These days, everyone is a brand evangelist. Consumers express their love of Vans on Instagram; Sephora supporters can show off their favorite looks on the brand’s Pinterest page; and Facebook is practically rebuilding its business model around connecting fans with the companies they “like” by initiating compelling conversations.
Inspirations and opportunities abound for your loyal customers to express their brand devotion — and to express their personalities through the brands they choose to champion. But what about your own workforce? Is your business doing enough to engage your employees in your content creation efforts, regardless of their level of experience or the functional role they play in your organization?
Last week, we discussed the challenge of finding the right writers to join your team; this week, we look at the other side of the coin: how to inspire and motivate your existing employees to create content on behalf of your business. To explore the topic, I asked a group of our blog contributors, Online Training instructors, and Content Marketing World speakers for their ideas. Take a look at the insights they shared in answer to the question, “What practical suggestions can you offer for involving employees and inspiring them to participate in content creation — particularly those who aren’t in the marketing department?”
This is a common challenge in organizations that don’t value their content as a business asset. It’s not a problem of inspiration. It’s a problem that centers around a lack of leadership. Great leaders excite, encourage, and inspire the efforts of their employees toward the achievement of measurable goals by spelling out expectations, defining roles and responsibilities, and providing the proper training and incentives. Leaders make sure employees understand the end game. They explain what is important (and what is not). They ensure employees understand both the plan and the role they play in helping the organization achieve success. And, they measure and reward those who do a great job. —Scott P. Abel, Content Marketing Strategist, The Content Wrangler, Inc. | @scottabel
Play to each person’s strengths. Non-writers won’t become writers overnight, but they might give a great interview. Others might be more visual than verbal. Others might be better for working the social media channels instead of creating content. —Doug Kessler, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Velocity Partners | @dougkessler
A few suggestions:
- Create 10-minute online courses that focus on one facet of content employees can learn something about — e.g., how to use Twitter; how to start a discussion on LinkedIn, or the best way to post a status update on LinkedIn; tips for improving your profile on LinkedIn, etc.
- Create templates for blogging; for example, for a list post, it’s as simple as writing an introductory paragraph that explains why your list is important and to whom. List your items, perhaps with an identifier and short explanation. Write a concluding paragraph to wrap it up: “Select a graphic from our account at…“
- Start an idea bank with social collaboration tools or on the company intranet. Marketers can seed ideas along with employees, and employees can sign up to take them on and create an article or blog post. The idea bank could also be used to house a bunch of different tweets to help employees promote existing content via their social media profiles. If, for example, you create 10 tweets for each content asset as part of the content creation process, it’s a simple matter to add the tweets to the intranet for employees to copy and paste into social posts.
- Provide a way for employees to record themselves talking about a specific subject and then have it transcribed, cleaned up, and turn it into a blog post with their byline. As they see what’s possible from their ideas, they’ll be motivated to create more content.
- Put out a call for expert insights on a topic. Post it just like the “tips from the experts” posts that blanket social media, only the experts are all from your company — from the executives down to the frontline staff. —Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions, Inc. | @ardath421
I think you need to educate the employees about the importance of building their personal brand and their own audience. By contributing to content creation — and getting exposure for this content creation — they are demonstrating their knowledge outside the company, which will help them in their future careers. It needs to be a win-win situation for employees and employers.
I’ve found four corporate archetypes that need a personalized approach to engaging them in our [content marketing] initiatives:
- The Visionary is often motivated by showcasing a forward-thinking approach to the marketplace. This could be the CIO or co-founder, or maybe it’s a young new customer service rep. Either way, encouraging and inviting them to share their vision for the future on a regular basis in small bites will help them get involved. Most importantly, visionaries love their egos stroked. So, make sure people they respect are invited to consume their content.
- The Historian is generally someone who’s been with the company for a relatively long time. They’re the team members who’ve collected tons of archival information (both figuratively and literally). Encouraging these team members to share the history, legends, lore, even important corporate anniversary insight can actually be easier than you think. They love to share what they know.
- The Skeptic is generally someone who’s skeptical of the way the market is moving. Instead of relegating these people to the fringes of the organization as naysayers, inviting them to share their perspective, doubts, and questions about how the market is evolving is a great way to understand your audience’s and even competitors’ perspective in the marketplace. Ask a skeptic to share their questions openly and spark a discussion. They’ll be so glad someone is interested in how they feel and what they think.
- Finally, the Task Master is generally someone who’s great at doing stuff, but doesn’t consider himself to be a creative type. They often don’t think they have much to add to the conversation or to content for a valuable audience. Task Masters, however, are great people to tap. They’ll always meet their deadlines if you’re clear about what you expect them to contribute. Task Masters are best relied on to act as reporters. Send them to industry conferences and events. Invite them to simply report on what happens, what the industry experts are saying, and how people react to what they hear. —Andrew Davis, Author, Brandscaping | @TPLDrew
This is a topic of future research, actually, but there are some approaches that I see working well. First: training. Help people to understand what content marketing is, why it benefits the organization and, most of all, how it can help them, personally, with their jobs: Encouraging outside input; reducing customer service queries; increasing leads or sales? Effective content can make a lot of people’s jobs a whole lot easier. Sell that benefit and you’ll sell them on bringing content to the table. But understand there will be those who are able to create content, and those who can’t, or won’t. This latter category should be encouraged to contribute ideas, if not actual execution. —Rebecca Lieb, Analyst, Altimeter Group | @lieblink
Rather than thinking of non-marketing employees as content creators, it’s better to think of them as sources — just as a journalist would. With this mentality, you, as the journalist/content creator, can interview the subject matter expert with a tape recorder in hand, and selectively quote them in a piece of content.
The benefits of this approach are three-fold:
- First, it makes it easy for the subject matter expert to speak his/her mind without going through the tedium of writing something down.
- Secondly, you no longer have to deal with missed deadlines from contributors. As soon as you have an interview with the subject matter expert, the ball is in your court. You are no longer reliant on them for any submissions.
- Lastly, it enables you to tap into experts who may be horrible writers because you control the writing and the narrative of the resulting content. —Pawan Deshpande, Founder and CEO, Curata | @TweetsFromPawan
Each of our team members is a part of our blog team. They are extremely talented writers, strategists, content marketers, and the list goes on. They are also very busy with other work, so to inspire them, we encourage creative freedom on articles submitted to our blog. In addition to the standard “how-to” pieces that provide outlines for businesses to conduct content marketing activities, we also get articles with content that talks about how a unique selling proposition relates to super hero movies, or how video killed the radio star and has its eyes set on other content types. By allowing for creative freedom, we effectively inspire our team to create pieces that resonate with our audience and stand out from the crowd. —Anthony Gaenzle, Director of Marketing, Enveritas Group | @anthonygaenzle
Let’s be realistic. Not all employees will feel like writing or even thinking about content. The best way to involve them in content creation is to talk to them. Take a journalistic approach. Act as a journalist. Get content out of them by talking to them regularly, asking questions — just like a journalist would do. And out of these conversations create content in a form that suits your content marketing program best. Include them in content by name (only if it makes sense, of course). Gradually you’ll get more and more out of them as they won’t take it as a burden and they will feel their knowledge and place in the company is appreciated. —Nenad Senic, European Editor, Chief Content Officer | @nenadsenic
There are many great approaches for inspiring your team to evangelize your business through content. The trick is to find a way to make content creation a benefit — not a burden.
Ideally, employees should come away from their content creation efforts feeling like their ideas and opinions matter to your business, that they have something of value to offer, and that they will be respected and recognized for the extra efforts they put into their contributions. Given the right training, support, respect, and encouragement, any employee — regardless of their area of expertise — can be a powerful evangelist for your brand.
Here are a few more ideas for tapping into everyone’s inner content creator:
- Not everyone is comfortable with their writing abilities, so explore ways to create content in visual or audio formats — like setting up a video blogging station, where employees can capture their thoughts on your industry in a more spontaneous way whenever the mood strikes.
- Invite team members to a company-sponsored lunch in exchange for an hour of their time answering questions about their business challenges, or sharing ideas on what they might want to read about in your company blog.
- Let your various teams or departments take turns doing a “takeover” of your social media account for a day (as long as everyone has been informed of your guidelines for acceptable social media postings from your company). Have them share their favorite things about working for your business, or even talk about their own personal passions in relation to their work.
- Organize a volunteer day at a local charity that your employees select and film their efforts to give back to the community. Then post those videos on your company blog or About Us page.
Looking for more ideas and inspirations for making your business’ content marketing efforts more manageable — and more successful? Register today to attend Content Marketing World 2014 — the biggest industry event of the year.
Cover image by Rayi Christian W, via Unsplash