A 4-Step Guide to Evangelizing Content Within Your Brand

Welcome to the fifth post in our Contently Labs series, where we answer common questions we hear from current or prospective brand publishers. Today’s question: “How do I successfully evangelize content within my company?”

When Kathleen Matthews wanted to pitch the idea of content marketing to her employer, Marriott International, she walked straight into Bill Marriott’s office. She told the then-76-year-old man that Marriott should have a blog, and he should write it.

“He said, ‘Why the heck would anyone want to read a blog from me?'” said Jay Hamilton, digital strategist and content creator for Marriott International.

Marriott didn’t use computers, and, six years later, that hasn’t changed. But that didn’t stop Matthews from convincing Marriott that he, an icon in the industry, would be the best person to tell the company’s story online.

Marriott was sold. Using an audio recorder, he’s been dictating his weekly “On the Move” blog ever since, and the brand has expanded their content efforts into a multi-channel operation.

But not every executive is Bill Marriott, and not every company is as open to content marking as those in the hotel industry. When digital marketer Brad Stephenson started the conversation about content at his 100,000-employee healthcare organization, leadership had serious legal and regulatory concerns.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t talk about any off-label uses of our products,” Stephenson said. “There were lots of concerns about how much and how quickly we could produce with that in mind.”

Whether it’s due to industry regulations, or simple reluctance to invest in a content program large enough to be effective, resistance from executives can slow the progress of any brand’s content efforts. Here are ways Stephenson and others managed to rally support within their brands for a great content program.

Seek out content champions

“One person saying, ‘This is my idea and let’s do this’ is not as strong as five people saying ‘Here’s what we want to do,'” Stephenson said. “It doesn’t hurt to identify champions. Our chief marketing official was a champion from day one, and our PR person was as well.”

Sharon Oddy, associate director of corporate communications at Verizon Wireless, said that gaining support from the highest levels of corporate communications was critical in garnering financial and C-suite support for the creation of the brand’s News Center.

Where are brands’ potential content champions? Perhaps in more places than one might imagine. According to PR professional Frank Strong, writing for Ragan’s Health Care Communication News, creating allies in other departments can help build the case for content, including SEO managers and even sales.

“Salespeople love great content, because it’s an opportunity to reach out to customers and offer them something of value without asking for something in return,” Strong wrote.

Some of these coworkers may already be content converts, while others might need to be inspired. Hamilton has found success in building teams of supporters around new content ideas at Marriott by initiating meetings of likeminded staff.

“You can’t lead with your feet on the desk. You have to walk the halls,” he said.

“Building a group like this doesn’t take much effort,” said Hamilton. “Everybody likes to be invited somewhere, and I find pizza works well.”

“Building a group like this doesn’t take much effort. Everybody likes to be invited somewhere, and I find pizza works well.” 

Build executive trust

Once the champions have been rallied, it’s time to evangelize to executives. Before attempting to sell the C-suite on the merits of a content program, however, it’s important to assure them that their concerns—whether legal, regulatory, budgetary, or otherwise—have been heard, are valid and will be addressed.

“The biggest thing was was meeting with all the appropriate people to give them the understanding that we’re going to do this in an intelligent way,” Stephenson said, “letting them know there is a workflow to this, and the appropriate people will see and approve this content.

“It’s a little bit of education and it’s a bit of presenting the documentation to show you know the risks and have mitigation for them in place.”

Drive it home with data

Nothing speaks louder to leadership than data does. When Stephenson was able to show executives in his company that a competitor held 80 percent share of voice for a product line, it really got things moving.

“That terrified them. They said, ‘Do whatever you need to do to fix this,'” he said. “If you can prove with data that your competitors are doing something well, that’s the best argument you can possibly make.”

In addition to share of voice, a number of data points can help turn leadership heads toward the power of content. Writing for the Content Marketing Institute, co-founder and CEO of digital marketing firm iAcquire, Joe Griffin recommended presenting data to executives to prove how content will increase visibility, customer interaction, branding and reputation nurturing, as well as how content can deliver higher quality leads at a lower cost.

Execute a well-researched strategy

Rallying support for a content program with data and promises before it launches is one thing; living up to the evangelism is another. In order to seal leadership’s support for content, the program must be well executed—and well funded—from the get-go.

“Don’t underestimate the time and money needed as it will likely cost more and take more time then you are estimating,” said Oddy. “Have a clear content strategy and stick to it.”

Without a well-researched strategy and budget, poorly planned, underperforming content can sabotage all of the progress you’ve made rallying support for the program.

“It’s worse to have a blog with one entry a month or six months of no posts than to have nothing,” Stephenson said. “There’s nothing that will hurt your argument more than having them say, ‘We had a blog before, and remember how bad it was.'”

It’s no small task for one person, garnering support for a big idea like content marketing in a large company with skeptical leadership. But by identifying the right content champions, developing trust with executives, presenting compelling data, and following through with a well-researched program, it’s been proven possible.

And when all else fails, persistence is never a bad strategy.

“I’m kind of a gentle steamroller,” Stephenson said. “I kind of pushed forward and said, ‘We’re going to move forward, and you’ll see the light as this stuff starts to work.'”

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What’s the deal with The Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

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