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Moving Toward User Engagement Strategy Teams

With digital communications, social media, content strategy, content marketing and decentralized publishing, the world of information moves at an amazing pace—one that many biologists say our brains aren’t even evolved enough to manage.  The ever-accelerating flow of information impacts many things, including how our departments are organized. In this rush, the old models of traditional communications firms and advertising agencies don’t even have a chance. They are the Jurassic dinosaurs, the Titanic that cannot turn around fast enough, the sun setting on the British Empire.

Organizations need to move toward a different model for their communications teams for a very important reason:  user-centered focus is the hallmark of successful digital communications.  The old models of how to communicate, market and publicize must move toward thinking about communications in terms of multidisciplinary teams of experts who centralize operations in favor of the customer.

Multidisciplinary teams of experts

First, you should know that I spend the majority of my day writing healthcare content for major hospitals.  I have typed the word multidisciplinary more than 1,000 times in a completely different context. How amusing that I’m using this central marketing term in a blog about content marketing. Yet all these years of listening to doctors talk about effective medicine has shaped my vision of how to examine complex problems from multiple angles.

User engagement strategy teams

User engagement strategy teams should be composed of designers, writers, IT experts, programmers, developers, user experience professionals, usability experts, content strategists—the works.  And those teams of one, two and three that have to get a monumental amount done with few resources? Strive, as one of my professors once told me, to know something about everything and everything about something. Define the following:

  1. Who are our users?
  2. What are our priorities as an organization, business, entity?
  3. How can we best align the needs of our users with #2?

Why user engagement strategy teams?

You might be thinking that what I am describing is just communication strategy teams.  But no, I’m talking about moving forward an extra step—toward centralizing your marketing/advertising/writing/creative teams so that you don’t repeat work, don’t second guess decisions, STOP throwing crap on the wall to see if it sticks.

Let’s break it down:

  • User—your customers
  • Engagement—more than just getting your customers’ attention.  My sister is a pediatric development expert who studies something called joint attention. Joint attention occurs when two people are involved in reading each other’s verbal and non-verbal cues.  A good example is a baby playing on the floor with a toy that makes noise when a certain button is pushed. Every time the baby pushes the button and the toy makes noise, the baby will often look at the adult in the room with whom he has joint attention.  That is what engagement is really about in this digital communications age we live in—joint attention.  It is more than a conversation—it is the experience of the exchange of information.
  • Strategy—more than just having a plan, it is about having a vision for what the future will look like and creating a step-by-step process of how you’re going to get there.
  • Team—are about people working together efficiently.  Cancer care researchers have proven that multidisciplinary teams are more beneficial to patients because specialists will have different solutions depending on their area of expertise.  So too, in digital communications, we need specialists who think about every possible angle of a digital communications strategy and execution, so we don’t miss anything major—or even anything minor.

Why Training Matters

The idea for all of this came to me after I read a Content Marketing Institute blog about 28 content marketing metrics to track.  It was meant to be a checklist, and yet when I looked for the printer-friendly icon, so I could print it out and hang it on my wall, it wasn’t there.  At that moment, I knew that someone on that team had not thought about how a user might respond to that particular column—not because of oversight—but because of training.

This is no criticism of the CMI team—their publications are amazing.  However, training is important because we fall back on it when things get stressful.  Your training—the discipline you grew up in—will determine how you think about the end user.  That is why we need so many disciplines thinking about users from multiple points of view: who they are, what they want, what they need, and how we can help.

Practical solutions

Don’t freak out.  You don’t need to restructure your marketing department tomorrow, but think about these things:

  • Take a long look at your business plan
  • Talk to your stakeholders
  • Find out what the future should look like
  • Start training and modifying your talent so they can work with each other as a team and gain from each other’s experiences and training
  • Use outside help if you need it
  • Ask for multiple sets of eyes
  • Be willing to change course if you’re not seeing any gains.

I’ll be talking more about this in a few weeks in our next part of this series: Essential members of a user engagement strategy team.  Until then, I welcome your comments and want to know if anyone out there has structured their teams like this already.