Inbound Marketers preach constantly about writing to customers’ pain points and offering helpful information. It’s smart strategy: if you target the needs of your audience, then the audience is more likely to grow.
But let’s be honest: blogging itself can be a big pain point—and that’s a much more important problem to solve.
Before you start thinking about high-level strategy like “speaking to one’s customers,” you need to consider the sustainability of the work behind your content. Think about the following questions:
How much time does it take for my writers to write a blog post?
Does my blog have an adequate mixture of perspectives?
Which of my writers is the least productive? Who is really on top of deadlines?
What improvements could I make to my blog to make it better?
Every marketing director needs to be able to answer these questions honestly before investing heavily in their blog.
The fact is over time, the success of a business’ blog will change, and the momentum behind a successful publication effort might wane as content creation feels more like normalized, day-to-day process, and your industry seems less interesting in your employees’ eyes.
Getting "Content" With Your Content Managment
So, at its core, blogging and other forms of content creation, are just as dependent on good management as most other aspects of your business. It’s worth asking yourself: What is your blog management plan like? And, if you don’t know, what would be your ideal content creation situation?
In some companies, marketing executives imagine that the best content comes from the best writers and creative thinkers in the market. Companies such as Coca-Cola have long adopted aggressive hiring strategies in which they hire teams of content writers who have the creative mindset and marketing mentality to produce and produce—without fail. We call these “content journalist teams” because they are great at searching out stories, investigating, and writing, just like professional journalists do for a periodical publication.
Does that sound like your kind of content management strategy? Are you willing to hire a content team to help build your Inbound Marketing strategy? It’s important to consider the option—especially if you’re in a fast-moving industry with lots of information to get out to your audience—but you should also know that there are other ways to create regular, top-notch content.
Time for a Change
In many industries, it’s just not practical to hire an entire writing team to accommodate your content creation needs. While well-written content is important, the goal of blogging isn’t to write Pulitzer-prize winning literature. Your page visitors are looking for smart, useful ideas that will be presented clearly in whatever format you choose.
So, I recommend thinking about how you manage your business’ blog in a different way. Instead of envisioning a team of writers who can each fill a spot in your blogging schedule, try looking at your employee base as a group of potential collaborators who can be drawn from all corners of your company to create high-quality content. It’s called decentralization, and for many companies, it’s effective for not just creating regular content, but for creating content that speaks to all audiences!
No reader will care whether your writers went to school for communications or went to study engineering (at least when they’re reading). As long as you have an employee who can write well and contribute to your marketing efforts, your marketing team should take advantage and figure out how to draw that content out of your company. It takes coordination and cross-departmental cooperation, but many of the best business blogs online rely on this kind of decentralized content creation.
5 Management Principles for Decentralized Blogging
It all sounds great right? So, how can you actually start implementing a blog management strategy? Borrowing from the fields of management, journalism, and publishing (along with a little common sense), there are five principles that I think are critical to forming a strong, decentralized system.
To start, let’s begin with the common sense insights.
1) Identify smart writers from around your company
Figure out how these individuals can get involved in your content creation efforts. Often, marketers have a tendency to think that we’re the only ones who can create high-quality messaging. It’s just not true.
There are people in every part of a company that care about communication and have great expertise to share. Start by making a list of people who are well-trained and like to share what they know. Look for people with unusual experiences—the English major who became an accountant, the engineer on staff who originally taught high school math. These are people who know how to share their insights, and likely would enjoy contributing to your business’ content publication effort.
2) Focus on enjoyment and passion
Management professionals looking for long-term success in employee performance like to focus on finding people who enjoy what they do. When a company builds a cross-departmental content force, it’s important for leadership to recognize that this means somebody’s job description will include new responsibilities.
If you’re requiring staff members in various departments to contribute content for your blog, consider whether they enjoy the extra work or not. Also consider the longitudinal nature of content creation. Just because a staffer seems passionate about content at the start of their involvement, it doesn’t mean that they’ll stay engaged over time. Be sure too make sure content demands are reasonable, and that staff feel well-supported in their writing process.
3) Every content creation effort—decentralized or otherwise—needs a manager
Because your content draw will involve many corners of your company’s business, you still need a central manager for the publication process. Often, we see a company’s Director of Marketing take on this role. However, it’s important that this manager is not simply a coordinator of content; they should also be an editor and leader of the content development process.
By helping to shape the content mixture to fit a more comprehensive marketing strategy, this manager/editor should both direct people on what shape a content piece will take as well as manage the process to make sure the content can be published on time. The ability to combine management with editorializing and ideation makes for the best kind of content management style, especially when drawing content from many sources.
4) Collaborate on brainstorming and ideation
The strength of decentralized content is that you can get many ideas from all areas of your company’s work. It also reduces the load of content on marketers who only represent one kind of business perspective. However, the downside is that it’s hard to get all your content creators on the same page—or in the same room.
We find that the best content publication efforts work hard to solve this problem because without strong personal collaboration, ideas suffer. To create the best content, editors/managers should find ways to gather everybody together and encourage talk.
Whether it’s a lunch meeting, a virtual conference call, or some other meeting solution, facilitating collaboration is an important step in producing great ideas. From there, the manager can refine and select the ideas that fit best within the company-defined marketing strategy.
5) Create deadlines with real, naturally occurring consequence
In most business settings, deadlines are taken very seriously because they’re tied directly to revenue generation. However, with content marketing, it’s easy to feel like writing a blog holds a lower priority than your direct revenue-related work.
People tend to think that it’s less important because marketing is about creating future sales, not the ones that are directly in front of you. Such is the situation of any business development objective, but the fact is growing business is vital for the future, so it must become a priority!
To prevent this kind of relaxed mindset among your diverse array of content creators, it’s important to set deadlines immediately. But not just any deadlines; you want real, naturally consequential deadlines. For example, imagine that you lead a manufacturing company that creates parts for the aerospace sector.
Your main customer requested a rushed order last week, which is a big reason this week is extra busy at the factory. One of the lead floor managers for quality assessment has a passion for writing about his work, and his blog is due to the marketing director this Friday. However, because he has so much work to do, it’s not clear he’ll actually get the blog done.
Content managers have to navigate this kind of situation all the time. How do you justify that blogging is more important than completing the order? Or, more importantly, how can you incentivize the person to work a little bit of overtime to make sure the blog is completed? The key is to make the deadline—that Friday—as real as possible for the lead quality assessor.
Make sure that no piece of writing lays around waiting to be edited for days; always edit on time. The time lapse between the end of drafting and when the blog publishes should be minimalized. Also, if the quality assessor does miss the deadline, the content manager should make sure he knows who covered for him. Nobody wants to owe their fellow content creator.
Originally published May 8, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016