As content marketers, we’re expected to do it all at our organizations.
Understand the immediate pain points of our prospects.
Predict and respond to customer complaints.
Step out from behind our computer screens and connect with influencers to drive amplification strategies.
And we’re tasked with understanding how social media, SEO, email marketing, native advertising, display, programmatic, video marketing, and PR work together for a single campaign. The Content Marketing Institute found in its 2015 B2B research that marketers use an average of 13 channels to reach customers.
It can be a lot to handle, but those who have found success have not done it alone, nor have they tried to. There are only so many sales calls you can sit in on to understand your leads’ challenges, and there are only so many processes you can set up with your services and support teams to understand how your customers feel.
At some point, content marketing must become a cross-departmental team game that asks everyone to pull his or her weight.
As the content marketer, your job is to pull people together and run the show. Here’s how I developed content platforms for stakeholders across sales, marketing, client services, and support to establish a culture of content at Skyword.
What is a content platform?
When I worked at an agency right out of college, my boss at the time asked me what my mission statement was for work. After hearing her question, I gave her a blank stare, and shrugged my shoulders.
I had goals and I had direction, but I had never attempted to sum those up into a single statement. At a weekly team meeting, she asked everyone to write a single sentence on what we’d like to achieve over the next year. That sentence became our mission statement, and I looked to it every time I felt off track.
That same idea can be applied to how we work in content marketing. As a content creator, it’s easy enough to write on an array of topics and cover all your bases. However, that doesn’t help you build true subject matter expertise in a single field. You can’t be everything to everyone.
As I looked for ways to encourage people at Skyword to become regular bloggers, where I’m now the marketing content specialist who runs the company’s media site The Content Standard, I found myself thinking about the mission statement I created almost four years ago.
Did it still apply, and how could I help my colleagues here build out a similar understanding of their focus in content marketing for the next year?
I came up with this 4-step process, and ran through this exercise with co-workers at a recent writer workshop.
Step 1: Write down the single-most interesting trend you’re paying attention to in your industry.
As I sat in a room filled with people from sales, marketing, support, and client services, I began to pick peoples’ brains about what they were truly interested in—what drove them to work at Skyword and what kept them coming back every day.
Over the next 20 minutes, I started hearing about my colleague’s passions. From growth hacking to the ethics of brand journalism, every attendee focused on a different element of what makes the content marketing space so cutting edge right now. Some example responses I got were:
- The ethics of brand journalism
- Growth Hacking
- The changes in the publishing industry
- Validating content marketing for journalists
- How to tell a good brand story
- Content distribution
For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on the last trend (Content distribution) to show what attendees should have at the end of every exercise, working eventually toward a content platform.
Step 2: Write a mission statement based off the trend you mentioned in Step 1.
The first sentence of your mission statement should be why you’re exploring that trend, and the second should explain why you have a unique interest or perspective on that trend.
Having an interest in something is great. But I wanted my co-workers to start to vocalize why they were interested in a given trend. Reaching this type of clarity can not only help the person focus on what he or she is truly interested in and guide his or her career, but it helps me, as the content marketer, know when to pull someone in on a project.
During the writer workshop, I encouraged attendees to formulate their mission statements aloud before writing them down. By talking it out with the people sitting next to them and with Skyword’s marketing team, attendees began to clearly articulate their interests, and jotted down a quick two sentences to sum it all up.
Example results: I’m exploring new ways people discover information on the Web to improve how I amplify content across channels in various formats. As a marketer, I’m at the leading edge of content amplification technology, and am uniquely able to test new products and strategies on the media site I manage and operate.
Step 3: Identify a recent conversation you had with a client, customer, or colleague about that trend and write about it.
How did the conversation start? What was your angle? Write a short paragraph about that example.
Chances are that if a person is truly interested in an industry trend, he or she comes across it a lot in everyday work. This interest sparks conversation, guides how they respond to client or prospect questions, and determines what they read on a regular basis. Blogging gives people the opportunity to voice their opinions about these trends—I look at it as an open forum.
I think Step 3 is often the hardest, but most-important step. This is where people from across departments must learn how to think differently in what they do by becoming marketers within the boundaries of their roles. That means, looking at emails they receive from clients, analyzing support tickets, and reviewing lead data to uncover clues as to what would make a great blog, while also answering the question being asked in the first place.
Through this process, I worked with one of our support specialists to help her recognize when a question from a customer is “just a question” or when it’s meaningful insight into the direction she should take in her next blog.
Alternatively, I regularly ask Skyword’s services team to email me a list of questions they recently received from clients and to think about how they would answer those questions over the phone. Have several clients asked the same question? That’s fodder for a blog, and one that can be used the next time a customer asks for advice.
Example: People have more power on the Web than traditional media sites today. When news or good content surfaces and reaches influential consumers, the reach of a single article increases tenfold through social sharing. But the strategy involved in influencer marketing differs than from traditional PR. I hear this question a lot internally and from customers – how do you start an influencer marketing campaign?
My mission statement is to explore how people discover content, and one way that’s done is by following industry influencers on networks like Twitter. Therefore, this topic falls into my content-platform wheelhouse and allows me to push my mission forward with content marketing.
Step 4: Create guardrails to help contributors stay within their content platforms, while also offering creative guidance for the next year.
At Skyword, if you agree to the content platform program, you commit to one blog every month for one year. After you’ve gone through steps 1-3, I sit down with you to polish up your mission statement and develop six of the 12 topics in an hour-long meeting.
My goal isn’t to provide each contributor with six blog topics; I’m the sounding board and resource to listens and provides feedback.
In a recent interview with Narativ CEO Jerome Deroy, he told me that the ability to listen first ultimately leads you to become a stronger storyteller. In my case, listening to my colleagues’ during the content planning stage helps them come up with the answers themselves, and puts them in the driver’s seat in terms of what they’re spending time writing on every month.
It benefits the company, our blog The Content Standard, and each individual who goes through the program. For me, I activated 16 internal contributors in two weeks, all of whom have committed to contributing to The Content Standard every month.
Try it yourself and see how a content platform can help empower stakeholders across your company to become blogging experts for your business.