The obvious statement – the core principals of marketing haven’t changed that much in recent years, but vehicles and channels have increased dramatically. So lets get down to it: At the top of many marketers minds is integrating and creating a content marketing strategy. Along with that comes the need for a break down of the established silos of advertising, public relations, corporate communications, and marketing. These groups have to get together to tell a brand story and a seamless and meaningful customer journey. Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, about the culture change that must take place within an organization to make way for truly strategic content marketing.
Building Relationships vs. Product Promotion
By now, enterprise marketers know they need to create relevant and original content. What they also need includes a strategic plan and how to measure its effectiveness. The challenge is not simply the awareness of what must be done, but making the culture change within organizations so that what must be done can be done. This means that all the departments (including IT, sales and communications) must work together to create a strategic direction, a unified message, and a workflow that eliminates duplication of effort and holes in communication. Without communication and a common goal, content marketing will continue to be plagued with the same issues and challenges – and so will marketers.
“Robert Rose, our Chief Strategist at CMI always says, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ which I completely agree with. You can have the best intentions, but when you’re in the organization, which can often be solely sales or product engineering driven, and you’re talking to the team and you say, ‘You know what, we need to build relationships with our customers and prospects. We’re going to do that by giving them a valuable experience outside of the product and services that we offer.’ Those sales people are saying, ‘Hey, we want to talk about our product and service. We need to sell!’ They don’t understand,” explained Joe.
We’ve got to shift the focus from “Buy our product for these three reasons” to actually getting the attention of the audience long enough to get a relationship going. Instead of focusing on the one-time conversion we should focus on brand recall, opt-in subscription to your content, and a customer base that actually can talk about your brand versus another. But how do we do that if no one is talking about what the real audience issues are and how content can address them?
Start the Conversation
“I think what I’ve learned probably most over the last two years is that people aren’t talking to each other. You’ve got content being created in all these buckets. People don’t realize that they already have content assets around a topic and don’t need to recreate it. So they’re basically wasting time and effort because they’re creating something they already have,” remarked Joe.
In the past, everyone knew their role and each discipline had a channel to focus on. Marketers used direct mail and advertising campaigns, public relations practitioners spoke through the media, and corporate communications professionals relied on newsletters and communications with the investment community. In the past 10 years, content creation has infiltrated all those areas. Now, everyone is communicating directly with customers and prospects.
When we started siloing departments, the hoarding of information became a bigger and bigger problem – because it became easier to do. You didn’t have to share what your team was working on, what worked, what didn’t, and lessons learned. You didn’t really have to share anything that didn’t make your team or department look good and that meant lots of people got to make the same mistakes.
Executive and management layers didn’t help this problem. Instead of creating an environment where people were encouraged to learn from mistakes, share successes and issues, teams were chastised for not meeting goals and during hard times told our jobs depended on meeting goals “or else.”
In this kind of atmosphere, departments can’t learn from one another to find opportunities to repurpose assets already in place or to share keywords and topics that are working within their channels that may work for other channels. Filling in the communications gaps in an organization begins with an evangelist who is willing to start the conversation. And that person doesn’t have to be a C-level member – it can be anyone that’s willing to pick up the baton and run with it.
“I’m very excited about what’s going to happen in 2015 because I think now those communcation gaps you were talking about before are being filled a little bit,” commented Joe, “We’re not necessarily communicating through other people’s channels anymore. It’s a different way we got to go to market. We have realized that we don’t even necessarily have the skills internally to do this. Even if we do, maybe we’re not giving people enough leeway and power in the organization to do something.”
The current fragmentation in marketing, technology, communication, sales, and customer support has given rise to the concept of a Chief Marketing Technologist. Even if this position becomes a reality, it’s not going to be an overnight change – large enterprises are never going to move that fast and other organizations won’t necessarily add headcount immediately.
Lead the Way
The fact that a new position is being considered in the marketing space that creates the glue between the CIO and the CMO means that brands have recognized the need for someone to bring groups together and create a workflow that uses the tools and technology to share data and results across departments.
What could prevent this person from being successful are the cultural roadblocks that exist in many organizations. Back to the information hoarding, add to that the questioning of motives, the fear of being left behind or losing status – and lots of parties may not rally behind the CMT. It would be a shame to see this happen and hopefully a few things can help grease the wheels to make the transition smoother.
If you are the one to take on this position, your first steps could be to build transparency by sharing some of your own data, including wins as well as goals missed, which will highlight that what you’re really interested in is learning from each experience, not creating blame.
“The exact thing happened at a technology company we are working with. They weren’t talking to each other at all. One person – call her the VP of content- started to find who the content leader was in e-mail, who the content leader was in social, and who the content leader was in PR, and put all these together. They started to get together for weekly meetings. It completely changed the culture of the organization because they all started to work with each other and figure out how to work together to decide what stories to tell their audiences and help accomplish everyone’s goals.” Joe said, “I think a good solution, if you work in a large organization, is to be the one to take this on. Decide on your goals and then set a meeting to share them with others and to work on collaboration.”
If you’re thinking about being the person in your organization who is going to build a content marketing department, or a content center of excellence, you will need to get the buy-in of the influencers in your organization before making a proposal to a senior level person with a large budget attached.
“Go to all the department heads and share issues and find ways to help each other. Take them out to lunch. Then, once you get three or four of those people on board, then you can go back to the senior level person with that budget,” recommended Joe.
Although this is a good mindset, it isn’t easy. It takes time. Spend the time to get on the same page with others in your organization. Share goals and challenges as well as wins and those things that aren’t working so well. Build a community of trust and empathy for other people’s goals and then work together for a common purpose. Changing the culture in your organization may be the difference between another year of disappointing content marketing results and an improvement in overall conversions for your brand.
If you’re considering being the catalyst for change in your organization, your journey won’t be without its trials and tribulations. You run the risk of meeting with lots of resistance and budgetary constraints. Ultimately, we think the risk is worth it and a successful coup could mean the demise of the content for content sake mentality and the beginnings of a strategic content marketing workflow. Here’s a checklist to get you started:
Phase 1: Get Prepared
- Admit you’ve got a problem with your current content situation – and address it
- Be armed with data points to share – both good and things that need to be improved
- Know your overall corporate goals
- Know the pain points of your organization
- Meet and form alliances with other visionaries in your organization
- Set short term goals and long term goals for your pilot
Phase 2: Make a Plan
- Propose a pilot program
- Develop a simple content marketing strategy that addresses one pain point and contributes to overall goals – consider making it for specific department or segment to keep the pilot easy enough for a small group (or one person) to manage
- Include a subscription strategy as part of your plan
Phase 3: Make it Work
- Measure and review your goals after the time periods set
- Meet with your allies to discuss results and get support
- Build on your successes by revising your strategy and building your program over time
- Share your success with others, alongside thoughts on how to scale further throughout the organization