and News, etc.
4. Set up blog posts as lists and post sections as cards
Within your blog’s board, you can assign a list to each blog post and use cards to track progress on single sections of that blog post.
Here’s an example from one of my blogs (on a topic that touches me personally):
Cards make it easy with their checklist feature (which appears as Section Progress in this case) because you can brainstorm your section points freely and then rearrange them as you see fit, taking a lot of stress out of the game.
Katrin Anger also shares:
I use one board as a content calendar for my blog, in which I collect ideas and also plan writing and publishing. There are also checklists added to each published post (card) for my social media routine.
5. Set categories as lists and content keywords as cards
You can assign a list to each category of your blog and use cards for keywords you need to write content around.
It’s what I did for my character blogging website:
Each card corresponds to a content keyword I’m using for my blog posts. The checklist and comment features come in handy for brainstorming and organizing all the points I’ll be developing in my post.
To keep track of your keywords, you can use SerpBook or a plugin-based keyword tracker if your blog runs on WordPress (I use Wincher for my blogs). Then you’ll export (copy and paste) your keywords to Trello.
You can also combine Trello with CoSpot quite nicely. Since the CoSpot platform works with content built around keywords, you can add a layer of teamwork by exporting your keywords to Trello to do the brainstorming, resource hunting and note sharing—all before returning to CoSpot to work on post outlines.
6. Style it up with Markdown
Katrin Anger says that using Markdown syntax really pays off on Trello, and recommends that you:
learn the two handfuls of Markdown commands that edit text [so you can] bold or emphasize single words, add bulleted lists or separation lines—a huge advantage when having to quickly scan through large texts.
The essential Markdown commands are:
- **text** bolds text
- *text* or _text_ italicizes text
- [URL] turns URL into a link
More advanced commands are listed in Trello’s tutorial on “How to Format Your Text in Trello.”
Trello Plans and Pricing
These prices are for users who agree to pay annually, otherwise the premium pricing starts at $12.50/month/user.
Upgrading to a premium version gives you access to unlimited power-ups (add-ons and integrations), security (board permissions), administrative tools (team activity across multiple boards) and even advanced features like SSO (Single Sign-On).
What Can Trello Improve?
Since Business Class immediately jumps straight to unlimited power-ups, it would be nice to have at least two available with the free Trello accounts.
I feel that a second, simple power-up like a calendar can do no harm and actually make it easier for users to decide whether to upgrade to a premium account or not.
That’s my only complaint—Trello does what it does very well, and I’ve gotten quite a lot accomplished with the free account alone.
A Trello Success Story
Trello helped Katrin Anger boost productivity and her content strategy process.
Here’s how it worked for her:
My biggest board, and the most precious to me, is my “Cool Tool Pool” board. I often recommend tools to my audience, which requires me to stay up-to-date on available tools. I needed a system that was easily accessible, well-performing and easy to edit. It is also important for me that I can add links and files easily and access this board (and the others) with mobile devices. I make extensive use of filters in this board, to find certain categories easier.
“Cool Tool Pool” has become a massive tool for me, and Trello’s high performance and ease of use were the perfect match for what I needed. With this board alone, Trello boosted my productivity in the way that I could build a vast library of tools with the categories I needed and access it from everywhere without performance issues. Try doing this in Excel and you will soon see the file getting slow and difficult to filter through. With Trello I do not have the problem that the file is only accessible on a computer, and [access] is quick (really quick!).
Final Thoughts on Trello for Content Marketing
If your blogging team is small and you do much of the blogging yourself, Trello is definitely a good option to get started.
For content marketers with more on their plate—or anyone who’s looking to make Trello their main dashboard for managing a larger organization’s projects and tasks—upgrading to a premium Trello account is the way to go.
My cheery tone about Trello says plenty about how much I’ve appreciated the tool, especially considering that there are pretty much no limits with the free version (except for those handy power-ups).
Get a handle on Trello, and I bet that you’ll feel well equipped to tame the beast of content marketing.