How To Turn Employees into Advocates and Leverage them for Content Marketing
If you’re a marketer and have ever been tasked with thought-leadership for your organization, you will know what a lonely place it can be. Becoming a thought-leader in a particular sector/ subject matter does not happen overnight. It takes much effort, consistency and reputation building to churn out stellar content that will get you to that place.
One common oversight that organizations make when deliberating over their thought-leadership strategy is that they fail to leverage the skills, influence and deep insight of their employees; in the interest of maintaining control.
So what happens? Well, everything gets funneled through “corporate accounts” and the puck ends up stopping at marketing.
This is a common problem, especially with large organizations that don’t have the same flexibility and nimbleness that smaller businesses might have. This is exactly where small B2B companies can really thrive and empower their employees to solve their content problems.
Lets talk about how YOU – whether you are the Marketing person, the CEO or the HR manager – can begin to build a loose consortium of employees to contribute towards your thought-leadership objectives. (For the purposes for this post, we can use a company blog as an example of a landing point for an organization to create influence, educate buyers and engage with existing and new customers.)
1) A well-written, well-curated blog can seldom be a solo activity. You’re going to need a few wing-men/women to back you up and provide interesting perspectives.
– Some things to think about include:
- What will the blog accomplish for your business.
- What measurements matter and what metrics will you track.
- Analyze your current web traffic – where is it coming from, what are the types of comments (online and offline) your customers and partners are making – and then connect the dots.
– Next, choose realistic goals for your blog. The first 90 days will be pure trial and error. Remember, there are no wrong answers.
– Ensure that you reward your blogging team in some manner. I don’t mean prizes or gifts or expensive lunches. More like… try to return the favour, you know? Give them an opportunity to grow their profile, their personal brand and establish a sphere of influence for each contributing person.
Such as your VP of Client Services might give his take on a certain subject, while the Head of Sales could come at it at a totally different angle – which is great! That’s the point actually – for your message to resonate with the community and spur discussion!
2) Next, lets talk about choosing the right people. While thinking about whom you could use from within your existing organization on your blog team; remember to place special attention on having some diversity in the group – it will add to the versatility of your group while remaining objective and on-task.
– You don’t require big names or fancy titles to make your blog effective. Sure, it might be nice to have a few well-known or high profile people in the mix; but that isn’t necessary. Focus on getting people who might be instead have a deep insight into your organization’s business, customer needs, sales triggers etc as well as have a decent writing style or “voice”, have a sense of humor (even if it is self-deprecating), are somewhat approachable in person (because it totally shows online) and most importantly have a willingness to participate (there is nothing worse than forcing or pressuring an employee to contribute to a blog they don’t want to).
– You are looking for interesting and credible voices, with a uniqueness to it, as well as a sense of authority. Whether or not they have a large number of connections on LinkedIn, friends on Facebook or a massive Twitter following is immaterial. We are focusing on their potential and on building their sphere of influence along with ours. Opting for a cross-section of contributors from different departments and parts of the organization can add to the awesomeness of your blog.
– Plus, not ALL of your content has to be original. You can piggyback on someone else’s content and write an introduction or an analysis about it; or simply curate from within your industry or community. Check out BrainPickings for example. Their content is mostly not original, but it is so superbly curated and targeted that one automatically makes it a staple in their weekly reading. So empower your team to contribute something interesting and relevant they might have read elsewhere and embed it into your content accordingly.
– If at all you are worried about making the wrong choice in your blog team, you may consider having some king of probationary period for contributors. It might help letting contributors off the team gracefully without embarrassment.
3) Lastly, lets talk about having a content plan. Plan with a capital P! You don’t want to leave the blogging subject matter entirely in the hands of the contributors. You want to come up with some sort of editorial calendar, even if it isn’t followed to the tee.
– An editorial calendar can be a useful way to keep contributors informed about topics they can explore to keep them on-message as well as adhere to deadlines and due dates. The frequency with which you intend to publish will be part of the mix obviously.
– Some standard elements that should be part of your editorial calendar include:
- The topic or subject matter (along with a title if possible)
- The category of the post (what is the broad topic you can bucket it under)
- Any media or assets that will be included/ embedded within the post such as a whitepaper, case-study, video, poll, survey results, Powerpoint, podcast, articles in the press, news reports, infographics etc.
- The vehicle with which you will communicate this post (your email lists, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Scribt, Slideshare, Stumbleupon etc)
– Your editorial calendar must allow be in sync with your PR strategy. That way you can time things accordingly and follow-up features in the press with a more through explanation etc.
Hopefully this has provided a starting point to empowering your employees to contribute to your content marketing efforts. Employee Generated Content (EGC) can reduce production costs for enterprise businesses, attract innovative thinkers and create an alternate source for valuable content creation and curation; while increasing employee participation and engagement with the company’s grand vision.
If you found this post useful, I’d love to hear any other ideas, especially in the B2B space. If you’re a marketer (and possible struggle with the same issues) make sure you leave a comment or drop me a line!