Building team spirit – a content marketing culture

Sonja Jefferson

Practical ideas to help you inspire your team and build a sustainable content marketing culture that drives long term business success.

Content planning meeting

How do you inspire people in the business to create valuable content?

Getting your business marketing with valuable content invariably means big change. It relies on people doing things differently. If you’re the one driving this new content marketing approach in a business with a few people or more then you’ll need to inspire people from across the company to learn new skills, take on new roles and collaborate. This can be tough.

You’re asking a lot. You want the wider team – your subject matter experts, service and sales people – to listen hard to what customers/clients ask them, to look for opportunities, to come up with ideas, to help you craft great content and to share it widely. You need marketing to make ‘help, don’t sell’ the founding stone of their communication. And importantly, you want your business leaders to back this strategy, create content of their own, and share it; take advantage of their own fantastic networks, and adopt a long-term view.

Change is never easy, so how do you make it happen in your business? Here are a few ideas we’ve seen working. We hope they help you inspire your team and build a sustainable content marketing culture that drives your long term success.

1. Give people time to create content

“We don’t mandate, but we do bake thought leadership development into annual plans.” Greg Austin, Head of Global Marketing at ZS Associates

If you recognise the importance of content marketing, then give your people 
time to create great content. Blog writing shouldn’t be something people have to squeeze between other tasks – for the best results people need thinking and writing time. And of course people will quickly run out of enthusiasm for this new content marketing thing if you expect them to work through their lunch breaks and at weekends to get it done. Make ‘creating valuable content’ part of their role and their performance review process. Relieve some of those billable hour pressures – you can’t be writing content when your goal is to pound a time sheet!

If you’re a one-man band then we suggest you give yourself time too. Recognise content creation as an important business task and set time aside for this. You need head space to create stuff that’s valuable. Half a day a fortnight, take yourself away from the office and write somewhere nice. (More ideas here -> How to find time to create valuable content.)

2. Lead from the top

Businesses that succeed with content marketing in the long term have buy-in from the very top of the organisation. In the most successful companies this means the MD blogging and tweeting alongside customer-facing staff.

“A consulting firm sells expertise. Expertise is demonstrated through thought leadership. Senior people should be expected to contribute to a firm’s thought leadership. If they can’t or won’t, even with the help of a writer, they probably shouldn’t be among leadership.” Jason Mlicki, Rattleback

If the leadership team is content-driven then they will inspire others by example. The attitude and behaviour of those at the top have the biggest impact on creating a culture of content marketing – ensuring that the ideas and processes are embedded all the way through their organisation.

3. Motivate, don’t force

We’ve heard tell of some companies who use punitive measures if people don’t produce the content they’re expected to create. We’re big believers in bringing people with you on the content journey, not beating them over the head – creativity is hard to pull out of the bag if it’s coerced. Here’s a much better approach from our fantastic clients, business change experts Project One:

“I am now driving content through facilitating willing volunteers in Project One. I’ve laid out some suggested topics and sought volunteers for beer-and-pizza sessions to shape the content. Not to write – they don’t have the time and it’s my job. But if I can get their ideas, feeding the beast is a walk in the park!” Geoff Mason, Content Director, Project One

4. Hire maniacs!

Thinking further into the future, smart firms that really want content marketing success will build it into their recruitment process. Some are doing that already.

“The Indium Corporation enjoys a very enthusiastic and dedicated team of maniacs who truly love their careers, their fields of study, their technologies, and their colleagues. This joie de vivre for semiconductor assembly materials, for nanotech materials and assembly processes, for thermal interface materials, for electronics assembly materials is the answer to the content challenge. So HIRE people who are consumed with the topics that matter to your customers. Then put the two together and let them rock.” Rick Short, Indium

5. Train your team

For bigger businesses, spreading the content load widely makes sense both time wise, and because it will give you a good variety of perspectives. If all of the team are keeping notes of the questions clients ask them, you’ll have a far bigger pool of content ideas. Get as many people involved as you can. Customer facing people are a great source of content, equally as important as your technical experts.

Once people find their feet, you’ll discover where the real content strengths are, and where people could do with a bit of extra support.

Training helps people become better content creators. If you’re a sole trader and you want to take this further then a good content marketing course can help you practice some of the techniques and give you the confidence to keep going on your own.

If you’ve got a wider team to train, you might want to up skill one group in blogging techniques, and give your content distribution person a crash course in the best ways to share content. Give people the skills and confidence they need.

6. Support your people

Make it as easy as possible for your people to honour this new commitment to valuable content. Your most reluctant experts could start their blogging career by being interviewed by a writer who turns their ideas into blog articles. Think about hiring an internal content writer or outsourcing some of the work to a content creation agency or freelancer.

A hybrid approach to content creation will make it easier, and we’re seeing more and more companies opting for this– some original content developed by in house experts, some initiated in house and polished by an external content writer, and others initiated by your writer and vetted for accuracy by those with the knowledge in house.

A sustained team effort

Successful content marketing isn’t the sum of individual acts of brilliance; it’s a sustained team effort. What you’re aiming for is not just the creation of fantastic content ideas, but the creation of a solid team of content creators.

We really hope these ideas help you to inspire your team to create and share great content for the long term. We’d love to hear about any other tactics that work for your business.

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