I am a firm believer in the business value of enterprise-level content marketing programs. That means working across communications, marketing, product development and more to have a unified approach to telling stories via a “social content plan”.
We look at this whole process of using content against real business objectives (e.g. reputation management, demand generation, lead generation, sales, building preference and/or intent to purchase, enabling the workforce, and more) comprised of four big stages: Strategy & Planning, Creation, Distribution, and Optimization. It’s a simple but big idea. When you look at it more closely, there is so much we do to make a successful content marketing program for a brand.
Getting Content from Insiders
One of the challenges within the “Creation” stage is getting content from your experts. IBM is actively enabling and coaching its IBM Experts to create relevant content around business problems. Ford involves many of its experts in vehicle design, environmental initiatives and technology innovations. It can be hard. It can be like “pulling teeth from a dead-horse.” Here are four considerations to make it easier.
Find and enable your self-motivated contributors
We launched an ambitious content marketing program for a big, multi-national B2B company a couple of years ago. They wanted to establish their internal product and service experts as externally-recognized experts via a content marketing play. They have hard-core business goals from driving consideration and even lead generation.
They had plenty of smart people. Articulate, too. But there were so many barriers to actually sparing these guys and gals to create valuable, shareable content. These included:
- While they were smart and articulate, writing blog posts or outlines for useful infographics was beyond their current skill set. (forget about videos)
- The hours needed to write a cogent article, never mind a series, was beyond their current job description and how they were evaluated by their managers. Writing and publishing content was, for the moment, the “extra” thing to do.
- Many did not have loads of experience operating in social networks like LinkedIn , Facebook or even conversing across the world of pro-am blogs. They lacked confidence and were a bit paralyzed.
Lots of policy and infrastructure issues nestled in this list of obstacles. Rather than set out to resolve all of this immediately, it may be more productive to identify the handful of folks – maybe 1-2 people – who are self-motivated to make this work. They are enthusiastic and ambitious product managers or researchers who are willing to write and rewrite their first blog posts within that 11th hour of the day. They are the ones that seem to immediately get a kick out of interacting directly with colleagues and professionals online.
Make them productive rock stars first. That success will help prove out the value of the content marketing efforts to leadership who are responsible for sanctioning content creation a s a core job responsibility. Their success will also create envy amongst their peers and will likely attract others to becoming content creators.
Train & coach the next class of contributors
Creating valuable content in social-sized formats and chunks takes skill. Just because your experts are successful at communicating internally doesn’t mean they are all prepared to write a great blog post, create a valuable 2 minute video or concept a shareable infographic.
Train your experts on great blog writing, self-publishing/promoting techniques, and on more advanced content creation capabilities like video and graphics (its more important for them to have concepting capabilities in the more complex visual arts than being a one-man-band of production). We have writing courses internally meant to train experienced writers to succeed in blog writing. We have scaled these into simple 20-minute on-demand training modules.
Having a coach or editor to encourage and improve the writing is also key. Before content creation becomes a sanctioned act by management, your early adopters could use a inspirational voice cheering them on, showing them analytics of how their posts are doing and also keeping the pressure of productivity and deadlines on.
Establish official and behavioral incentives
As content marketing programs prove out their results, it will be important to identify officially sanctioned time commitments. Writing and creating content must become an official art of people’s jobs. If you establish that 10% of an expert’s job should be committed to content creation, you are saying that between 4-5 hours a week of their time should be spent on it. Simple. Pretending they don’t need that time is a destructive cycle.
Here’s a place where game mechanics actually plays a great role. Creating a simple dashboard that highlights the top content or posts from a corporate blog or content site gets writers competing. Putting that dashboard in a pretty public location like an intranet or featured in a group meeting shines a light on contributors.
Hire a brand journalist
Paul Marcum, Director of Global Digital Marketing & Programming at GE, and I recently spoke at the LinkedIn BrandConnect conference as part of Advertising Week. He made a great point about the value of brand reporters. Hiring actual journalists to find and report on the stories within a GE, a DuPont, a Ford or wherever, ensures you are getting great content and maximizes the contribution of many experts within an organization.
Asking a product designer 3-4 questions on a brand-relevant topic is light years-easier than begging that poor guy for a 300-500 word blog post.
Brand journalists can elevate C-suite executives to social media naturals without putting those execs into the driver seat. Scott Monty at Ford does a terrific job enabling and providing access to CEO Alan Mulally. The CEO wouldn’t really gain that much of an advantage by starting his own social accounts. Brand reporters can achieve a similar affect on senior leadership as well as other voices within a company.
Here are some other folks thinking about how to successfully stimulate great social content from within the enterprise: