The content marketing gospel that everyone keeps under their beds has three entries under “media”:
- Owned media: Your website, company social media pages, and email database
- Strengths: You control everything.
- Weaknesses: You mainly reach known prospects (or those who are anonymous but recently acquired through the other two kinds of media).
- Paid media: You know: ads
- Strengths: You can reach way out beyond your known universe.
- Weaknesses: It costs money (bastards!).
- Earned media: Also known as “other people” — the ones who share your stuff
- Strengths: It’s free, it carries the personal recommendation of the sharer, and it reaches beyond your world.
- Weaknesses: You really do have to earn it, the hard way (by producing epic content).
This has been the Content Marketing Tripod forever — or since some early pioneer called it out and stuck three names on it (probably a Pulizzi or a Rose or a Handley, I imagine).
But, all of a sudden, there’s a fourth leg to the stool:
Introducing employed media
Employed media is encouraging the people your company employs to share your wonderful content with their own universes.
I wish I’d invented this term, but I didn’t. I’d been thinking about it for a while, then I heard a speaker mention it at a conference, kind of in passing, and a light went on. A reflected light, granted, but a light just the same.
What employed media looks like
A while back, I wrote a post on the concept of a Center of Content Excellence — a new discipline and resource charged with propagating the power of content marketing, maintaining standards, and reducing duplication of effort.
Employed media is an important part of any Center of Content Excellence.
The idea is simple: If all sorts of folks in your company would and could use your great content in their interactions with the world, they’d amplify its impact many times over.
But to do that, two things have to be true:
- They need to know what content exists, including what it’s about, whom it’s for, and where to find it.
- They need to understand how it can help them: We can’t assume everyone is a natural-born content marketer. In fact, it’s safe to assume that nobody is — especially as you stray from the cozy, caffeinated confines of the marketing department.
Once these two things are true, you’ve got a major new channel for your goodies. And it’s a channel that combines the strengths of the other three media types with fewer of their weaknesses:
- It’s free — just like earned and owned media.
- It reaches beyond your marketing database, like paid (and, to a lesser extent, earned) media.
- It carries a personal recommendation, like earned media.
- It takes a bit of effort (like the other three and, let’s face it, like everything else in life, you lazy bum).
Who are your best employed media vectors?
- Sales people are the obvious first choice. Imagine if every sales person could discover and access every piece of content in the company and knew how to use it to create and progress opportunities. (I know: OMG, right?)
- Those other “marketing” people we know about but never talk to — in, like PR, and corporate communications, and channel and investor relations, etc. Great content will shake, rattle, and roll their worlds.
- Product people can use content in their speaking engagements and their interactions with standards groups, industry bodies, and bowling leagues.
- HR people could use it to attract and seduce talent.
- Partner people could use it in their partner-based processes and, like, meetings.
- Senior people could refer to it in speeches, interviews, and … um … golf … contests, maybe?
See how powerful this is?
You may have noticed that, as these roles got further and further from mainstream content marketing, I spoke about them with less and less authority. And that’s the point.
We don’t know exactly what all of these people do all day, so we’re not best qualified to tell them how to use our content in their jobs. But they are — once they know about it and get the basic idea of sharing your company’s expertise to help people do their jobs.
So that’s what we content marketers need to do.
Harnessing the power of employed media
Here’s the suggested drill:
1. Collect all your content in one place: Or, at least index it centrally (we built a very cool content audit tool to help, but you can’t have it yet).
2. Tag it up: Add metadata that describes:
- What each piece is about
- The target buyer persona(s)
- Where in the funnel it’s best used
- The main storyline
- Any connection to product
- Who made it
- Where and how it’s been used already
- How successful it’s been
3. Invite your colleagues in: Tell them all about the content and discuss with them how they might use it. Do this one department at a time — in person or using your intranet or collaboration tool.
This isn’t a one-way teach-a-thon; it’s a dialogue: You need to learn about their take on all this, too.
4. Capture and share their experiences: Let the sales team in Peru know how the sales team in Paris doubled their conversion rate using your three new eBooks.
5. Consider some automation and integration: Say you connect to your CRM system so that (for instance) when an opportunity is created (or one stalls), the right content is suggested to the salesperson. Maybe even with a suggested cover email.
Or you connect it to your marketing automation system, so the right content is recommended at the right time for each prospect. Cool, huh?
6. Monitor and measure the whole shebang: Don’t give me that look. We’re marketers. We measure everything. And it’s important to track your employed media program to figure out who’s using what and to answer other questions like where and why and why not.
Here come the tools
There’s a new wave of platforms and tools that help marketers deploy employed media to amplify their content marketing efforts.
I’m working with one of them, called ContentSift, so I don’t want to prejudice you about this. Another is being developed by our friends at Resonance and it’s called Boom.
And tools like Addvocate, VoiceStorm, GaggleAMP, Expion, Social Seeder, EveryoneSocial, SmarpShare, Elevate, PostBeyond, Meddle, SocialChorus, and PeopleLinx look like they do similar things.
How to choose? Give them each a test drive. Look for one that’s easy for us marketers to populate and easy for everyone else to use, too.
Look for one that will play nicely with your existing tools. You may not need that from Day One, but you will soon. Who needs a zillion tools?
How about DIY?
Yes, you can probably do a lot of this in a good intranet. But it won’t be optimized for this specific process so you’ll have to do a lot of configuration and keep updating the thing. I prefer letting software people do this and going for a commercial product. But you may be great at Sharepoint or Chatter — or your company may mandate their use.
When you harness employed media, you’ll also be marketing your content marketing efforts internally and that will get you promoted. Time to replace that Prius with a Tesla.
Anybody out there?
Have you been using employed media, even on a manual, ad hoc basis? Please share your experiences below.
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