Building a Culture of Content

Posted in: Inbound Marketing, Online strategy, Social PR, Storytelling

On: January 19, 2015

Content is king.

It’s a phrase marketers hear over and over again. In our crowded, cluttered million-channel universe with everyone yammering non-stop, brands need to stand out if they want to connect with their audience. And they can’t stand out with boring, predictable content.

But where does that content come from within an organization? Content-driven inbound marketing programs usually flow from one group – typically it’s the marketing, PR or social media teams who get tasked with coming up with a steady stream of content to fuel blogs, social media and email campaigns.

These inbound campaigns often start with tremendous energy, everyone brimming with ideas. But just as often, they begin to lag as the “low hanging fruit” content is used up. Soon they are seeking out more content, and the initial excitement wears off. That’s when content creation becomes a labor-intensive chore.

To do it right, content creation can’t be left to the marketing team alone.

The reality is that an organization’s best stories are not in marketing – they’re woven throughout the fabric of the company. To get those stories, you need to speak to the product manager who understands where the industry is heading, the customer service rep who knows what makes customers happy (or mad), the salesperson who went above and beyond to close a deal, or the C-Suite exec who has a long term vision.

Those are good stories — compelling, interesting, provocative and human. That’s the true content of an organization. Your marketing team works best when it can draw this kind of authentic content from within the organization. Rely only on your marketers’ stories and you will inevitably end up with marketing type posts — often too heavy on sales talk and hyperbole, and short on substance.

Today, storytelling needs to be part of the corporate culture. Storytelling defines and builds brands. It motivates staff, customers and prospects. Content needs to be everyone’s responsibility. Successful inbound marketers need to establish a culture of content.

But what is a culture of content? In a recent report, technology consulting firm Altimeter writes that “a culture of content exists when the importance of content is evangelized enterprise-wide, content is shared and made accessible, creation and creativity are encouraged, and content flows up and downstream, as well as across various divisions. A formalized yet not immutable content strategy is the framework upon which to base culture.”

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That culture of content is people driven. The organizations that do it best focus on people with an aptitude for it. That doesn’t mean everyone in a company needs to be a writer, but it does mean that people need to understand the context of these stories for the business, and be excited to share them within the company and beyond.

Content needs to go beyond the “Top 11 Ways To Build A Better Widget” posts.  In a culture of content, companies identify the stories that need to be told, from the highly technical to the highly emotive. And then there needs to be mechanisms, both formal and informal, to ensure those stories surface from within the organization and become part of the inbound marketing program.

The brands you love most are good at storytelling, even if they don’t think of it in those terms – companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Ikea and Burberry. They recognize the power of their stories to both echo and define a company’s culture and brand. They are a rallying cry, loaded with symbolism and meaning. They use their stories to shape their own mythologies.

You can read the full Altimeter report here.

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