Recently a puzzle like the one nearby made rounds on the web. Fifth-grade students allegedly can solve this problem in 20 seconds or less.
If you tried and failed, you are not alone and we are together in this one. Though I tried to recall forgotten algebra lessons from the foggiest reaches of my mind the effort was for naught. And algebra, if I could have recalled it, wouldn’t have helped me anyway.
The solution is far easier and I’ve posted the answer at the bottom of this post.
Thinking Differently about Employees and Content
Janet Fouts, who founded Tatu Digital Media, read this post – Scale Content Marketing: Employees are the Secret – and invited me to a Google Hangout to discuss it (She previously produced The Friday Hangout, a regular weekly show with Steve Farnsworth and Adam Helweh).
While I am increasingly convinced employees are the key to scale – and have asserted as much in industry content marketing predictions – the invitation caused me to think through and write down, what’s driving my viewpoint.
Three things are important to keep in mind when considering these points. First, [at the time of recording] I work for a very large company. Things just work differently in big companies. Initiatives that take a few days to begin in a start-up community, take weeks, even months to begin in large companies.
Second, this is the third time I’ve embarked on a content marketing program for an employer. In fact, the first initiative was for a start-up, and though I’m not sure we’d have called it “content marketing” then, looking back, that’s effectively what it was with very similar pain points and benefits.
Third, no matter the size of an organization, getting employees involved is an enormous challenge. It makes people uncomfortable, employees are already busy and we’re asking them for one more thing, and not everyone can make the value connection offhand.
Energize the Enterprise for Content Marketing
Scale is the number one challenge facing marketers today. It’s in all the content marketing surveys and a pain point I feel every day. As soon as you get one piece done, the pressure is on for the next and the next. It never ends. The content beast has a voracious appetite.
Here are some tips for getting them involved.
1. Executive support, but not the kind you’d assume.
Any initiative needs an executive sponsor, but in this case, I don’t mean an advocate. I simply mean an executive that will empower you to make content happen. With that liberty, it’s important to use the time wisely to study, to create and to experiment – and document all the wins, whether with analytics or anecdotes.
2. Prepare for the long haul.
In my current position, it’s been a little more than two years in the making to get to a point where I think we’re just getting to the cusp of success. It has meant taking care of all of the traditional PR work a company would expect, while also producing daily content and developing distribution channels. We still have a long way to go.
3. ABS – always be selling.
It’s hard to pass me by in the company hallway or get a cup of coffee at work without me finding a way to work content marketing into the discussion. I’d strive to find different data points and anecdotes to sell the concept. Most would agree in principle, but transforming agreement into action proved a bigger challenge.
4. Data and anecdotes.
More than just documenting wins,you have to create the opportunity to document wins, to the point where everything you produced is tagged so it can be measured in analytics. Google’s URL builder and Bitly are important tools for getting there – it’s an extra step when you are trying to get content out so you can move onto the next part of your day – but it’s incredibly valuable when the time comes to make your case.
There are other ways to document too – screenshots on Twitter, comments on posts, I’ve got a folder in my email dedicated to “social proof.” I’d send little notes to a marketing manager documenting little wins – drawing the connection between content and downloads for example. Most of this has been anecdotal as we are still in the process of implementing some additional analytics tools, but over time, the point starts to resonate. Whereas two years ago, I found myself pleading for a little (and I do mean little) budget for content programs, today a few have provided a dedicated monthly allocation to the effort.
5. Third-party validation.
Although not without controversy,I often make a case that PR is defined by third-party validation. We’ve been fortunate enough to get some wins recognizing our own efforts at content marketing. It’s been invaluable at raising internal awareness – at all levels – about what we are trying to do. In some ways I think these mentions have been a tipping point in solidifying support and sparking interest in participation.
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6. Forget creation, focus on distribution.
For a long time I’ve focused on asking employees to help create content, but more recently I’ve seen success in focusing on distribution. In hindsight, it makes complete sense and though I wish this part of some brilliant plan, it is not; I’ve stumbled into it. In content marketing, we are forever students.
What’s I’ve realized is the vast majority of people are still in the early stages of social media adoption. We marketers get ahead of ourselves – caught up in the fishbowl of online marketing thought leaders. Asking employees to create content is a bit like asking people to run before they’ve learned to walk. On the other hand, by teaching people to share corporate content, they can see the immediate benefit both to themselves and to the company.
One platform that we are experimenting with to assist in making it happen is called PeopleLinx. Large companies tend to have a disparate web presence – content is all over the place and hard to find. PeopleLinx provides a single website where the entire team and view the latest content the team has produced and choose what they wish to share on their own social networks.
PeopleLinx also provides analytics which helps make the case, but it’s made me realize we have “hidden influencers” within the company. I’ve seen employees I’d have never have guessed would be so well networked, get 30 clicks on a single share. Multiply that by 100 employees and you get the idea this is incredibly powerful.
It’s here the puzzle introduced in the beginning of this piece makes the most sense: The focus on distribution has been a bigger boost to content creation than anything I’ve ever advocated. Showing people how this works, getting them focused on an action that provides an immediate benefit to them personally, has stoked interest.
7. Recognize the contributors.
The most underutilized tool in a manager’s toolkit is a compliment – and it’s been crucial to getting employees engaged in content marketing. Marketers can thank people profusely and it won’t have the impact of convincing an executive or a key leader as to its importance.
* * *
The answer to the puzzle is to flip the problem upside down. The mere change in perspective opens up new ways of thinking about a steady-state problem – like focusing on content distribution rather than content creation.
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The Buyers Journey and Why Content Marketing is a Thing