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A Content Marketing Mission Statement: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage?

As you read this piece, think of Jerry McGuire and his mission statement. I have something important to say, but I’m not really sure of the direction (yet).

I’m a regular reader of Jason Calicanis’ enewsletter on technology and new product development. It’s a must read for any web entrepreneur (Calicanis was the co-founder of Weblogs and is founder of Mahalo – a Top 150 website).

The setup

In his most recent enewsletter, Jason, a very vocal hater of Facebook, goes in-depth about the good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook.

At the end, he comes to a fascinating conclusion:

“Facebook’s success — and mistakes — are based on its developer-driven culture, not because Zuckerberg is some evil mastermind.

The Zuckerberg Doctrine: Developers design products with significantly improved speed and functionality compared to product managers and designers, outweighing potential mistakes and drawbacks.”

This was such an epiphany to Calicanis that he is in the process of completely overhauling his product development process, eliminating and reworking positions, removing everything between the developer and product creation.

Frequency or consistency

Flip to a couple days later, where Bernie Borges and I had a discussion on his podcast about whether more content is better.

Bernie stated the fact that organizations need to create much more content today. I countered with the importance of consistency over the sheer amount. Perhaps we are both right.

Here’s Bernie’s summary from the podcast:

“Content vehicles have been around for decades. But, today content creation has become the center of the marketing plan. Custom publishing people used to be tucked away outside of the marketing department just a few years ago. Now, custom publishing is mainstream. Marketers are figuring out their story and telling it through content. It’s important to acknowledge that content marketing is not limited to the marketing department. Marketers should ‘get more rowers in the boat’ to produce compelling content on a consistent basis.”

Personally, this is a struggle for me. Yes, we need to create lots of valuable, relevant content for our customers and prospects – at the right place and right time – to do something that helps our business. But more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sometimes more means more clutter…more crap.

Bringing it around

So, let’s say that, at least from an online content perspective, we need lots of relevant content distributed through multiple channels. To do this effectively within any-sized organizations, we need to remove the “masses in the middle” that get in the way of the content creator actually creating the content.

Go back to Calicanis and his Facebook example. Facebook is successful because developers develop without running into product managers, content people, management or distractions of any kind.

I remember this vividly from the movie “The Social Network.” Many times in the movie, developers were “wired in” to a multiple-hour developing session, not to be disturbed (CEO Zuckerberg included). Think of it like free writing for content people, but the difference is that the free writing is actually published.

Why can’t this happen with content?

Everyone is a content creator

It can happen. It is happening.

We’re seeing some of this in companies like OpenView Venture Partners and their employee-driven blog. They have 90% participation from their employees. Not too shabby.

We are also seeing publishers like NCI evolve toward this model with their journalists and editors. In the past, a journalist would be assigned a story. This was one piece of content. Today, that one story may include 10, 20, even 30 different pieces of content – Tweets, multiple blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, network updates and so on and so forth.

So think about this. Let’s say that you assign your writer (employee or outsourced, doesn’t matter) one story a week. In the past, that’s 50 content assets (take out two weeks for vacations). Today, that could literally be 1,500 pieces of content derived from the same 50 story ideas. Amazing.

IBM has 17,000 blogs and 25,000 employees on Twitter.

So what?

Look, I don’t know if this is anything earth-shattering. We’ve known about these forces for a while.

What I think deserves notice is the idea that Facebook’s developer-driven culture has been working its way into content marketing. Today, all employees can be content creators. That doesn’t mean they all should, but they certainly can and are.

Those companies that embrace this fact, without being overly concerned with small content mistakes (which can and should be fixed by an editor after the fact), may develop a very large competitive advantage (as we’ve seen with Facebook).

  • Educate employees on the story of the customer…the brand story
  • Lay down the rules of conduct
  • Train employees on how to effectively share their story
  • Trust them (like you trust them with their emails and phone calls)
  • Set them free to tell the story in the form of tweets, blog posts, articles, slideshare presentations, YouTube videos and more and more and more

Two things. First, I love this model. Second, it scares me. It could leave room for clutter, incompetence and sheer stupidity by certain employees. Also, if not monitored by an editor, it could end up in a content mess that lacks any discernible connection with content strategy.

That said, it could be the holy grail.