Slowly, companies are realizing that their best evangelists, storytellers, and teachers aren’t working in an advertising agency or PR firm. Many companies are insisting that social media and content creation be homegrown rather than outsourced to Madison Avenue. With this revelation comes the desire to find and train contributors from every corner of the company.
But how do you find these people?
When I advise clients who want to build an internal competency of content creation, I provide some advice that might seem unorthodox. The most important quality to look for in your new team of volunteers is not writing skills, subject expertise, or company experience.
You don’t want people filling this role who are simply going to “check a box.” Find content marketing evangelists who WANT to participate, who LOVE social media and the idea of helping the company establish an online presence, and who will ignite the content with their passion.
The ideal situation is to coordinate the content from these newbies through either an experienced inside or outside “coach” who can:
- Assure consistent quality with every post
- Teach the volunteers to be better content creators over time
- Nurture the content through necessary approvals
- Develop and maintain a content schedule
Finding content marketing evangelists in your company
Here are some places to look for your own in-house content marketing evangelists:
Customer service representatives are belly-to-belly with irate and delighted customers alike. These shock troops often have the real-world expertise needed to pick topics that help customers. Approach the head of customer service and ask them to point out the most effective and enthusiastic customer service representatives. Interview them for blogging topics. Keep an eye out for representatives who want to help customers in new ways.
Pinpoint the best-performing retail locations and buy the manager lunch. Pick their brain about how they run their store and their philosophy for taking care of customers and clients. Look for customer success stories that demonstrate your company’s core competencies and service values. Would the customers be willing to share those stories? Find ways to celebrate amazing employees.
One challenge here is the constant churn of retail employees. It might be difficult to find long-term bloggers in those ranks.
Customers and clients love to hear the story behind the product. They like to know that a real people are focused on solving their problems. They can’t help but cheer and celebrate the Eureka moment. Look to companies like Apple, who regularly showcase their top executives in videos describing the passion and vision behind their products.
IBM is doing a particularly effective job at this as they encourage hundreds of engaging scientists and engineers to blog about their contributions to a “Smarter Planet.”
Trying to create a “Social C-Suite” is a difficult proposition but count yourself lucky if you have a “Blogging CEO.” Your CEO has the most credibility with customers, prospects, and the general public. They are the stewards of the company’s vision and values. If they are natural communicators, work to get your CEO’s enthusiam focused on blogging or videos.
If your CEO can’t or won’t blog, start canvasing the C-Suite. The Chief Marketing Officer is an ideal candidate and potential role model for other bloggers. Other potential candidates include the Chief Operating Officer, Sales, Product Engineering, and Strategy. When you make your pitch, be sure to mention that you have an easy template and only need 600 words. Offer to ghostwrite from an outline or work with the executive to edit their submission before publishing.
Marketing, Sales and PR
This is where the most blog content is coming from these days. And it can be excellent content as long as it’s not over-salesy, over PR-y, or filled with jargon and hype.
“Social selling” is all the rage these days and done well, a content strategy at the heart of this initiative can work very well. Sales professionals usually have enthusiasm in their DNA!
There have been some amazing blogs created by a company’s customers, suppliers, community members, and other stakeholders. Examples might be:
- A community member or civic leader blogging about how you are a good corporate neighbor to mark a company anniversary or milestone.
- A supplier blogging about a new cooperative practice that will result in new benefits for end customers.
- One of the best blog posts I have ever seen was written by a person retiring after 30 years with the same company, The employee insisted on saying “good-bye” to all their customers. Wow. What an impact!
The cultural impact of enthusiasm
Before we wind this down I want to mention two key cultural impacts of enthusiasm.
- First, it is very difficult to sustain a volunteer content effort when people already have a full-time job. Enthusiasm might just be the trait that makes you succeed in the long-term!
- Second, if you showcase and reward enthusiastic content creators, it can inspire others to join in. Creating this “organic” movement is very powerful and more sustainable that assigning the work to people. In one company I advised, the blogging team grew from 15 passionate volunteers to more than 200 in two years simply from the momentum of enthusiasm.
Well there are a few ideas to get you started. Are you having much success recruiting content creators in your company?
Base Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and David Goehring
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions. IBM had no editorial control of this content.