By Andy Betts published November 10, 2016

7 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Culture That Works

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If you’ve ever worked with a company where no one knows who is supposed to own what content or how content aligns with company objectives, you’ve probably seen tension build between departments and within teams, and you’ve probably seen content produced that’s aimless and inconsistent.

In large B2B organizations especially, no one person or team owns all the content. Each team needs to produce content on demand for its own objectives. Here are some typical (potentially conflicting) interests:

  • The SEO team wants quality web content that will survive Google’s algorithms and drive organic search traffic around certain keyword phrases.
  • The demand-generation team wants to drive visibility and interest in the brand through eye-catching content.
  • The product team wants content that highlights the features and benefits of the product.
  • The sales team wants content that persuades and shows how the company has produced results.
  • The customer-service team wants content to teach best practices and innovative ways of doing things.
  • The PR team wants thought-leadership pieces it can use to secure placements and interviews.
  • The recruiting team wants content on the company’s culture, news, and events.

To align these efforts, a company must build a culture that unifies teams and their content when no one team owns all the content.

Build a culture that unifies teams & their content when no one owns all the #content says @andybetts1. Click To Tweet

In an ideal content culture that’s driven by a unified process, the following things should be agreed on and documented:

  1. Messaging
  2. Content objectives
  3. Content marketing roles
  4. Content workflow
  5. Content guidance
  6. Content approvals
  7. Content results

Read on for suggestions related to each element.

1. Build a message ‘house’

One way to help your marketing team unify its content efforts across multiple digital channels is to build a message architecture, which acts as a guide for aligning content with both customer needs and business objectives. You might find it helpful to create your message architecture in the form of a house.

build-message-house

More on how and why to create a message architecture: Align All Your Messaging With This Simple (& Fun) Tool

2.  Establish content objectives

Keeping the message architecture in mind, marketing leaders must associate every piece of content with at least one objective. A content objective, as content strategist Meghan Casey defines it, is simply “the thing you want a piece of content to accomplish.” Examples:

  • Amplify a specific message
  • Reach a certain target audience and promote a branded initiative
  • Influence an outcome for a specific business unit/influence a decision
  • Promote an event
  • Build registrations to a webinar
  • Drive sales

Content objectives, of course, must tie to both business objectives and audience objectives.

Content objectives must tie to both business objectives and audience objectives says @andybetts1. Click To Tweet
  • Business objectives: Know what value the content to be created brings to the business’ overall goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, if the goal is to increase sales by X percent, how many leads do you need? And how can you generate X number of leads through content?
  • Audience objectives: Your content has to serve a purpose for the audience it’s intended for. If you don’t know what your audience is trying to accomplish, content results will fall flat. Create content that is useful and helps them take action relevant to their objectives.

Content objectives provide a basis for suggesting the types of content each team should create. For example, if your objective is to build brand awareness, your best content types may be videos and infographics. If you want to drive demand, you might want to create webinars, emails, and white papers. If you aim to influence a wider audience, you might go for contributed bylines and thought-leadership pieces in industry publications.

More on how content objectives help you create the right content: Why You Need Content Strategy Before Editorial Planning

3. Define content marketing roles – including a unifying leader

Only after you’ve built your message architecture and established content objectives accordingly do you define content marketing roles. Many companies define roles prematurely, creating overlap, inefficiency, and turnover.

Roles must be defined by marketing and business leaders if there’s to be a unified culture in which multiple stakeholders own content. Joe Pulizzi identifies a number of possible roles:

  • Chief content officer (CCO)
  • Managing editors (ME)
  • Content creators
  • Content producers
  • Chief listening officer (CLO)

Joe previously shared the image below, which shows the CCO in a unifying role and the other roles somewhat overlapping within separate areas of responsibility.

map-of-responsibilities

When you define your roles — whatever names you may give them — establish one high-level role (CCO or equivalent) that drives content strategy. This role sets, upholds, and refines the processes across the content teams — even when content owners are decentralized (not all reporting to the same person).

This high-level role is important because a content marketing culture that works requires common processes and a shared messaging system — cross-functional “standards and mechanisms” of governance, as Lisa Welchman refers to them. And, someone needs to be in charge of those things. If the person in that role doesn’t have all the content teams officially reporting to him or her, that person needs to find ways to “matrix manage” across those teams.

Within each team, then, content stars can emerge: those who are most likely to contribute, within their area of expertise, to the success of your content marketing strategy. Define all roles according to the unique skill sets of your people, including any number of hybrid skill sets growing out of disciplines like PR and SEO.

More on how to organize effective content teams at scale: The Basics of Digital Governance: What Content Marketers Need to Know

4. Define comprehensive content workflows

Each team should have a designated person (or people) accountable for understanding and documenting that team’s content workflow. The person should cover not only what it takes to create the content but also the post-production tasks: social-media promotion and everything else that happens after the content is complete.

Ideally, all those designated people from various teams come together to help each other understand the workflow for each type of content. A sense of the separate workflows helps solidify an understanding of the overall company processes.

More on defining complex processes: How to Document Your Content Marketing Workflow

5. Develop guidance for creating key types of content

Consider designating an accessible place where teams can get familiar with the types of content your organization creates over and over: webinars, case studies, white papers, videos, research reports, newsletters, blog posts, infographics, presentations, etc.

For each type of content your teams create most often, you might want to offer the following kinds of guidance to all teams:

  • A short description (one or two sentences)
  • Specifications (a content brief)
  • Samples of finished pieces
  • A fill-in-the-blank template that walks people through each element of that content type

More on how to create instructive content templates: 6 Steps (And One Tool) to Clean Up Content Messes

6. Set up a content-approval system

Content teams over time may gain authority to create content without the need for approval when the process is strategic. This is one of the goals of creating a content culture that works. The message house outlined in the first step, for example, helps you avoid approval objections.

If you’re not there yet, make sure that the right people approve your content. Without an adequate approval system, you can end up pumping out content waste: content that’s vapid or wildly off-message, content for the sake of content, or content that does not reflect the brand and that has no real impact. In that case, you might as well not bother.

Without an adequate approval system, you can end up pumping out content waste says @andybetts1. Click To Tweet

More on the importance of avoiding content waste: Go All In With Content Marketing or Do Nothing: #CMWorld

7. Measure and track results

Someone must measure and track results for you to learn whether what you’re doing is effective. What you measure must tie back to your content objectives (as described above).

You need to find ways to measure what your audience does in response to consuming your content. Maybe people give you feedback. Maybe they sign up for a demo. Maybe they do something else.

Ideally, track behaviors that align with business KPIs.

Content measurement may be part art and part science, but to justify continued investment, marketers need to start being more scientific in their analysis of performance and monetary value — as difficult as that can be to pull off.

More on how to measure the right stuff: From Newbies to Seasoned Marketers: How to Measure Your Content Marketing

Conclusion

In a content marketing culture that works, the right people with the right experience produce the right content that resonates with the right audience. Departments align their content efforts (even as they work independently), customers accomplish more of their goals, and the business is more successful in delivering on its KPIs.

If you take these seven actions, your organization is on its way to building a content marketing culture that works.

Which of these actions has made the most difference for you? What else have you found contributes to a content marketing culture that works? Please let us know in a comment.

Want more on content strategy for marketers? Sign up for our Content Strategy for Marketers weekly email newsletter, which features exclusive insights from CMI Chief Content Adviser Robert Rose. If you’re like many other marketers we meet, you’ll come to look forward to his thoughts every Saturday.

Cover image by GaborfromHungary via Morguefile.com

Author: Andy Betts

Andy has worked in content and digital technology markets for over 15 years and has worked for, and consulted with, over 300 Global brands such as with Google, Facebook, Adobe (a CMI benefactor), HP, HSBC and many leading Fortune 500 companies. He has also spent considerable time working across the USA, Europe, and APAC regions consulting, writing, and developing content and marketing strategies for many start-ups, agencies, and brands. He also consults for c-level executives and writes for many leading digital, content and marketing publications. Follow him on Twitter @andybetts1.

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  • Andrew Betts

    thanks for the feedback. I am glad you found it useful. Andy

  • Jennifer Lankheim

    FYI, you have a grammatical error in your bio. Should be “consulted with” not “consulting with” in that sentence construction. You could also do “working for and consulting with” but the tenses need to match. (If if were me, I’d want someone to point out the error, as I’m sure it’s inadvertent.) 🙂

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com Lisa Dougherty

      Thank you, Jennifer! I’ve fixed the error in his bio. 🙂

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  • http://www.businessleadsmalaysia.com/ Ameer Ahmad

    What a great insight. I never thought of making content this way. Building a content marketing culture is an interesting idea that should be practiced. I will definitely apply this.

    • Andrew Betts

      thanks Ameer – glad you found it insightful and actionable