You've just written your fifth blog article of the week, you have twenty-something slots to fill with engaging Twitter content, and you're coming to the realization that those emails you've been putting off aren't going to write themselves.
The struggle is real.
While my team and I have found that crowdsourcing content is a great way to combat writer's burnout, often times it's easier said than done.
In an effort to make actually doing it a bit easier, I’m going to dive in and share the details of my secrets to crowdsourcing content from your team in a way that's actually enjoyable for everyone.
4 Tips for Crowdsourcing Your Team for Content Creation
1) Explain why it’s important to the business.
For crowdsourcing to work, you’ll need buy-in from the members of your team. You want to get them excited about their contributions, and you also want to ensure that they don't feel as though you're just trying to get them to pick up your slack.
When it comes time to talk with them, carefully explain that while you’re heading up the content strategy, you’re not an expert at everything. Their expertise is exactly what your content needs to differentiate your company and stand out to potential customers.
Essentially, your goal should be to deliver the "why" behind your ask for help. Here are a few ways to approach key team members:
To your HR director:
"If we’re going to write about what makes our company culture unique and why we’re such a great place to work, we’re going to need your voice. You have valuable insight into what candidates think makes us different and why they’re interviewing here in the first place. We need that information to write awesome content that speaks to prospective employees and interns, attracts the best of the best, and ultimately makes your job easier."
To your sales team:
"I can write marketing content all day, but because I’m not actually on the sales calls with clients, I can’t connect and engage them the way you do. I’d love to better understand what makes them excited about working with us and what their objections and pain points are. Getting your input on content ideas would help me create higher quality content you can send to prospects at different stages in the sales cycle and help you close more sales."
To your developers:
"Our product has fantastic features, and the UX is second to none, but I can’t explain that to other developers who use our product in the same way you can. I’m not as familiar with the technical aspects of what makes our tech so great or why others love using our software. I need your help with communicating that information so we can really speak to our audience in a language they understand."
2) Get your team members over their fear of writing.
After you’ve explained to your team why their help is crucial to your content creation efforts, you’ll most likely have to help them overcome their fears of actually writing content.
For anyone who doesn’t write content day in and day out, just the thought of sitting down to write a 1,000-word article about anything -- even about what they do every day -- can be incredibly intimidating.
Make it crystal clear that you don’t need them to be great writers. Explain that you need their expertise on the particular topic, not their perfect spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. You can craft and polish their thoughts into compelling, relevant content after they’ve communicated their expertise to you.
In fact, there are ways to crowdsource from your team members without them ever having to write a piece of content. Speaking up in meetings and conversations or sending you links to articles that inspire them can give you insight into their voices and expertise.
3) Make the process as easy as possible.
While relieving your team members of the responsibility of actually writing content is wonderful, it’s still important to make the process as simple and easy as possible. Here are a few tips and tools that our team at Influence & Co. uses to improve communication across departments:
Use 15Five to poll your team for content ideas.
Using our weekly 15Five reports to crowdsource content ideas has proven especially beneficial for our marketing team. We’ve gone as transparent as including questions that directly ask, “What should we write about on our blog?” to as inconspicuous as, “What are you struggling wit this week?”
Use Slack to collect content ideas.
We have a Slack channel called #article-topics. This space serves as a great way to encourage our team to share articles they find interesting or topics they think we (or our clients) should be writing about. Because it’s a public channel, anyone on our team can add to it, and the marketing team can skim through it every week for article ideas.
Collect information from team members in interviews.
The members of your team who are actually working with your customers every day are usually the ones who will have stronger content ideas because they know exactly what your customers are asking, what problems they’re facing, and how your company is alleviating pain points.
Our marketing team started conducting interviews with our client service pods, which are teams of account strategists, content strategists, and editors who work on content for our clients. The marketing team asks questions about what the pods’ clients are struggling with and what content could be helpful to them. Then, they develop article topics based on answers from the interviews.
Use a knowledge bank to store and organize collective information.
Once you have a lot of great content ideas and full answers to specific questions from the different members of your team, you need a place to store, tag, organize, and reference this content for the future.
Our team at Influence & Co. built a knowledge bank, and we’ve created a free knowledge management template you can use, too. Next time you’re crafting a piece of content and need input from a team member or a quote on a specific topic, you can reference the knowledge bank first and save yourself and your team members plenty of time.
Use project management software (or even Google Docs) to collaborate on articles.
Our team has created proprietary project management software that enables us to collaborate on content production, editing, and publication opportunities. The software also sends email notifications on content progress to keep involved team members updated.
However, if you don’t have access to software that’s specifically tailored for you organization’s process, something general like Google Docs is a great start. This allows multiple people to add, edit, and make comments on articles so you end up with the best content possible.
4) Give credit to your team members for their help.
You’ve finally finished an article that has utilized the collective knowledge and skill sets of dozens of your team members. Rather than take all the credit for yourself, consider these strategies for spreading the love:
Co-author the article.
Rather than giving the byline to only one of the article’s contributors, list co-authors. It’s perfectly fine to publish a piece of content with more than one author.
Credit the byline to the biggest contributor.
While it took several people to make this piece of content a reality, it’s not practical to list nine authors. Instead, determine who contributed the most to the article and give that person the byline.
Give credit within the article.
When you include a piece of information in your content that a member of your team shared with you, quote them.
Give credit via social media.
When you share your content online, give a special shout-out to each member of the team who contributed skills or expertise to make the piece a success.
If you can explain why their help is important, get them over their fear of writing, make it easy, and give them credit, crowdsourcing content from your team members will be simple. Next time you’re sitting at your computer with writer’s block, remember: you don’t need to have all of the answers because, lucky for you, your team likely does.
Originally published Oct 7, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017