When your people bring their voices, knowledge and perspectives into the mix, you can achieve amazing results with your content marketing and thought leadership efforts. But turning your colleagues — your product managers, salespeople, researchers, IT people, and others who have all that valuable knowledge rattling around in their heads — into quality content producers is more than an exercise in herding cats: it can feel more like squeezing blood from a stone.
As you begin recruiting and motivating your internal teams to become content producers, consider these best practices that we’ve observed by watching and supporting content marketing initiatives.
1. Start with, and share, your strategy.
You didn’t think we were going to let you forget that you need a content strategy
, did you? Define and document your brand’s point of view, your goals, the themes and topics you plan to explore, the channels and types of content you plan to use. Also figure out how you plan to measure your success. Evangelize your strategy to help everybody in your organization understand why content is so important to your lead-generation, lead-nurturing and customer relationship marketing efforts. (Need help? Get some good stats here.
2. Get buy-in from the top.
Get your senior management on board with your efforts, and be specific about what you’ll be asking of their teams — including the exact number of hours or contributions you’ll want from certain people. If managers understand the need, they’ll be more willing to accommodate content creation as an essential part of their employees’ jobs.
3. Involve your team in planning.
Choose your core content team, and invite them to a short weekly or bimonthly editorial meeting. Ask them to come prepared with three story ideas, and facilitate a discussion around those ideas with the team. The more engaged they are in the process, the more people will be willing to invest time in supporting the efforts.
4. Make assignments and stick to a schedule.
We all work better with assignments and deadlines. Create a calendar
, assign people due dates for their content, and check in with them throughout the process to make sure they’re working toward that deliverable. A calendar creates accountability.
5. Recruit from the outside too.
In addition to your core internal content team, begin to think about external contributors — customers, industry thought leaders, partners, or even employees who work outside your own department — who can become regular voices in your content. It builds excitement and credibility for your content efforts, and also makes internal employees feel like they’re part of something worthwhile.
6. Equip your people with training, tools and tricks.
Most of these content producers won’t be professional writers, so you need to give them some help. Hold a training workshop to help them understand your brand style and standards and tips for writing compelling, quality content. Create checklists and cheat-sheets to help them check for common writing goof-ups (grammatical problems, meandering topics). And give them strategies for overcoming the blank-page freeze, a.k.a. writer’s block: how to get started and find the time to write a little every day, rather than agonizing the hour before the deadline.
7. Buddy up.
Set up pairs or groups of content producers who “report” to each other and collaborate on projects. Buddies are responsible for reviewing each other’s content, brainstorming ideas, and motivating each other to write. Much like the buddy system for exercising or any other tough-to-stick-to goal, buddies or teams can be the key to success for content consistency and quality.
8. Turn content results into rewards.
Put metrics into place and measure, measure, measure. Share your high-performing content with your content team during your meeting and talk about why it worked — and how to do it again. Reward the writers who produce the stuff that works. It will create a little healthy competition among your contributors and get them excited about continuing.
9. Make it fun.
There are already so many obligations people have in their everyday jobs. Don’t make content creation feel like drudgery. Try to instill the feeling that writing content is one of the fun things people get to do. Make your meetings fun; use games and fun exercises; give special perks to your core content rock stars. Over time, your editorial meeting will be the one meeting of the week that people look forward to.
10. Keep learning and improving.
Use everything you produce as a way to teach and learn. Ask your particularly skilled writers to share their own tips for success or things they’ve learned along the way. Share articles and trends about content so you can learn from other companies. Also get feedback from your readers — positive feedback to excite and motivate your team, and constructive feedback to help you improve.