Skip to content

7 Elements To Cultivate a Prosperous Content Culture

Updated July 7, 2022

As the vehicle driving all public-facing messaging for the organization, content is essential to the success of every department. With all the different goals to achieve, it’s no wonder tension builds when it comes to content production and distribution.

Seemingly competing priorities and a lack of a cohesive workflow can leave your company’s content disjointed and confused. And that’s definitely not the impression you want to make on audiences, including your prospects, brand fans, and loyal customers.

The larger your organization, the more complex content operations are. In most companies, no one team “owns” all content. All stakeholders are likely involved, each with their own content objectives and goals:

  • Customer service uses content to educate customers and provide self-serve options to enhance their support programs.
  • The SEO team needs content to rank highly in Google and other search engine results to drive highly motivated organic traffic around relevant keyword phrases.
  • Demand generation professionals want to see eye-catching content promoted in all channels to increase interest in the brand and its offerings.
  • PR is looking for thought leadership pieces, the visibility that drives brand recognition, and authority-building content that helps them land interviews and placements.
  • The product team is eager to showcase the features and benefits of this amazing solution they’ve created.
  • Sales wants case studies, product sheets, and other collateral content that can help them seal the deal.
  • HR and recruitment expect the organization to produce content around company culture, employee satisfaction, and new opportunities to support their pursuit of new talent.

Building a content marketing culture requires everyone to pull in the same direction. In an ideal content culture 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
Building a #ContentMarketing culture requires everyone pulling in the same direction. That requires a unified process, says @andybetts1 via @CMIContent. Share on X

Read on for suggestions related to each element.

1. Build a message ‘house’

Unify content efforts across multiple digital channels by building 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:

  • At the top of the house is the umbrella message. It aligns content with core business objectives and company vision
  • The middle of the house is made up of core message building blocks, including audience profiling, persona targeting, and content and product marketing messages
  • The bottom of the house is the foundational support – proof points and message validation

Aligning messaging and content.

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 explains, 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 or decision
  • Promote an event
  • Build registrations for a webinar
  • Drive sales

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

  • 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 must serve a purpose for the intended audience. If you don’t know what your audience wants to accomplish, content results will fall flat. Create content that is useful and helps them take action relevant to their objectives.
All #content assets should address a business objective and an audience objective, says @andybetts1 via @CMIContent. Share on X

Content objectives provide a basis for suggesting the content types that each team should create. For example, to build brand awareness, your best content types could be videos and infographics. To drive demand, you need to use SEO insights to understand content preferences 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.

As this chart illustrates, content preferences vary by industry based on 65% of results across billions of keywords. For example, health care has a higher percentage of “quick” answers than education, home improvement, finance, travel, and ecommerce. At the same time, regular web listings represent almost 80% of finance industry results. In the ecommerce industry, local three packs are more popular than in any other industry listed.

Content preferences by industry.

3. Define roles and build a culture

Only after you’ve built your message architecture and established content objectives accordingly can you define content marketing roles. Many companies detail the 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. Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi identifies possible roles:

  • Chief content officer
  • Managing editors
  • Content creators
  • Content producers
  • Chief listening officer

As illustrated in this image, when scaling content within your business, culture is at the center, surrounded by the four-step process attributes – from audience-centric to objectively driven and process orientated to built to measure.

Scaling content within your business.

When you define your roles – whatever names you may give them – establish one high-level role (chief content officer 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. It demands cross-functional “standards and mechanisms” of governance, as Lisa Welchman refers to them. And someone needs to be in charge of those things. If that role doesn’t have all the content teams officially reporting to them, that person needs to find ways to “matrix manage” across those teams.

A #ContentMarketing culture that works requires common processes and a shared messaging system, says @andybetts1 via @CMIContent. Share on X

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

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 – everything 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.

5. Develop guidance for creating key types of content

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

For each frequently created content type, offer the following kinds of guidance to all teams:

  • 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

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 the goal 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 on your target personas. In that case, you might as well not bother.

7. Measure and track results

Someone must measure and track results for your organization 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 feedback. Maybe they sign up for a demo. Maybe they do something else.

Ideally, track behaviors and use SEO tools and platforms that power performance aligned to your 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.

Create the culture and success follows

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.

Register to attend Content Marketing World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. Can't attend in person this year? Check out the Digital Pass for access to on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute