Most companies are thinking about content all wrong—or at the very least, in a very limited way.
Content is primarily thought of as a marketing tool—a way to boost brand perception, reach potential customers, and drive leads. But in truth, content can wield a powerful inﬂuence on divisions across the enterprise—particularly any that are external-facing. Content serves as a powerful tool for sales teams, a driver for recruiting efforts, a boon for investor relations, and a cost-saver for customer service. It also helps maintain relationships with vendors, agencies, and suppliers, and can help facilitate corporate communications and build company culture.
This relationship is symbiotic. Departments outside of traditional marketing divisions are a great source of content ideas and expertise in particular subject matter. Customer service teams are the experts on customer pain points. Salespeople are the experts on prospect needs. Product and research divisions can provide dynamic thought leadership. Just as content powers the enterprise, the entire enterprise can be a great resource in powering content creation.
This virtuous circle is only possible when the company works to build a culture of content that values and evangelizes content, championing the positive impact it can have on myriad aspects of the business and driving the goals of specific divisions (e.g., meeting recruitment and retention goals). Five key actions are critical to this task:
Create a common purpose
Upon entering Marriott’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the ﬁrst thing employees see is the M Live studio, Marriott’s high-tech content center.
M Live is symbolic of Marriott’s commitment to telling the brand’s story to a mass audience. M Live is a physically prominent part of the office, and has a dedicated chair for eight different departments. The studio helps unify the company around a common purpose.
“This is a tool for everybody to use in the building,” said David Beebe, Marriott’s vice president of global creative and content marketing. “It’s customer-ﬁrst thinking. A lot of brands can’t achieve what we’re doing. They think, ‘I can’t do that because someone over there is not going to like it.'”
(Full disclosure: Marriott is a Contently client.)
Engage senior leadership
While a chief executive will rarely run a brand’s content operation, support from him or her is crucial.
Chase’s ambitious News and Stories content center is championed by Chief Brand Officer Susan Canavari, and its editorial board is chaired by CMO Kristin Lemkau. At Electrolux, the world’s second-largest appliance brand, CMO MaryKay Kopf brings together task forces of team members from across departments and regions of the world to unite around content. Because content tends to be a new and experimental initiative at most brands, buy-in from the bosses is key to success.
“I think content is the most important thing we do,” explained Kopf. “We curate custom content for wherever she is in that journey, with our brand as her friend. Then we utilize all that content to tell one story and develop technology to enable that.”
(Full disclosure: Chase is a Contently client.)
Establish content leadership and governance
For a content methodology to succeed and a culture of content to grow, an organization needs a leader who can evangelize content across departments, and potential partners, champion success to senior leadership, and ensure content is compliant. Often, an important part of this role is advocating for better metrics and KPIs that demonstrate content success.
Beginning in 2013, Brian Becker, head of content for the Chase Newsroom, and his colleague Stacey Warwick, head of brand innovation, began rallying internal support for the company’s newsroom. They established a system of governance and standards, built a team of content creators, and created an editorial board. Chase now has a dashboard of critical content success metrics accessible to over 150 stakeholders within the organization, along with work ows that allow them to swiftly get content approval from all necessary parties.
“We had to set up our infrastructure and then show the organization how it could work,” Becker said. “We needed to prove that content can improve marketing’s effectiveness. We also built standards, governance, and communication that reinforced that we would be responsible and thorough.”
Today, content sits front and center on the Chase homepage, and has helped the brand engage its customers much more deeply.
It is crucial that leaders from different parts of the organization consistently come together to evaluate the success of their content and iterate on new ideas. The newsroom for Coca-Cola’s corporate online magazine, Coca-Cola Journey, gathers weekly to evaluate content based on a blended content score, and has a monthly call with 25 international markets, each of which has its own version of the Journey site. Coca-Cola hopes to expand that number to 40 by year’s end. The content team also has an annual publishing Summit, known as JourneyOn.
Raymond James’s content hub, Raymond James Point of View, is public but is built with the objective of serving the brand’s primary clients: financial advisors. According to Mike White, the brand’s CMO, this objective enables financial advisors to educate clients, boosts their individual reputation as subject-matter experts, and, in the process, bolsters the larger Raymond James brand. The company consistently gets feedback on its content from financial advisors via surveys that, in turn, inform the company’s editorial calendar. White says that 95 percent of advisors have recently used Raymond James content.
(Full disclosure: Raymond James and Coca-Cola are Contently clients.)
Encourage creativity and risk-taking
When Marriott began production on Two Bellmen, its award-winning short film, Beebe largely gave director Miguel Cabrera full reign to exercise his creativity. In fact, Beebe’s only real criticism of the first cut was a self-promotional shot for Marriott.
“We don’t want to see any ‘Welcome to the JW Marriott, here’s your keycard,’ and then a closeup of the logo,” he said. “None of that.”
Coca-Cola goes as far as to create a formula that ensures they’re taking enough risks. As detailed in Altimeter Group’s “A Culture of Content” report:
Coca-Cola bases its content strategy on a 70/20/10 rule, which gives creative teams carte blanche to experiment with 20 to 30 percent of the content they produce. This allows Coke to create a steady stream of “safe” content while also pushing boundaries to try to be the next big thing.
A culture of content doesn’t emerge overnight, but working to build one across these five areas is crucial for any organization committed to content marketing success. It’s also the first and most important step to creating a content marketing program that will get better and better over time.
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