How to Get Executive Buy-In for Content Marketing Initiatives

How to Get Executive Buy-In for Content Marketing Initiatives

When Erin O’Brien, COO GinzaMetrics, addressed the audience at Content Marketing World about using data to build bridges and increase revenue, audience members responded by asking the question, “What do I do when no one will share information back with me or when people aren’t receptive to sharing information outside of either our own team or line of business inside the organization?” Short of changing jobs, marketers are faced with the daunting task of creating a cultural change within the organization.
When it comes to sharing data across the organization, we have to ask:
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No Data Sharing = Less Strategic Decisions

A culture of data hoarding and competition may have served some organizations in the past, but with the growing importance of content marketing and the resulting data needs, brands can no longer afford poor communication across departments.
“No matter how small or large your team is, communication across groups and both up and down the company ladder are critical to success,” advises Erin. “Sadly, the lack of communication starts at the top where a company’s culture is initially determined. We’re seeing a growing need for that to change as feedback and continuous communication are required to keep content marketing and other marketing and SEO efforts moving forward.”
The benefits of data sharing as outlined in Erin’s presentation for CMWorld and also available in our free ebook: “Build Bridges Between Content Creation and Marketing Strategy: with usable, sharable data”:Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 1.28.04 PM
Too often executives feel they are too busy dealing with investors or a board of directors and profit and loss considerations to respond to anything that’s not perceived as mission-critical or to pay attention to shifts in company culture. What many in the C-Suite fail to recognize is that it’s the small things that erode away at the success of a company.  Not fostering a communication channel inside the organization and not encouraging the sharing of information may have a larger impact on the bottom line than they realize.
It’s interesting that this is not a new topic, but it’s still relevant because things haven’t changed for many organizations. In fact, in some organizations, teams are incentivized to hoard their information so that individuals and groups can claim credit for their ideas. The concept of competition for data that leads to individual departments initiating strategies that aren’t synced up with the other groups within the organization is counter-intuitive to achieving corporate goals.
Truly strategic growth is fostered through collaboration, data sharing, and mutually beneficial support and vision. Still, data hoarding exists, and for marketers trying to communicate a unified message to a clearly defined audience, the roadblocks are frustrating – to say the least.

Speak the Language of the C-Suite

For marketers feeling like they can’t get the attention and buy-in of the executive team, learning to speak the language of the C-Suite and remembering that their focus is revenue-related will help make the case for content marketing initiatives. Start by developing a plan based on overall corporate goals. Set your KPIs and and micro goals to reflect those objectives. Every task and asset outlined in your plan should then tie back to those larger targets.
“I talked about this during my presentation at CMWorld and illustrated it with a ‘goalden pyramid’ to illustrate the point,” states Erin. “The pyramid places your marketing and everything you’re doing at the bottom and shows how your efforts will first move forward the KPIs and micro-goals and then how those goals will impact the larger organizational goals. Looking at your efforts in this model should make it a lot clearer to the C-Suite as to why they should have a conversation about your initiative.”
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Planning using this model sets the stage for collecting data that will inform future decisions and build a wealth of knowledge based on past information and past performances of the mediums, methods, and messages of content assets. That information will help you to deliver real, quantifiable hypotheses about what might happen with new campaigns and why you might want to consider changes in strategy along the way.
The data and information you can gather by measuring content marketing efforts based on the medium, method, and message formula is something most executives and managers will be more receptive to because your decisions are based on something quantifiable that relates to a shared goal.

How Can I Get This Information to My Executive Team?

We all know how hard it is to get the attention of the executive team, but in the end acknowledging the baby steps and having a little patience is the key to making the kinds of cultural changes that have to occur before an environment of collaboration, data sharing, and strategic planning can be established.
“If you’re going to be the instrument of change in your organization and you’re going to pick up the baton of education and decide to run with it through your organization, you may have to look back and acknowledge the small advances that you’ve made,” advises Erin. “You may not be able to institute sweeping changes overnight, and for most of us, it has to be enough to move things forward even a little bit. Any movement in the right direction is good movement.”
Start your education program with the goal-oriented and deliverable KPI approach to get the attention of the C-Suite and to establish your position as someone who understands organizational goals. Then, set the example of collaborative communication by tailoring your own efforts to meet goals and then sharing the data and knowledge you glean from those efforts. Once you can show how sharing data and knowledge benefits the entire organization, hopefully other people will see the benefits and follow suit.
If you can show how changes in sharing data or a better communication flow can benefit the entire organization and its bottom line, then you’ll likely get the attention of others and, hopefully, start an internal shift in thinking.

Set Up a Trial Program

The idea of a trial program is to show the benefits of a content marketing initiative without requiring the full buy-in of everyone before hand. Most executive teams are more open to a “trial” than to a full commitment before they can see some results.
Setting up a trial program to get the attention of the C-Suite may involve more than one campaign. Instead, set up your trial for at least six months to give yourself time to get traction and show the kind of results that will make believers out of your executives and others in the organization.
If this is the first time you’ve set up a content campaign to measure the medium, method, and message separately and the first time you’ve linked your results to KPIs and to larger corporate goals, it may take more than one campaign to start seeing results to support ongoing efforts.
“Use the first iteration to set your initial baselines and to see how things flow,” recommends Erin. “The second and third time, you’ll be able to really establish baselines, look at outliers, and start to see some trends. Share the insights you gain with others in the organization to create and cultivate a culture of sharing and communication internally.”
Setting up a “trial” or “pilot” program is not a one time event. It’s a trial over a period of time that allows you to establish baselines and show actual results. A pilot program can run alongside what you’re already doing.
For instance, measuring your efforts using the medium, method, and message formula doesn’t actually have to replace the current analytics and reports you’re responsible for generating. The information you gather from this method of measurement will be information you can use to track trends and gather insights about your marketing efforts. Sharing the information you collect along with your recommendations and insights benefits the entire organization and sets an example of the kind of results that can come from openly communicating across department boundaries.

Beyond Fear to Competitive Analysis

When all else fails, there’s always the fear factor. That may be true, but it may also be the least effective way to get the continuing attention and support you seek. Instead of taking competitor content examples and using them as an example of how your brand is being left behind, gather data that includes competitor content wins and some of the ways other brands are getting the attention of your target audience. Put together an overall picture of the marketplace, your position in it and your competitor’s position.  In this way, you’ll be creating a sense of unease and urgency without the drama of scare tactics. Chances are, your arguments will be taken more seriously when presented as part of a plan with recommendations for how to improve market awareness, increase customer satisfaction, and improve conversions.
“As a member of the C-Suite, I need examples and recommendations,” notes Erin. “The whole Chicken Little ‘The Sky is Falling’ situation is really frustrating to hear as a manager in my own organization. I think scaring people is a very short-term view of a long-term problem.”
There is a place for competitor analysis as part of the bigger picture. There are a lot of things to be learned from your competitors if they are experiencing wins on certain content. Before you start making generalized statements about how competitor content is beating you and winning your audience,  there are some things you’ll want to know:

  • What’s the subject of the content?
  • What are the target keywords?
  • How is the content presented?
  • Where is the content popular?
  • What is the message of the content?
  • How does it rank?

One way to get that information is to use the method, message, and medium formula and apply it to your competitors. Although you can’t get the exact same level of analytics, you can get close enough to understand how things are performing on their end in terms of:

  • Content traction
  • SEO
  • Social media presence

Create Trust Within Your Organization

Before going to the executive team, there’s value in working with the other teams in your organization to get them on your side, get their buy-in, and make them part of your presentation. This process sounds a lot easier than it is, especially for people who work in places where departments and teams are pitted against each other in competition for ideas and corporate position.
Use the tenets of content marketing and start building trust within your organization. That relationship may begin with one person in one other department. Start by being the example and sharing data without expecting anything in return.
“I like to say that the rising tide raises all boats. For me, the organization doing better in general is great for everybody around,” states Erin. “What I’ve noticed in some organizations is that instead of believing the rising tide raises all boats, there’s a fear that there’s not enough room in the life raft for everybody, so everyone swims to the life raft pushing each other down to get there first.”
The best way to change that mind set is to change your own opinions and actions first. Be the person who lends a hand up. Work on making a real connection and relationship with one person on another team and share information with that person without the expectation of reciprocity. As you build that relationship, maybe they’ll share some information back with you and the two of you will become an example of individuals doing something that ended up well for both of them. That’s how things change in an organizations – slowly and one person or two people at a time.
Start sharing information about the trends, popular topics, and keywords where you’re seeing positive results. Depending on how your organization is departmentalized, you might share that information with:

  • Email marketing to use as subject lines
  • Sales to use as topics of conversation with prospects
  • Customer success to help keep customers engaged

Or any other department within your organization that might benefit from your data and insights. Share the information and don’t worry about how it’s used. Just start the conversation and show that you’re open to establishing a dialogue with others.
Getting executive buy-in may involve getting buy-in and cooperation from other departments in your organization first. If you decide to be the catalyst for change, be prepared to watch things change gradually over time. After all, blockbuster content marketing isn’t built in a day.
Get started with measuring the medium, method, and message with our slide share: Get Clarity to Improve Content Effectiveness.
If you need data to set baselines or measure your initial efforts, we provide one time and custom reports for content marketers, or attend a demo webinar to get an overview of the GinzaMetrics platform.