By Rebecca Lieb
Fundamentally, content has become bigger than marketing; it spans across the enterprise, particularly in public-facing divisions such as sales, customer care, recruiting, PR and product groups. All these constituencies have the capability to create and to distribute content, to contribute to the overall content pool, and to become part of the content circulatory system.
But how does an organisation foster a culture of content (CoC)? We identified the following seven success criteria.
1. Customer Obsession Guides Content
An obsession with understanding customer wants, preferences, behaviors, trends, passions, and so on, helps drive a culture of content (CoC) because these data inform how brands use content to serve customers. Whether listening to customer feedback directly or monitoring customer interactions across various touch points, companies with a well-defined CoC are equipped to optimize rapidly based on customer insights.
This is embodied in the convergence of media, where paid, owned and earned must work together because the consumer sees only one brand, not specific departments. As such, content helps define the human side of a brand — creative, helpful, passionate, contextually sensitive, even vulnerable.
Instead of letting editorial calendars dictate content cadence, try the following:
- Listen for consumer insights across channels
- Design content to unify the customer-brand experience
- Assess all content for worthiness
2. Align Content With Brand
Every company should have its own understanding of purpose, differentiation, philosophy, and vision — and brands must be able to articulate how content serves those elements underlying the very identity of the brand. How content embodies brand values must be clear to every level, from the C-suite to functional leads to practitioners. This alignment should be a guiding force and benchmark for what constitutes worthy and authentic branded content.
To align the content with the brand:
- Crystallize how the content supports the brand vision
- Incorporate that vision into training and evangelism
- Only publish content that supports the brand vision
3. Drive Content Leadership From The Top Down & The Bottom Up
The content leader must facilitate a top-down and a bottom-up approach to drive a culture of content. Top-down content leadership helps drive investment in content marketing initiatives and promotes a company-wide mentality of the value of content. Simultaneously, a strong leader or advocate is nearly always required for education, evangelism, training, and testing, which drives buy-in from the bottom up.
Bottom-up content leadership can manifest through greater departmental buy-in, alignment, demand for content, and internal participation down to the practitioner level. As the value of content is translated across other business functions through evangelism and small, inexpensive programs supporting those functions, hard numerical results aligning with business objectives help justify deeper executive support.
To drive content leadership:
- Evangelise and test department-specific initiatives to drive bottom-up support
- Leverage cross-functional results and support to drive top-down support
- Both C-level and content leaders must reinforce an ongoing culture of content
4. Culture Requires Constant Evangelism
While culture is pervasive and powerful, it is not built overnight. It slowly gains acceptance and takes steady reinforcement. Terms such as “constant,” “relentless,” “frequent,” and “reinforcement ” are commonly used to describe the process of creating a culture of content.
Why? Because content leaders must constantly demonstrate business and consumer value across the organisation. Securing participation from divisions, groups, and territories is based heavily on WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) and demonstrated by metrics that relate to their goals.
This evangelism must continue over time through results, case study and best (and worst) practice sharing as well as centrally shared tools and resources. To create a CoC:
- Content leaders must lead the content evangelism
- Articulate and demonstrate WIIFM, both bottom-up and top-down
- Commit to ongoing cross-functional evangelism, support, communication, and optimisation
5. Test & Learn
Brands must be willing to take risks in the content they produce. This requires a spirit of piloting small, tightly scoped content initiatives with predetermined key performance indicators that align with business objectives. These initiatives, especially early on, don’t necessarily have to be resource intensive. Testing and learning are less about new channel, device, or content plays and more about creating ostensible business value that can be reported back to leadership in order to drive program and resource expansion.
These tasks are inherent to a CoC because they require taking risks, which may result in failure or in tangible justification to use when evangelizing content across functions and to leadership.
6. Global Must Enable Local
Whether you’re a large multinational corporation with presences across dozens of countries or a company with numerous locations in one country, a CoC must be enabled locally. Divisional authority and autonomy with strategic oversight is important; large brands must empower local practitioners with local content that reflects local tastes, context, and language.
Perhaps a local division would like to use a case study better suited for a German-speaking audience. Or perhaps they wish to tweak branded content to reflect regional realities, such as weather or news (for example, promoting snow tires in New England and beach umbrellas in Florida).
As brands are forced to become publishers, enabling local authority is critical to standing out. To enable local:
- Global must provide strategic oversight, support, resources, and direction
- Enable local teams with appropriate cultural, linguistic, and contextual resources
- Appoint regional and/or local content leaders to scale training and ongoing evangelism
7. Integrate Across All Cultural Components
In a true culture of content, integration and shared insights should exist across every component of the culture: people, processes, mindsets, and the content itself. A CoC doesn’t work in an environment rife with silos.
Integrated workflows across teams, business units, and internal and external parties help streamline and scale content deployment. Integrated technology systems with shared access, reporting, data, and automation enable agility and meaningful measurement.
Even media itself must be connected through workflow and divisional coordination, designed for optimizing resources, as outlined in Altimeter’s report, “The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Will Combine Paid, Owned, & Earned.”
- Integrate across people: workflows, tool access, collaboration, best-practice sharing
- Integrate across technology: data sets, systems, third-party tools, and analytics
- Integrate across media: paid, owned, earned, local, and so on
Rebecca Lieb, pictured above, is the author of Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing – The definitive guide to content marketing strategy.