Content marketers who want to be successful today face one major obstacle: scaling high-quality content production. Outsourcing the volume of content you need can be expensive to produce and difficult to manage, while relying on your marketing department to output several high-quality blog posts a week can lead to quality issues and burnout.
However, you may be sitting on a goldmine of epic content just waiting to be harnessed: your internal workforce. There is no substitute for the knowledge of subject-matter experts within your organization, but the challenge is transforming them into prolific writers. If you are serious about instituting a successful company-wide blogging initiative, here is a guide to help you get started.
Define your goals
Before approaching any employees about contributing to the corporate blog, the marketing department must first define its goals for publishing blog content on the web. Are you hoping to drive traffic and conversions? Share thought-leadership and improve your brand reputation? Will your blog be a mechanism for educating your current customers or a means to drive lead generation? What are your reader personas? It’s important to align the corporate blog with the business objectives of the marketing department, and to understand the audience you are writing for.
Create a topic model
Hopefully, your marketing department has already created a topic model that illustrates the areas of focus for your epic content marketing plans. If not, the early stages of a company-wide blogging initiative are a great time to make one.
A topic model is a visual representation of all potential subjects your authors can write about. Start with the core of your business and work outward into all of the potential sub-categories related to your industry. For employees who struggle with generating blog post ideas, this model will come in handy. It will also allow your marketing team to home in on the goals of the corporate blog, in general.
Train your employees
It’s likely that members of your marketing team understand the tenets of effective blogging. However, content marketing may be a new concept to the non-marketers within your organization — those employees on the services, managerial, and operational side. Invest in creating and administering a robust training program for those subject-matter experts who aren’t yet pro bloggers with the goal of teaching them best practices. Here are six sample training sessions you can use to get started:
1. Ideation/topic generation: Focus on the process of researching and generating epic blog topic ideas that will solve common problems within your industry and its customer community.
2. Blog titles: There are tried-and-true formulas for blog titles that win. Have your budding authors write 10 to 20 blog titles and discuss which would be most effective, and why.
3. Blog structure: In this session, outline the components of an effective blog post: the introduction, body, and conclusion. Your authors can use a simple body structure, such as:
- “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em
- then, tell ‘em
- then conclude by summarizing what you told ‘em
4. Tone and style: Consider bringing in a professional copywriter, journalist, or creative writer to teach this session. Remember that effective storytelling has its place, even in a corporate blog. Your authors need to understand how to make their posts engaging and impactful.
5. Content governance: Explaining the rules and regulations that every blog post should follow will prevent extensive editing on first drafts. Will all the words in blog titles be capitalized? What kind of language is tolerable in the body of articles? This is your time to establish a standard that all of your blog posts will follow.
6. Repurposing: Content repurposing can take a lot of pressure off of your authors to create original content from scratch. Teach them how to lean on existing content like emails, internal documents, and sales/marketing collateral for new blog posts.
Even though attending your training program will take folks away from their work for a short period of time, it will pay dividends in the form of high-quality content.
Give employees freedom
Some employees may consider blogging to be a welcome break among their day-to-day tasks. Those who aren’t natural writers, however, may struggle to share their knowledge in a way that provides value to the marketing team.
- Encourage them to write about what they are passionate about: Doling out pre-defined assignments and mandated article subjects can squash creativity and make your employees feel as if they’re just fulfilling another job task. Provide your employees with a topic model, but encourage them to draw parallels between those topics and their own personal interests or hobbies.
- Be flexible on when they can write: Asking your employees to do their blog writing during off-hours can immediately turn them off to the idea of contributing to the corporate blog. It’s important for managers to recognize the positive impact that blogging will have on the business — even if it means the loss of an hour or two of productivity per week. While setting aside scheduled blog writing times may increase collaboration, it may not be compatible with workloads and deadlines.
- Set goals, roles, and expectations: Be clear about what you expect from your authors. How long should blog posts be? How often do you expect submissions? Who will be editing posts and providing feedback prior to publication? Will the author add calls-to-action, or will the editor? Who will make the final publishing decisions? Consider appointing a “blog czar” who can be the point person on delegating tasks, communicating and enforcing policies, and preventing production bottlenecks.
Being prepared for any issues or setbacks, and establishing how your marketing team will respond is critical to the success of any internal content production initiative.
Promote their personal brands
Some companies shy away from touting the personal brands of their employees through their corporate marketing efforts. While a single corporate brand message can be powerful, having many active and respected individual employee brands can have a multiplier effect on promoting your content. By taking an active role in building the reputation and visibility of an employee’s personal brand, their rise to fame can pay dividends to your company for years.
- Establish Google Authorship: AuthorRank isn’t here yet, but you can future-proof your content by establishing Google Authorship now. Establishing authorship has tangible benefits today in the form of author rich snippets, which can improve click-through rates from the search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Include author bios on-page: While your employees don’t need a robust author bio at the end of their posts to establish Google Authorship, providing them with an opportunity to display their experience and business achievements in their posts can help incentivize them to take ownership of their content. Let them choose their own photograph and write their own personalized bio, and don’t prohibit the inclusion of their personal social media profiles.
- Social media optimization: Include social sharing buttons that make it easy for website visitors to share blog content. Be sure to program Twitter share buttons in such a way that the author’s @username will automatically be included when others tweet their posts. This will increase their social exposure and transform all of your authors into natural promoters.
Appealing to the ego is a great way to get your authors excited about blogging regularly. After all, who doesn’t like to see their own face online?
Share feedback and reward achievements
This is your chance to tie blogging efforts directly to business objectives and encourage your team’s bloggers by sharing metrics that can boost their confidence. Let your authors know how much traffic, shares, and conversions their posts are generating using these tools and techniques:
- Set up author stats (using Google Webmaster Tools Labs): Author Stats is a feature of Google Webmaster Tools that shows you how often content with established authorship appears in Google SERPs. The feature can be found in the “Labs” section. Author Stats reports are a quick morale builder, as they show the tangible, quantifiable results of your team’s blogging efforts. To make sure credit is given where it’s due, each writer or author should set up a report through his or her individual Google account.
- Track authors through Google Analytics: SEOmoz has an awesome tutorial on its blog for setting up custom variables and reports in Google Analytics that will show you at-a-glance who your top performing bloggers are by traffic, where visitors are coming from, and what they do after reading a blog article.
- Give out awards: Consider investing in framed certificates or even trophies to bestow upon authors who excel at driving traffic to your blog. Recurring company meetings are a great time to hand out awards, allowing your authors to be recognized by all of their peers. Here are a few sample reward categories:
- Blogger of the Year
- Most Improved Blogger
- Most Social Shares
- Most Views
- Most Unique Views
- Most Conversions
- Best Title
- Most Prolific Blogger
If you train your employees, give them the freedom to express themselves within set guidelines, promote their personal brands, and celebrate their achievements, you’ll quickly find that they will become obsessed with the success of their own posts, addicted to the publicity, and genuinely concerned with the business impact of their blogging efforts.
For more insight on how to produce better corporate blogs, read CMI’s Ultimate Guide to Blogging.