The Makings of an Effective Content Marketing Team: Experts Weigh InAs brands and agencies become increasingly interested in reaping the benefits of content marketing, more of these businesses are exploring what it takes to incorporate its tools and techniques into their overall business operations. It’s no easy task, as content marketing often requires a radical shift in how organizations produce and deliver information to their audience. But for those with the vision and flexibility to become true content publishers, the results can be well worth the effort.
In a recent post, CMI asked a few of the experts who presented at this year’s Content Marketing World to discuss advice they received on how to excel in a content marketing job. This week we’ve turned the tables by asking them to impart their own wisdom in answer to the question, “What advice would you give to an organization that is looking to build aneffective content marketing team, or to reorganize its existing operations to better integrate its content capabilities into enterprise-wide processes?” Here’s what they had to say:
Think mobile first. More and more people are consuming information on their smartphones. Write as if they will be reading on their phones, and add attention-grabbing photos that will stand out. Create content in bite-sized pieces that can be stitched together to form long-form articles, or kept separate to serve mobile users. —Stephanie Leffler, CEO and Co-founder, CrowdSource | @CrowdSource
Always start with determining the goal for your content marketing program and then find the right resources. Depending on your goals, you may find you need to build out a larger team, focusing specifically on content. In other cases, someone already on the marketing team may be able to carve out time to dedicate to content. Don’t be afraid to tap into departments outside of marketing for resources. As an example, you may find a wealth of information and ideas to help form your editorial themes and content calendar. —Amanda Maksymiw, Content Marketing Manager, Lattice Engines | @amandamaks
Don’t go too fast too soon. Pace the effort to match what the organization and people are ready for. Crawl, walk, run, then you can fly! —Heather Meza, Head of the Digital Media Solutions Center, of Expertise, Cisco | @HeatherMeza
Think about governance! There are pros and cons to centralizing the team or distributing it across the organization, but at the end of the day, you need to have policies in place to make sure you are focused and adhere to your brand. —Lauren Moler, Content Strategist and Information Architect, National Instruments | @merrymoler
You may not need to build a team if you’re already producing marketing assets. Good content marketers forecast opportunities to provide value to customers through content and should be able to make advance requests to creative partners. As you start to make content marketing wins, optimizing production will naturally become a greater priority. If you’re building a team, find experienced storytellers and consider a range of media. Good content doesn’t just deliver a message, it tells or contributes to a larger story. —Paolo Mottola, Digital Engagement Program Manager, REI | @paolojr
If you have an opportunity to re-organize your team or build a team from scratch (even better), hire a journalist! Then hire another journalist. Journalists will write compelling stories that transcend your business and mean something to a bigger audience. @MedillSchool has an awesome program. —Jodi Navta, VP of Marketing and Communications, Coyote | @jodinavta
Everyone in the organization should have a voice and contribute to the content pool —not just the marketing folks. Across any company, it’s likely that everybody has a good story to share. Various perspectives will make the content strategy more human, engaging, and interesting. —Phil Paranicas, Director of Digital Media, ThomasNet | @Flip2Market
If I was interviewing applications for a content marketing team, I would first look for passionate individuals with a vision for the products and empathy for those who could benefit from them. I would want individuals who wanted to “adapt” conversations and market perceptions and mold them over time by engaging buyers on as many levels as possible.
At early meetings with new team members, I’d look for the animated individuals who came into the meeting with strong enthusiasm for the products and equally strong enthusiasm for making them all that the could be.
To the extent it was possible, I would look for individuals who valued an employee/ employer or client/agency relationship that would last for a long time. There needs to be trust on both sides that would be based on quality of insights and deliverables, as well as on consistency and on-time performance.
In a high turn-over field, it would be great to assemble a content marketing crash team that is self-motivating and self-monitoring, and knows the end users so well that the core characteristics and benefits emerged for themselves without claims or superlatives. —Roger C. Parker, Content Coach, Speaker, and Mind Mapping Resource | @RogerCParker
One lesson I’ve learned is that, while your company may only have one marketing team, you’ll find marketers in every team.
In operations, design, customer support… whatever other teams make up your company… there is someone who has a story to share that your customers will appreciate and relate to. But they don’t always recognize that story as being something they should share with the marketing team.
There’s tremendous value in looking beyond your marketing team for content. Not only will you find excellent content, you might find your next content marketing team members sitting right across the hall from you. —Justin Premick, Director of Education Marketing, AWeber | @justinpremick
Because content marketing has much in common with a traditional publishing business, we can learn from the companies that are succeeding despite the turmoil in that industry.
Why is The Wall Street Journal able to compete against free publications, retain readers and charge the highest prices in the industry for both the online and print versions of their publications? High-quality writers and editors are essential, but most content marketing teams have those skills.
What’s missing is the counterpart to the publishing industry’s investigative journalists. These are the people who have the training and responsibility to probe for insights and angles that others are missing. These deep insights are the source of the WSJ competitive advantage.
At publications like the WSJ, the probing focuses on finding and interviewing people who have unique insight into something topical or newsworthy. Even finding the right people can be challenging. But content marketing teams need only the probing interview skills, because the people they need to understand are the buyers they want to influence. —Adele Revella, President, Buyer Persona Institute, Inc. | @buyerpersona
Start with strategy. Before you make hiring or re-organization decisions for your content team, have a clear picture of the buyer personas you plan to reach and influence, and the value you can offer them through your content. Define performance benchmarks and goals, establish themes/beats tied to your brand positioning, conduct keyword research, perform a competitive review to find knowledge gaps in the market, and ensure you have the right marketing technology (e.g., project management, CRM, marketing automation) in place to activate all the amazing content you create. —Paul Roetzer, Founder and CEO, PR 20/20 | @PaulRoetzer
Keep content marketing and marketing communications separate. If you don’t, your efforts to create content will always be challenged by the more immediate sales needs of the company. Separate teams allow for the content team to develop a far stronger publishing mentality and enables them to build bridges to content creators within the organization that help evolve processes over time. —Jeff Rohrs, Head of the Marketing Research & Education Group, ExactTarget | @jkrohrs
Include people from diverse backgrounds. Right now, it’s natural for content creators (writers, designers, etc.) to gravitate to content strategy. We need these people at the core of a content marketing team.
Going forward, you’ll want input from a broad range of disciplines, including analytics, linguistics, user experience, and more. It’ll be challenging to manage these different approaches to content, so be sure to include a manager who can wrangle different types of professionals.
You’ll have a team that appreciates content from a variety of perspectives. Content, technology, and channels are evolving rapidly, so you need people who will look at content solutions from different directions. —Buddy Scalera, SVP of Content Strategy & Media, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide | @MarketingBuddy
To build an effective content marketing team, start with knowing where your organization is, culturally, in understanding content marketing and what it means. Once you have a baseline, then educate. Educate, educate, educate. Internal buy-in is important to the team’s success, whether associates are part of the content marketing team or not. Help everyone in the organization understand the “why” of implementing a content marketing strategy and how it works, and then set expectations for success.
Ideally, the content marketing team will include a good cross-section of experts/senior leadership in your organization, those who are enthusiastic about participating (hopefully, your experts are enthusiastic!), and marketing associates. Create a detailed plan for the team, which includes core content areas, responsibilities, and a timeline.
Crucial to the plan is how you’ll measure performance — what are your metrics for success? In the early stages, those metrics might look different (e.g., frequency of posting content) than after you’ve been working your plan for a while (e.g., number of conversations, comments or conversions). Plan the work and work the plan, but don’t be afraid to adjust the plan as needed. As your audience responds, you’ll begin to see patterns of what resonates more and how your audience engages, so be flexible enough to incorporate these learning into your plan.
Most of all, remember that content marketing gives you the ability to connect with your audience in a meaningful way — be authentic and respectful of their wants and needs and you’re sure to be successful. —Cheri Tabel, Marketing Director, The Pert Group |@ctabel
Don’t just think like a publisher. Do more than a publisher. Publishers have become irrelevant and, in some cases, obsolete because the lacked innovation and taking risks. They are avoiding SEO, social, mobile and other initiatives that caused them to be passed by companies they never thought were competitors. Don’t let this happen to you as a content marketer. Take risks. Stay out front. And don’t look back. —Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Initiatives Lead, Monetate | @RobYoegel
Though the roles, characteristics and expectations for effective content marketing teams will certainly vary, company to company, there is one thing that applies universally: the need for a well-constructed staffing strategy. Here are some of the key considerations that should factor into your decisions:
- Start off by determining the overall goals for your content marketing program, and then map them to your resource needs.
- Pace yourself — build your team slowly, measure results, and optimize your processes and team resources as your needs, and your success, grows.
- Engage resources from outside of your team, outside of marketing, and outside your company, whenever possible — it never hurts to have outside perspectives as you create your content plans.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks — previously untested techniques and ideas are often the ones that hold the greatest potential for distinguishing your brand’s content, and the same could be said for potential team members whose experience falls outside the typical content career paths.
- Look for content creators who have the training and knowledge to craft quality storytelling across multiple media formats, such as journalists
- Look for enthusiasm — you can train someone to write well on behalf of your brand, but you can’t necessarily make them want to.
- Don’t forget corporate culture, and brand voice when you build your plan for organizing your team around content.
Couldn’t make it to Content Marketing World this year? Visit our Videos on Demand portal to get virtual access to keynote addresses, presentations, and more fantastic content from the event.
Cover image via Bigstock.
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