How Content Marketing Can Transform All Departments Across the Enterprise

Content Marketing Across All Departments

“Content is the most critical digital asset for every organization, embodying its knowledge and processes.” This quote is from Microsoft, but it might come from any large enterprise. Content is everywhere; it starts with marketing and shouldn’t stop there.

Based on the latest statistics, most successful marketers allocate 40 percent of their budgets to content, and 38 percent even plan to increase their content budgets this year. Content is proving to be a powerful tool for marketers, but what about the other departments within those companies? What about human resources, internal communications, customer service, or account management?

Content shouldn’t be limited to marketing departments; every part of an organization can benefit from it. From large firms to small and medium enterprises, content is, in fact, the “atomic particle of company strategy”; it’s the article that helps sales secure a client meeting, the personalized deck from account managers that keeps customers up-to-speed, the document or the social media conversation from customer service that solve clients’ common issues, the message from internal communications that announces quarterly financial results or a new acquisition. Think about all the departments within an organization and you will see how content plays a major role and, just like in marketing, comes in a variety of formats: articles, videos, interviews, and podcasts, just to name a few.

Despite content being vital to every department, companies rarely have a content marketing strategy that encompasses every department. Unfortunately, this often leads to content that diverges from the company’s voice, brand, or vision. And if the content is deployed without a distribution strategy, it can ultimately end up being a waste of time and money.

So, how to avoid those issues? The last thing we, as marketers, want to do is push individual departments to start creating more content. The marketing division needs to integrate each department into the overall content marketing strategy. Each department, with the marketing team, needs to first define its audience and personas, and document a content marketing strategy complete with goals and KPIs. Ideally, the marketing or content team should act as the hub for company’s content. It’s the center of gravity when it comes to generating high-quality, engaging content and finding creative ways to distribute that content to external and internal audiences.Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 12.15.00 am.png

Let’s see how each department can benefit from a proper, content-centric model.

Public Relations (PR)

PR has traditionally pushed out information to consumers, through partnerships with editors and media, to build awareness around new products or corporate initiatives. While this approach was effective for many years, it’s far less so today. Yet, PR departments and firms continue to use these tactics that are isolated and detached from the company’s content marketing program (assuming that one is in place). This means that the PR function doesn’t benefit from the synergies that an integrated PR, content, and social media approach could generate.

In addition, PR professionals have historically relied on soft metrics, such as placements and impressions, to measure value. It hasn’t connected actions to outcomes that demonstrate how PR activities impact KPIs that are relevant to the business.

The old way of doing PR doesn’t make sense, anymore. It’s time to integrate PR with the content strategy.

The primary goal is to gain earned media. To do that, PR departments need to start thinking like publishers and the media they’re trying to pitch. When PR departments switch from push to pull, they can start generating content that has more depth and value. This can boost media placements and increase the velocity at which stories get picked up.

General Mills made the shift from traditional press releases to an audience-first blog. The company had grown tired of waiting for earned media coverage after making traditional press announcements around new products. In an effort to get information out to consumers in a timely manner, General Mills created its own blog, a Taste of General Mills. The blog focuses on news, new products, and company results. It’s a creative and clever deployment that mixes the best of marketing with PR. And it’s tremendously effective.

“Our team looked at the blog as a way to keep customers and journalists up to speed on what’s going on across General Mills,” says Kevin Hunt, General Mills’ Corporate Social Media Manager.

The strategy has proven fruitful. For example, one day after General Mills posted an article about the release of its new beer, HefeWheaties, NPR, Fortune, and NBC News picked up the story. As Hunt noted,“In many instances, Taste gives journalists a reason to pick up the phone and call us.”

A Taste of General Mills.png

Integrating PR with content will bring numerous other advantages, including unified reporting and the usage of relevant metrics that map toward common goals.

Customer Service 

Companies increasingly use social media to gain a greater understanding of customer desires and to react to customer feedback more efficiently. But today, when anything online can go viral within seconds, we need to go above and beyond “simple” engagement and turn a customer support environment into a proactive listening and solutions-creation space.

Dell went the extra mile in delivering an exceptional customer support experience through content and social media.

Giovanni Tavani is Dell’s Social Media Support Global Leader; his team’s mission is to facilitate a two-way conversation between Dell and users. Tavani’s team has seen success by increasing both the number of conversations and the quality of interactions. They achieved this by creating a global, integrated central team that drives a digital and social environment built on three key pillars, which Tavani recently shared with me:

1. Active Listening. Through Global Listening Centers, Dell’s Social Media Support tracks all public, online mentions related to Dell and its products and services to understand what users need, their opinions, and how to better interact with them. When customers need support or advice on a specific topic, Dell moves to the second pillar.

lc2.png

2. Content Creation. Helmed by a centralized leadership team, Dell’s Social Media Support took an activity traditionally found in marketing and translated it into a services environment to create meaningful content that helps anticipate customers’ needs.

Today, the department’s creative team is able to produce visuals for all the company’s social media accounts and videos for YouTube channels. A team of millennials was hired for Dell’s internal movie production studios to create videos based on users’ expectations.

Let’s not forget that this is a two-way conversation; Dell is creating content customers have indicated that they want, rather than content built only with the company’s own idea about what could be good for customers.

Dell Social Media Support.png

3. Customer Engagement. Dell’s daily largest operations see full engagement in all support-related conversations with queries on every social media platform. Dell has just one obsession: outstanding customer experience. Dell’s subject matter experts are capable of closing cases on several issues. Customers can use the company social media platform as a one-stop shop for their queries.

Sales

Of all the departments outside of marketing where content can directly impact the bottom line, sales is probably top of the list.

However, according to SiriusDecisions, “at enterprise-level organizations, an average of 65 percent of content is never used by sales reps.” With content marketing spend expected to reach $300 billion by 2019, this statistic is worrisome. If enterprise organizations are investing millions in content development, why aren’t the people responsible for selling products and services aware of these assets? When you get the departments working together, though, the results are apparent. On average, companies with sales and marketing teams that work closely together see a 32 percent growth year-over-year. Content is clearly an effective way for sales teams to build their authority without overwhelming prospects.

“Your leads are people, not just email addresses,” says Ellen Gomes, then Content Marketing Specialist at Marketo. “Personalize your messages by speaking to each lead about his industry, his pain point, his stage in the buying cycle. Personalization may sound like a lot of work, but the right marketing automation platform can make it simple and scalable.”

Think about the following scenario: A salesperson emails you after she saw you recently downloaded an e-book her company produced. She sends you a link to a blog post that might be relevant to your needs, as well as a compelling reference about a company similar to yours. You haven’t had time to read the e-book yet, but the article seems informative, and the case study attracts your interest, so you agree to talk. You begin your conversation by discussing issues you read about in the content.

If we continue this content-first hypothetical scenario, we see that content can be valuable in all stages of the sales cycle: awareness (the original e-book), evaluation (the blog post and the reference), and the acquisition.

A recent article by Docurated, a marketing and sales enablement platform, confirms the effectiveness of using content to close deals. After surveying 27 CEOs and sales executives, 74 percent concluded that original content is essential to win over prospects. Of those 20 respondents who believed in the sales value of content, half specified references and case studies as their specific choices.

Internal Communications

Whether we work for a large enterprise or a small startup, internal communication is a critical function. Especially for companies running global content marketing programs, it’s necessary to establish internal communication channels between teams. This will ensure that everyone knows the latest information about content processes, frameworks, methodologies, and best practices.

As I wrote in a blog post when I was VP of Content Marketing at Schneider Electric, a large energy company with more than 150,000 employees and an internal population of thousands of marketers, my team had to prioritize internal communications.

In fact, our first challenge was to inform and educate regional marketers about the global content marketing program we had just launched. We had to explain why we moved from a traditional, campaign-based methodology to an always-on content marketing model. We also had to share new processes, frameworks, tools, and goals.

The solution: Use content marketing tactics internally. Email newsletters, content hubs, and apps are all great ways to solve internal communications challenges and keep employees aligned. My content team created, in cooperation with internal communications and HR, an internal bi-weekly content marketing newsletter called “The Content Strategist.” Having a steady stream of communication – never missing a deadline, even if collecting content from different teams and sources – was a challenge, but helped us convey the same message across all geographies.

Schneider Electric_Content Strategist.png

AJ Huisman of YContent, an expert in global content marketing programs, suggests to “establish clear lines of communications and to secure mutual understanding beyond the time zones. Also, a proper internal communication plan will help to get to that point faster.”

Our content newsletter became a success just after few months. The initial audience grew five times larger and we had an average open rate of 80 percent. After six months and with thousand readers, Schneider Electric’s CMO mentioned our newsletter as an innovative and efficient means of internal communications.

Human Resources (HR)

Content marketing helps you cultivate an audience of potential customers. Can it also attract prospective employees? And can you use content to recruit top talent – and maybe even retain the highest performers you’ve got? In a word, yes.

HR not only interfaces with every single part of an organization; it also directly engages with the external talent marketplace. HR represents your brand, everywhere.

From employee onboarding, to training and education, to recruiting, HR has many opportunities to take advantage of content marketing. Think, for instance, about using videos to tell company stories and help employees find their place in the company’s overall vision. Or what about creating online training libraries, like LinkedIn’s Lynda does with short videos that allow people to take courses on demand? Or think about the engagement that might come from featuring your company culture on a blog or social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They can be recruitment channels that generate applicant interest and bring in resumes.

Cisco is a good example of a brand the uses content marketing for HR. Its ongoing #wearecisco campaign features photos and videos posted by Cisco employees who speak about why they love working there. It’s a clever way to utilize user-generated content (UGC) to reach potential employees on a more personal level – especially given that employee posts see as much as eight times the engagement of brand posts, as people trust peer statements over brand advertisements.

Your content marketing can showcase the unique perks your company offers. Take LinkedIn’s coverage of its Bring in Your Parents Day program. LinkedIn turned an internal initiative into a worldwide program in which any organization can initiate. Not only does this program garner publicity for LinkedIn, in general, it also shows prospective employees a little bit about what it’s like to work there. And as competition for employees increases, companies need to actively promote their business as a desirable brand to work for.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 12.57.53 am.png

Beyond recruiting, content marketing can educate and inform current employees – potentially assisting in retainment.

Why circulate a boring memo (that’s easy for people to ignore) when you can use more attention-getting content formats? A detailed and fun infographic could be a better way to communicate changes in healthcare plans or benefit packages. Short videos could present HR updates in a more engaging way and be shared via email or on a company intranet.

GE, for instance, has used its internal content hub to educate a specific set of employees – union employees – on an upcoming labor contract vote. The campaign’s internal hub and app were designed specifically for these employees, with the goal of being a comprehensive information source about the contracts. The site received more than 65,000 hits and nearly 50 percent of users were repeat visitors.

This internal content program was part of a GE’s larger initiative to deliver value to employees, which included the development of an internal platform, “My GE,” where people could share their own stories. The program was so innovative and effective that GE won PR Week’s “2016 Internal Communications Campaign of the Year” award.

Account Management

Account managers have a unique duty that rests somewhere between sales and customer service. In a traditional role, an account manager is assigned once a customer becomes active, and it’s their duty to manage that account going forward. This can include managing service-related issues, upsell opportunities, upgrades, and new orders.

Because account managers are assigned to a group of customers, they have the opportunity to use content as a means of building the relationships and nurturing those customers in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sending targeted, value-driven emails
  • Sharing helpful content specific to the customer, such as blog posts, whitepapers, videos, and infographics
  • Creating feedback loops to engage the customer and solicit information that can be fed back to marketing, production, sales, and leadership
  • Providing additional onboarding resources depending on the customer’s use of a product, or red flag metrics that indicate diminishing use or engagement

Conclusions

Virtually every department in your organization can benefit from content marketing.

The best way to start is by working with key stakeholders in each department to define their goals and KPIs. Then, craft a content marketing strategy that’s aligned with the overall company content marketing strategy. Each department will, however, have its own model for managing, creating, distributing, and measuring its own content.

Each will also likely have a central resource responsible for producing the final copy, such as an outside agency. Give each department input and let them guide the process for developing their content with outside resources. This way they will share in goals and vision while retaining some measure of autonomy over their department’s content. Depending on your content strategy and the departments involved, you’ll begin to see soon improved acquisition and a positive change to your performance.

Featured photo by Dylan Nolte

Psychology, Design and Content Marketing

Psychology of Colors

My second post about #Psychology, #Design and #ContentMarketing is now live.  

After the study of behaviors – Elaboration Likeliwood Model, Fogg Behavior Model – and Cialdini’s principles of persuasion, I investigate here psychology of colors and the impact they have on branding and content marketing across different geographies.

How to set up an Editorial Board for your Content Marketing

Editorial Board

If you work for a large enterprise, and you move from a “traditional” marketing model to a content/editorial marketing approach, you need to think about the transformation and the new skillset that your team/division might require. An Editorial Board is at the core of this transformation. 

An editorial board defines the full process around the content marketing strategy, handles all content-related requests and issues, manages the content distribution and amplification strategy, and establishes the content measurement framework. 

Here is my new piece, via NewsCred‘s Insights Blog. 

Featured image by Chris Knight

What exactly is Content Marketing?

In the last few months I have been asked many times the question: ok, but what exactly is content marketing? And it’s not just marketers. The question is coming in fact from non-marketers, colleagues, sales pros, even finance folks – just to mention a few. Friends and family included.

I try and answer using different examples; examples that match the area or the specific sector the person asking is familiar with: Amex and Sage for finance pros, GE and Capgemini for Engineers, IoT and Data centres experts,  Airbnb, Red Bull and Lego for friends, daughters and relatives.

But how to explain the difference between Content Marketing and Global Content Marketing? How to explain that what is working for a country doesn’t necessarily work for another, despite we live in a super-globalised world?Sometimes, I get lost.

And so here are two great posts. The first, from Newscred, defines what content marketing is. The second, from my good friend Pam Didner, explains global content marketing and clarifies what the implications of that world – global – are.

Next time someone will ask, I will point to this post.

Sailing and Content Marketing: The Tigers of North Sails

North Sails

I started sailing two years ago. It was the summer of 2016, and I was in Rhode Island. That summer I spent two weekends sailing in Newport, on the Atlantic coastline. Working in South RI during the week, I had lonely weekends and I decided to spend my time in Newport, one of the recognised sailing capitals of the world.

Sailing: long time passion, but only that summer, for the very first time, I had the chance to get things seriously. It was a lifetime opportunity. I decided to take it. I am passionate about Content Marketing too, and this is not big news. It was natural for me to combine the two passions and think about great examples of content marketing in the sailing sector.

I started looking for superb examples of content marketing. But, despite all efforts, I couldn’t find any. Which is interesting, considering the huge narrative and the fascinating stories that sailing and events like the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean Race can generate. Think about the victory of UK’s BAR in Portsmouth and the possibility to “bring the cup back” to the UK (#BringTheCupHome) after centuries of missed victories. Think about the amazing stories of Oceans, races, sailors and boats.

Unfortunately not so many brands are making full advantage of this narrative today, from a content marketing perspective. With very few exceptions. Volvo is sponsoring the Volvo Ocean Race, for example (where teams are forced to use Volvo’s catamaran models). BMW, Louis Vuitton, Henri Lloyds are among sponsors of the UK’s team within the America’s Cup race. Not surprisingly the event is generating sponsorship opportunities; but, with all respect for these forms of marketing, I was looking for something different (= content marketing).

And then I found it.

North Sails (NS) is the world leading sailmaker. It has a market share of +95% (data coming from my queries in Newport among the sailors community…). Company’s name comes after Lowell North, the founder. Engineer, sailor and entrepreneur. A few years ago NS started selling sailing apparel and accessories in Italy. Target: mass consumer market. Italy, the country of fashion. With few exceptions, nobody knew about NS in Italy. Neither as a sailmaker, nor as an apparel company. The brand had to enter into a new territory with very fierce competition, and had to position itself as a brand with a long experience in the sailing sector. How would you do that? How could you tell the market that this “new” brand has a so long and successful history in sailing? The company decided to tell the story of his founder and his team, and released a short movie. “Tigers”.

It was early 2012.

And then a magazine with the same title was made available the same year in all stores and mailed to subscribers and clients.

Michael Levitt, writer and sailor, and author of a book about NS and its founders, writes: “The story of North Sails closely mirrors that of professional sailing in the modern era – many of the most famous names in the sport spent at least part of their careers at North. The title (Tigers) comes from the name Lowell North, the company founder, gave to his sailmakers”.

“Tigers” are all men who decided to follow Mr. North in his business and sailing adventure. Lowell North, Tom Whidden, Peter Barrett, Tom Schnackenberg, John Marshall and Terry Kohler – all great sailors. All featured by NS’s content approach. Each piece of NS’s collections was dedicated to one of these well-known sailors; the founding fathers of NS. This can be seen through the beautiful patches and graphics on the garments. These are related to the special sailing events they have participated in, like the Olympic games, or the America’s Cup, and the titles they have won.

‘Tigers’ comes from the name Lowell North, the company founder, gave to his sailmakers.

It’s overall a great example of content marketing, dated 2012-2013. I wonder why NS decided to stop the approach after this inspiring start.

Hopefully the story of Mr. North and the Tigers will continue, maybe with new details and anecdotes, jumping across the years, from 2012 to 2018, and the geographical boundaries, from Italy to the UK and the States.

It would be a shame to end it here.

How to use Psychology to improve Design and Content Marketing

Design and content are inextricably linked. Confusing, dated, or unappealing design can reduce your content’s effectiveness. On the other hand, strong design can facilitate more conversions and content consumption.

As a content marketer, I’ve helped global corporations optimize their blogs, newsletters, and content destinations. During those processes, I realized that I was going beyond the boundaries of content marketing and web design. I was touching a new, unknown domain: psychology.

How to make advantage of psychology principles to improve design and content marketing? Here is my new post on the topic, just published on NewsCred Insights blog. Also, I am starting to dissect the post, adding lots more details and creating a three-post series on psychology and content marketing. The first post of the series can be found here on ContentXBorders: How to apply psychology to design and content marketing and attract visitors’ attention.

Enjoy the reading.

Featured image by Scott Webb

Content Hub strategy overview for global enterprises

Michael Brenner once wrote:

A content hub is the home of your content marketing efforts. It’s where most of your content lives, and it’s where you drive users. For many brands, it’s their strongest owned channel.

So, why would your company need a content hub? Why a content hub should be at the hearth of your global content marketing strategy? This presentation deck introduces and defines the content hubs, clarifies main points and put the content hub strategy into contest. Also, provides examples and can be reused by all content marketers who are putting together a wider global content marketing strategy for their enterprises.

Thanksgiving and Content Marketing

Thanksgiving analogy

What Thanksgiving and have in common? Why and  mention turkey slices when they explain content distribution? You will find all answers on my last post – the original has been published on NewsCred’s Insights blog.

###

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and U.S. content marketers are looking forward to spending time with their families and taking a little break from thinking about content strategies, distribution, and ROI.

But in the days leading up to the holiday, we’d all benefit from reviewing the Content Marketing Thanksgiving Turkey Analogy.

The concept is simple: Look for opportunities to repurpose content you already have exactly as you would do with turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving. This analogy originated with content marketing strategist Rebecca Lieb. When asked about tips for companies struggling to produce enough content, she replied:

“I use a Thanksgiving analogy. You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end. If you are like most families, you are going to be repurposing this bird as leftovers for quite some time, creating everything from sandwiches, to soups, and more. Your content marketing strategy can be thought of in the same way.”

The idea is basic but straightforward. Marketers should not obsess over creating new content continuously. Instead, they should look for opportunities to repurpose the best-performing content they already have. For instance, through creative repurposing, an eBook can yield infographics, SlideShare presentations, blog posts, listicles, and videos – which marketers can then disseminate via social media channels.

Jason Miller, LinkedIn’s EMEA Head of Content and Social Media Marketing, has expanded this concept into the – now well-known among marketers – idea of “Big Rock Content.” He says:

“The Thanksgiving concept can be taken a step further and applied to ‘Big Rock’ pieces of content. The idea is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or topics are, which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top-of-funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral, to name a few.”

Big rock content is a substantial piece, like “The Ultimate Guide to Problem-Solving,” for example. In his book “Welcome to the Funnel,” Miller explains: “A Big Rock content asset can be 20, 30, or more pages long. It should be visually compelling, of course. It can be gated for lead capture. Then, you ‘slice’ up the Big Rock content asset into blog posts, infographics, SlideShare decks, webinars, etc.” 

You then amplify those slices through owned and paid media.

My company, NewsCred, has used the Thanksgiving turkey analogy to create big rock content. For example, a long-form blog post, “Google Analytics: The Complete Guide to Setting Up Your Content Hub to Measure Conversions” spawned a webinar, a video, a gated content collection, a newsletter, dozens of social media posts – not to mention leads, deals, and revenue influenced.

Other content marketing strategists have created their own variations on the turkey analogy. Jay Baer frequently writes about “content atomization,” which is taking a strong content marketing theme (your big rock content), and executing it in many strategically sound ways. There’s also the mixology of content marketing, in which you formulate content in different ways, depending on your goals.

They’re all good concepts to consider, especially while you’re planning your 2018 content marketing strategy.

But in the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

How to apply psychology to design and content marketing (and attract audience’s attention)

Introduction

As a content marketer, I have always considered design as the best friend of content. Can better design bring more conversions and content consumption? The simple answer is yes.

In the past, when working on the creation of hubs, blogs, newsletters and content destinations of known international firms, I discovered though that design principles were not as simple and straightforward as I imagined; I realized I was going beyond the boundaries of content marketing, touching a new ‘undiscovered’ domain.

Why do web visitors and content consumers behave the way they do? What can drive readers’ behavior and facilitate content consumption? I realized soon enough that the domain I was investigating was no longer content strategy: it was psychology. Even better, it was psychology applied to content and design with the objective to facilitate and attract visitors’ attention.

Other questions came soon to my mind. How can I apply psychology to content and design? Isn’t persuasion a bad word, or even a dark art? And what does it look like to design without considering users’ psychology? Continue reading “How to apply psychology to design and content marketing (and attract audience’s attention)”