One of the keys to thought leadership-based communications on a global scale is to make relevant points that are focused on specific audiences that happen to be operating in a global environment.
- Patty Brown
While content marketing may seem like an easier endeavor for large brands because they have bigger budgets, they actually are more challenged with every aspect of content marketing. A key reason: It’s tough to scale efforts across an organization while keeping the content relevant and consistent across so many geographies, industries, and personas.
If you are challenged with scaling your content marketing operations, chances are you can learn something from CSC, a global provider of technology-enabled business solutions and services that solve mission-critical challenges. When Gary Stockman came onboard as chief marketing and communications officer at CSC a year ago, he knew the value of content marketing and storytelling. Six months into his tenure, he asked Patty Brown to lead what would become known as the Content Hub for CSC.
The hub’s overall mandate was to create engaging content with consistent messaging throughout the company and develop processes to repurpose content in many languages across the numerous countries where CSC does business. A veteran journalist for trade publications and a content consultant who ran her own firm before joining CSC, Patty had just the right mix of editorial and technical know-how to pull it off. Now, she is a finalist for Content Marketer of the Year. The winner will be announced at Content Marketing World in September.
Patty’s team has, on average, 75-80 content assets in production in any given week across these types of activities:
- Content published through CSC.com
- 12 distinct email newsletters on a variety of IT topics
- Print (and digital) magazine CSC World, which seeks to explain the business meaning behind advances in IT, also published on Flipboard, as shown to the right
- Speakers’ bureau that translates thought leadership written by subject-matter experts into scripts and identifies speaking opportunities for those experts
- Town Halls, a continuing series of online video conferences on IT topics that matter to CSC’s audience
- Customer success stories
- Blogs and communities (The hub supports and publishes 15 active blogs within the community section of CSC.com.)
- Annual Global CIO Survey, recently selected as a finalist for Best Creative in the B2B Bright Bulb Awards (The survey is published as a microsite and print publication, and serves as a source for additional content pieces.)
- Ingenious Minds, a microsite that highlights subject-matter experts inside the company
She leads it all, when fully staffed, with a team of 13, which includes editors, content managers, video and media specialists, plus five external professional writers and editors and several boutique agencies. The team works with marketing leads in various regions to tweak the content appropriately to address cultural nuances and specific audiences.
The Content Hub has enabled CSC to engage audiences at all different stages of the buying cycle – from people who don’t even understand the nature of their problem to people who are about to buy. It also allows CSC to tell a cohesive story that is produced, managed, and developed from a central perspective. As Patty explains, the Content Hub ensures a logical and understandable journey that:
- Exposes CSC’s thought leaders to its broad audiences
- Introduces prospects to CSC solutions and services
- Forges commercial relationships between customers and CSC account executives and consultants
One of the challenges in developing the Content Hub, Patty told me, was to earn the trust of the business units at the product, industry, and regional levels, and make them comfortable with working from the hub architecture. It was important to demonstrate that the hub team understood the nuances of technology and business strategies across the company.
Patty selected the team of content producers based on experience accompanied by domain and industry expertise. With an understanding of the subject matter, as well as multimedia distribution channel expertise, the team was able to earn the trust of company-wide stakeholders by convincing them the hub would make their jobs and outcomes better.
Her commitment to a centralized approach and her team leadership are some of the reasons why Patty is a Content Marketer of the Year finalist. Today, she shares how the global technology company manages to scale content marketing while maintaining a consistency in brand, tone, voice, and relevance for its target audiences.
Foundation to support scaling
The idea of building a content center of excellence began some four years ago when Patty was hired into the company. At that time, CSC wasn’t much different from most enterprises that have embarked on a content marketing journey. Each division was in charge of its own content marketing strategy, including design, tone, and style. Each division used its own agency and managed its own budget. In this environment, CSC’s content marketing costs consumed more of the budget, brand strength was diminished, and the user experience was inconsistent.
As you can imagine, it was quite a task to standardize what every division was doing. And, as the content center of excellence evolved into the Content Hub, a number of things needed to be put in place.
Establish an internal identity: The hub has its own logo and identity to aid in awareness across the organization. This may sound inconsequential, but it helps raise awareness of the capabilities that are available to CSC at large, while also instilling a sense of pride and ownership with the team. This also provided a context for setting very specific mission objectives:
Through our day-to-day execution and leadership, we are helping transform CSC by telling the company’s story through quality content. By applying rigorous editorial standards and processes, we are building new muscle and modernizing the marketing discipline to set an example – not just for CSC, but the broader content marketing industry.
Create an agency hierarchy: Operating as a centralized “agency” for CSC, the hub works closely with many internal divisions of CSC, including industry and offering marketing, events, communications, and demand generation.
It is important to note that relevant stakeholders and subject-matter experts are included throughout the content creation process to ensure optimal impact with target audiences. This is consideration for selecting and targeting the topics, the industries, and the geographies for which content will be developed and distributed.
Additionally, you must clearly define the roles necessary to produce content. The roles include:
Establish consistent workflows and the technology to support them. The hub uses Kapost to manage its production workflow and as a content repository. There are more than 14,000 content assets, 329 accounts, and approximately 100 users, with 50 active monthly, including marketing and communications team members, agency partners, and contract writers. The Kapost platform allows for collaboration and visibility, as well as a global content and campaign calendar. Standardizing processes using the same tools and technology becomes the glue that holds the hub together for consistent execution.
As Patty realized the volume of content the hub needed to handle, she established a content-request form that has helped save her team’s sanity. The form gathers information including business justification, target audience, intended use, SMEs involved, and more to gather everything needed for each project from the start.
It also helps to achieve greater levels of scale by having standard templates for requests to repurpose content in different formats. The forms allow the process to happen quickly and eliminate repetitive tasks, while maintaining the integrity of the branded look. This example shows how the hub allows for its magazine articles to be used in shorter, customized magazine-like formats compiled by verticals. In this example, there are two layouts from which to choose.
Among the team objectives are:
- Build content that is engaging, smart, comprehensive; build content that speaks to our clients’ business needs.
- Support multiple channels with each piece of content – with tone and content appropriate for each channel.
- Optimize every piece of content for search engines; be sure each piece of content can be found.
The guidelines for team conduct include:
- Be innovative. Is there a better way to get something done? A better way to say something? Do not be afraid to suggest changes to what we’ve done in the past – move beyond the status quo.
- Be customer-oriented. Always be professional, prepared, smart, and helpful in solving problems with all of our customers – whether internal or external.
Tips to start scaling
Content marketing at scale is a complex objective. Patty says reuse and repurposing is a major theme for CSC’s Content Hub. It gets extra mileage out of high-quality, evergreen content by customizing aspects of existing assets for different regions, languages, and industries. Patty says for some types of content, the goal is to use 75% of the original content as is and 25% repurposed content that’s been customized to achieve relevance for additional use.
Patty offers this guidance to content marketers looking to scale their efforts:
- Strategy – You must be able to articulate and tell an exciting and compelling story about your corporate strategy. This message must be tailored to where your audience is in the sales cycle and yet remain a cohesive and consistent story.
- Audience – It’s important to understand there is no single audience with whom you must resonate in order to be successful. Audiences evolve from people who don’t know us at all to prospects and ultimately to clients. Different content — in different formats — is needed to nurture and connect with audiences from one stage to the next.
- Leverage – Content creation is expensive, so make the most of each piece of content you create or each subject-matter-expert interview you conduct. An interview can be a Q&A, but it also can be part of a blog, included in a white paper, and, of course, form the basis for social media. A long interview with an executive can and should be reduced, recycled, and reused.
- Messaging – We must realize that we live in a complex and dynamic business environment. This means that our stories must evolve as our technologies and our industries evolve. The trick is to ensure that the evolution makes sense and doesn’t create confusion as our audiences struggle to stay on top of the trends. For example, we can’t talk about cloud in 2015 the same way we talked about it in 2013. As the issues around cloud evolve, so must our messaging.
Collaborative internal partnerships
The Content Hub does not operate in a vacuum. Patty and her team work closely with the other senior leaders within marketing and communications at CSC. For example, she interacts regularly with the PR and corporate communications lead, Rich Adamonis, to support content and communications needs. She also works closely with Nick Panayi, head of digital marketing and global brand, who is responsible for the marketing technology stack that runs the CSC website and the demand-generation programs, as well as ROI from those programs. This distribution of responsibilities is what keeps the CSC Content Hub and demand-generation engine humming.
CSC’s Patty Brown is a finalist for Content Marketer of the Year. To learn more about our Content Marketer of the Year finalists, we’ve put together a new SlideShare, Get Creative: Profile Of Six Content Marketers Of The Year Finalists. In it, you’ll find evidence of what made these marketers stand out.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute