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How to operationalize your content marketing strategy

I read a lot of posts about content marketing. In my business, we use content to grow online communities, be more visible in search, focus on B2B influencer marketing, brand advocates and more importantly to change behaviors. Truth is, everything we do as communicators and marketers revolves around content across paid, earned and owned media channels. Content is the lifeline of the social media ecosystem.

Much of what I have been reading online for several years now shows us the types of content to create – blog posts, tweets, status updates, videos, white papers, webinars, infographics, reports, Slideshare presentations, case studies, press releases and the list goes on.

And then there are the posts that tell us how to create good content – interview people, curate and aggregate, ask the community for ideas, top ten lists (I hate these), review a product or service, and I can’t even think anymore.

And we can’t forget the posts that outline characteristics of good content – human voice, put the audience first, ensure it’s optimized for search, keep it simple, keep the facts straight and that good content must entertain, provoke thought, educates and informs and that word we all love and often over use … relevant.

And lastly, I love reading the posts about “The top 10 content marketing mistakes” and it’s usually the common themes of having no plan, wrong purpose, plagiarizing, recycling old content and I am sure there are a hundred more that I can’t remember.

It’s not hard to create good content. It can surely get expensive and there is a level of expertise needed … but it can be taught and learned. The challenge, especially for larger companies, are the operational elements of content marketing. Hopefully this will provide some clarity.

Narrative Development

Understanding internal brand messaging is important but it’s only half of the equation. Combining external insights from research, community feedback, data, media & customer feedback and search behavior will give more insight as to what the editorial strategy needed for the social ecosystem. To reach this level, companies must adapt their way of thinking and realize that customers don’t want to read about brand messaging points, or what the brand stands for, it’s vision, etc.

It’s still possible to use brand messaging coupled with the factors below to reach an editorial strategy that provides customer value and at the same time, consistency with the brand. Narrative development cannot be done in a silo by the brand team or a branding agency. It’s an initiative that requires a multitude of stakeholders, various levels of expertise and an organization that exemplifies enterprise collaboration.

Assigning Roles & Responsibilities

Understanding who is in charge of what is vital to the success of any digital marketing program. If you have several employees, marketing teams and regional leads engaging in social media, the last thing you want is disjointed content (i.e. multiple postings each day, multiple/un-managed communities, no strategic thought behind time/day of sharing, zero consistency.) This scenario is common in many organizations and is a natural result of having multiple Facebook page admins, no clear content direction, minimal collaboration, lack of internal processes/governance and/or technology that doesn’t support workflows and approvals.

Here is an example of one way to assign roles & responsibilities:

Building Workflows, Approval Processes & Crisis Communications Protocols

Once the roles and responsibilities are assigned and mutually agreed upon, it’s imperative to create a process for social media content creation, approval and publishing. Here is an example of what that may look like and of course deploying a technology solution with built in controls is imperative:

Building a collaboration infrastructure is important to ensure consistency and that everyone involved in the content strategy (from ideation to creation to distribution and measurement) understand the business and marketing goals; and proactively share knowledge and best practices. This is more than just a conference call. It must be a collaborative working session. Otherwise, it will be like most conference calls – useless and a waste of time.

As with any B2B brand strategy and community management initiatives, there is always the possibility of running into disgruntled customers or a potential crisis. It will happen and these issues cannot be ignored. Having a crisis escalation plan is important to ensure that all contributors and community managers understand the process to escalate conversations and to whom they should escalate them to.

Note: this post was originally written on August 12, 2012.


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