Content Marketing by the Crowd

…By the staff crowd, that is.

In a recent blog post, Marty Weintraub revealed 26 Content Marketing Essentials, all of which are relevant and valuable.  However, one element for business content marketing was left out, to my dismay, as I’m working through multiple strategies for this at the moment: internal content curation.

I’ll be sure to post more fully on the concept later on, but I first must ask the question: How do you utilize the voices of your colleagues and staff to tell your company’s story?  I would suggest that most companies and organizations (which are not full publications) designate a single author to ghost-write or completely define the content that builds the company’s online publications.  This is certainly a way to ensure it is owned, managed, and completed.

The term “content curation” keeps coming up – and it’s an interesting idea – but I think that the most effective curation comes from internal sources, not external ones.  Empowering your staff to tell their stories (and thus your organization’s) through their own voices makes your overall content much broader, deeper, and more human.

Make it Fulfilling

As I’m proposing that you use staff to author content, I’m referring primarily to staff who are on the front lines – not the staff who would normally be responsible for the task.  That is, pulling from your subject matter experts, your services staff, your folks-in-the-trenches – this is what gives you that organic mix of content that drives interest in readership.  When you invite the staff who are living your business every day (not doing the selling), you are more likely to find topics that solve real problems.

Likewise, it becomes something that can be very fulfilling to the new authors, as they may not have an outlet to explain reasoning and best practices that they come up with.  As natural as blogging may be to you – your product managers, your technical consultants, or your retail agents may not feel the same – and may welcome an opportunity to release all of the valuable tips that they’ve garnered through the years.  Sticking to topics that are natural to them ensures that they feel comfortable with the approach.

Centralize the Control

Let’s hope that your staff do see personal value in publishing their thoughts – but be realistic.  It’s very possible that they will deeply desire to participate, but that it simply falls by the wayside – over and over again – despite your nagging.  Therefore, it can’t purely be a “benefit” that you offer them – it has to be a team effort, in which their manager understands the problem that a lack of commitment can create.  It may be difficult, but in order to really build a strong staff contribution model, you must first build consensus and establish expectations (and, unfortunately, consequences).

Likewise, you must maintain centralized control so that you can better time and manage the flow of content.  By organizing a calendar, topics can be staggered so that you don’t neglect any specific categories which may be important.  Of course, you can always contribute on topics that help to further flesh out your calendar when necessary.

Finally, maintaining centralized control ensures that you see things before they are posted, and that you get an opportunity to “coach” without losing that organic voice of your staff.  Build mutual respect with your contributors so that they feel that they are being “pruned” to be their best (and so that they trust you when you fix those annoying dangling participles).

Build on Reputations and Relationships

The absolute most important benefit of driving a staff content strategy is that you get to utilize their names, their reputations, and their connections to drive traffic, comments, and sharing.  When their blog is scheduled for publication (especially if they are doing it for the first time), it can be a great opportunity for them to contact all of the people that they know in the industry – their clients, their former colleagues, their mentors – to ask for feedback and comments.

Encourage them to share it on their networks, and to comment on blogs that they may read, in order to gain readership, and even to identify opposite views.  Empowering them to start conversations will build their confidence and allow them to see the value that they add to the overall content strategy that you control.

Have you developed a content strategy in the past?  How did it work for you?  We’d love to hear your comments.

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