So we talked a little bit about the personal issues that block good content on a steady basis, and to follow up on that we’ll talk a little about how organizations and organizational structures can act to thwart a successful inbound content campaign.
Processed Meat – When Processes and Procedures Slow You Down
Don’t get me wrong, we love processes at Stunt & Gimmick’s. A good systematic process will make any job easier and faster. A poorly thought out and unresponsive process, on the other hand, can make work just about impossible. Think of it like processed meat: the more you run it through the wrangler, the blander it is and the worse it tastes. It’s the difference between a home-cooked roast chicken and a chicken nugget.
The biggest problem is the outbound communication policies at larger or more established companies. These policies, designed at a time when the only outbound communication was a press release or two and a couple of ad campaigns, were designed to be very top-down and restrictive. As communication channels between company and consumer opened up, many firms clamped down even tighter, worried about how an errant comment might be seen by the press and public. That’s not altogether bad, as several companies have recently faced bad press for things employees did on Twitter, Facebook, or on their personal blogs.
It is, however, entirely the wrong approach.
All Content is Personal Content
The problem with these strict, vertical processes is that they drain all the personality out of content, and personality is the only thing that keeps people coming back. Think about the handful of high-profile blogs you visit regularly: even if it was the information contained within that got you there the first time, odds are it was the personality that kept you coming back. A great example is the analytics blog of Avanish Kaushik, http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/. Sure, he’s a knowledgeable leader in his field, but that’s not why I obsessively read everything he publishes. I read it because of his eccentric personality and blunt writing style.
When each piece of outward facing content needs to be scrutinized by everyone from the mailroom clerk all the way up to the CEO, it will very quickly become drained of the kind of personality that drives repeat visitors. And once the visits dry up, it becomes an example trotted out by the big brass about how the online content just isn’t for them and digital marketing is a fad that will pass in a couple of months – not realizing that it was outdated policies and procedures that killed the initiative in the first place.
Rehabbing Content in Under 12 Steps
So how do you go about rectifying this issue? Well, if you work for a small business or if you’re on top of the food chain anyway, it’s fairly easy. If you’re not in charge, then it might be a little more difficult since you have to negotiate the usual office politics and convince upper management. If you come prepared, however, it shouldn’t be a terribly difficult battle.
1. Decide in advance what you want your company’s personality to be. So many issues can be avoided simply by sitting down and writing out a succinct but detailed description of what kind of image you want to portray. Better yet, many companies already have this in the form of a values statement or mission statement. Most of that can be recycled.
2. Create an editorial calendar. Plan your topics well in advance, and coordinate with whoever is producing your content to make sure everyone involved is on the same page. Simply knowing in advance what you’ll be saying to your customers can go a long way towards reassuring you that your company is being represented the way you want it to.
3. Leave room to respond. Along with an editorial calendar, leave some room for your content builders to respond to current events. This is where setting the editorial policy and tone is extra important. If something happens, you want your people to be able to comment on it quickly without having to go through tons of red tape.
4. Designate a point person. Find someone you trust and designate them the Editor-in-chief. Someone who is not so high in the company that they are inaccessible to the writing team, but someone high enough to be able to make the final call. Then trust them to make that call.
5. Read your own content. Make a point to know what your writing team is putting out. Pick one or two articles a month and really dig into them. Make a list of what you love and what you think can be done better, and pass it along to your team. parental guidance . Make sure they keep an ongoing list of things you like and dislike. After some time, the former should start growing quickly while the latter will shrink.
6. Get the lawyers involved…but only to a point. When you first start mass producing content, have your company lawyers assist you with creating the guidelines for your writing team. Then get them away from the process. If you really want to, let them look at drafts before publication, but don’t give them final veto power.
If you get these few things in place, you’ll quickly see the quality of your content increase dramatically. The most important common thread is that your writing team needs some breathing room. So long as you have a well-developed set of rules and guidelines for them to stay within, they will produce content that is both entertaining and puts your company out there in the best light. If you let them grow and develop a personality for your online voice, and you let it happen organically, the readers will come, and some of them will buy. If, however, you try to force a stiff, “business-like” voice, you’ll end up with content that will offend and appeal to the same group of people: no one.