I wish I was making this up, but last night I had a very interesting dream. Normally I do not dream, or at least remember them, but last night’s was vivid. During the dream, I went to our company blog and someone had written an article and published it without my knowing. Being the keeper of the content, I was shocked that someone would do such a thing. After reading the article (where is a photographic memory when you need it), I could not believe how good it was.
Shortly after that I woke up at midnight in a little panic. The fear was likely caused by my lack of control during the process and being out of my comfort zone. This is a fear I need to get over, but that is for another post.
So why the dream and why last night? Our team often has lunch-n-learn sessions where developers teach others on topics of interest, but yesterday I was presenting on content creation. I have taught this lesson to many clients over the years, but this is the first time for this team. What was the delay? Well I can list off a hundred excuses driven from each side, but none of them holds enough weight compared to the need for compelling content that matters to our audience.
Whatever field you are in, your team has stories that your audience will find interesting and informative. The individuals with these stories might not be the most poetic authors and they might not even have access to a computer, but the story is there and it needs to be captured.
Getting to the root of the problem
If it is possible to have a company move from B2B/B2C to H2H (Human-to-Human) than we have to understand our team is more like a family than we realize. Families are not grouped by interests or comfort level, they are grouped because they have a common ancestry.
Imagine your family gets together for a Thanksgiving dinner and decides to invite neighbors and friends to your dinner. The group is too large to sit at one table and there are many seating areas available. Everyone groups themselves based on interests and comfort with the conversation, but the family decides to remain one unit. Communication with the guests quickly becomes an issue.
If this family was like our businesses, they would be allowed to communicate amongst themselves, but when interacting with our friends, only a handful of people will conduct the conversation. This would get awkward real quick.
How are the companies we work for any different? Most of our employees do not interact with our audience and those who do, only interact with a few. This typically is not a problem that marketing or the legal team is blocking them from the audience, but that can be an issue. Rather it is a communication issue and let’s face it, teams need to be motivated to start conversations.
How do we break through these barriers?
So how do we break through these barriers? Well if it is a legal team issue then that is a bigger battle than this post will handle. Otherwise, let’s go through some ways you can work with your team to get good stories and content.
Find out what they are interested in learning and help them learn
One of my favorite ways of getting teams to produce content is to challenge them to continue their education. In that challenge, ensure there is a planned team education activity on a regular basis.
Make sure you have members of the marketing or leadership team in these meetings that best model your customer base. If engineers get in a room of other engineers, the conversation will be all technical. If you have a mixed audience, even the geekiest employees will use more common language.
Record these sessions and ask the speakers to write up a one-to-two page handout for the group about the topic so everyone is not expected to take notes. These handouts can be very helpful ways of getting the content you need to create a compelling post or series. Follow up with the session leader and get a few quotes that you can use with the new content.
Interview your SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)
Find the team members who you would consider SMEs and get them on a conference line or Skype call that you can record. During the call ask them some questions you have about what they do or what they think of an industry trend you need content for.
These recordings will be very valuable and you will have quotable content that holds more weight. For example, which of these holds more weight?
Sitecore 8 Experience Platform contains some great additions that your marketing team can leverage today to reach their audiences.
“Sitecore 8 Experience Platform contains some great additions that marketing teams can leverage today to reach their audiences,” says Michael Henley, Lead Developer at AJi.
The second example adds a conversation around the words where the first could just be a generic marketing sentence. It will also give credit for the content and that will help you with the author in a future post or others who want to be seen as a SME.
Expose your Content Backlog to the everyone
If you use an editorial calendar or a content backlog, share it with your entire company on your intranet. Add a field in the content item that shows who the target internal audience is for producing the content. The content item will contain enough information for someone to get started and see the value of what you are trying to produce.
Your documented content mission statement will provide the outline to what you are trying to produce and the personas you have developed will introduce the interested team member to the target reader. If your company really values these content contributions, than recognition will be given and eager team members will participate.
If you don’t have a content mission statement, personas, or a backlog, then start there first. You shouldn’t expect your team to know who your audience is and why you produce content if it is not written down.
Reward good behavior
Content is an asset to the company. And if it takes money to make money, then you should be expected to pay your team for these assets. This payment can be monetary or given in time to research and produce the content during their regular work schedule.
Squeezing your team to produce content outside of their normal work schedule will turn out to be a flop unless the team member is seeing this as a way to build their own brand or thought leadership which will cost you more over time due to their increase in value.
Anyway you stretch it, you will pay for the content your team produces. So find a way that benefits the team and company, and produces the most quality content at the same time.
Continue to be Lean
Try something, if it doesn’t work, try something else and keep trying and always expect great things. Your team will surprise you and you will finally find a rhythm that works for you. Just like my dream, the answer may be you needed to wake up to your fear of losing control on the content and allowing for more content to be produced without you being involved.
If my job becomes to encourage content rather than produce it, and AJi reaches and helps more people because of it, than we are on the right path.