Five steps to establish a content-creating company culture

use the whole buffalo

I’ve worked with a number of large and small companies to help them develop a culture of content creation and there seems to be a few common themes that enable success. Here are some steps that launch a company toward a vibrant culture of content creation:

1. Use the whole buffalo

The first question many companies ask is, “Where is all of this content going to come from?” They don’t realize they may already be sitting on a wealth of resources.

When native American Indians killed a buffalo for food they wasted nothing, using every part of the animal to make clothes, shelter, and weapons. Likewise, we should inventory all of our company content assets and leverage them to the max so that these existing investments are not wasted. Regular sources of superb content may already be coming to you through the form of:

  • speeches
  • customer presentations
  • visits from guests and customers (why not do a video/)
  • customer service bulletins
  • investor communications
  • marketing materials
  • PR efforts
  • employee newsletters

Try to extract as much value from the content you have by tailoring it to the social web and igniting it across multiple channels. Use your whole buffalo!

2. Start with passionate volunteers

Starting an initiative to create original content can come as a shock to an organization. One idea for success is to start where you are going to have the best chance for success — passionate volunteers.

My friend Jay Baer once said that “if you don’t love social media you will suck at social media” … so find the people who already love it. In my mind this may be more important than finding people with writing ability or even marketing experience. Go to where the passion resides.

One company I work with started with five passionate volunteer bloggers and it grew to more than 200 in two years — organically! The enthusiasm spread from the passionate core.

3. Hire short-term help

It’s not fair to “pile on” new content management duties when your people already have full-time jobs. When just starting out, think about hiring an outside editor to help you get going. The duties would include:

  • Assisting with the content plan and keeping it on track
  • Assuring that content goes through the proper internal reviews
  • Editing volunteer content and making sure the content is appropriate and relevant
  • Coaching company bloggers to help them improve
  • Assure that blog comments and questions are being addressed

As your initiative grows, you will reach critical mass where you can consider hiring a full-time internal community manager to handle these tasks. Bring in an experienced resource to help give you your best chance for success.

4. Build-in quick wins

You need to “market your marketing” internally as well as externally. Reward bloggers and highlight their successes. One company maintains a leader board of bloggers who reach certain milestones and then rewards the top contributors with special events and company merchandise.

Build the opportunity for quick wins into your content marketing plan and promote with your internal leaders. Showing off the fun and success of your content team will get others interested in participating. Make it exciting. Build momentum.

5. Bring in some Top Guns

In addition to employee-created content, many companies also feature content from outside industry experts. Typically this is a paid assignment, but some authors are happy to do it for the exposure. This has a couple of strategic advantages:

  • Adds instant credibility to your content marketing effort
  • Provides third party validation to your company and brand
  • Attracts fans of the author to your blog and to your company
  • Can jump-start subscriptions and engagement
  • Establishes a baseline of high quality “evergreen” content

So there you have it — Five ideas to help establish a “content culture.” What ideas would you add?  How do you transform a company into a content-creating machine?

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  • Great ideas, Mark. This likely goes without saying, but top-down support is crucial. I think your ideas about rewarding and incentivizing blogging volunteers speaks to this. You must give employees a reason to do it because it can take a lot of work before you start seeing success. As you said, building quick wins is a must.

  • Thanks Laura. Yes, you MUST have executive sponsorship!

  • Social_Ben

    I love this! Thanks Mark. It’s all about re-purposing what you already have. Plus the huge amounts of knowledge your “pool” already have in their heads and hard drives etc to create new value. One thing for companies to consider is that it is normally a “sales” role that gets incentives, yet knowledge is through out the company. We are always looking to get rewarded. So reward those hidden nuggets to create your content!

  • I was just going to give this a quick glance, because I’m a business of one, but found myself thinking of the opportunities for free lancer writers in these tips. I know someone I’m going to pass this blog post on to. 🙂

  • Thank you Mark for opening this discussion…

    I have a way “…to establish a content-creating compay culture” by offering companies,– as people do — who love talking about what their mission is, what they have to offer, what their purpose is, and who they are…

    Giving others the opportunity to ‘grow’ is a gift, and works wonders!.

  • Difficult to unearth those nuggets at times, though isn’t it? : )

  • Hooray! Glad I could help!

  • Culture plays such a huge role in the success of a venture like this. Thanks for commenting Dr. Rae.

  • Rodger

    To your third point, let me add this. Hiring short-term help is a good point. While that short-term help is helping I think it’s a wise idea to assess the work folks are doing to determine if it’s essential to the pushing the business forward and providing customers with delightful experiences. One might find employs are completing too many TPS reports — a la Office Space — which can be eliminated and replaced with meaning content development work. Additionally, I believe employees need training to hone their “nose for news” in their work day. So the short-term help could be a journalist charged with doing two things, finding news in the organization, and training employees to find and write about news in the company.

  • Social_Ben

    It certainly is – mostly because they do not know they are one! I often get “no one is interested in what I have to say”

  • Those are SPECTACULAR additions to the conversation Rodger!! I actually had a few of these points in the original post but had to edit because it was running long. Thanks for this great contribution.

  • Great tips. I also have suggested to hire a full/part time writer as an integral part of their marketing team. There are retired or semi retired journalists that would love to write for a good, consistent level of pay. Moreover, if you check local colleges with a good film school, this talent pool can be pulled from for inexpensive work on creating video content.

  • Mark, I love points #2 and #4 and I think they are missed all too often. Outside help and repurposing content can be key in the journey, but it doesn’t necessarily internalize the changes.

    One thing I would add to #2: you will have to let go of your preconceived ideas about what your content will look like. If you are still living in the world of marketing-produced content, content that is on-message, professionally produced, written in a formal style, … prepare for change. People that love social media will (hopefully) understand that you need to invite conversation and that requires more personality and a more conversational tone than many marketing departments generally use.

    Good stuff, thanks (as always) Mark!

  • Megan Conley

    So many excellent points in this post – it really “takes a village” to create a robust content creation engine within an organization. Recognition is a huge and critical part of the equation if you want to create a ripple effect around participation. With that in mind, I think having support at the management/leadership levels another important way to drive progress. If people see support, participation and recognition from the top they’ll gravitate to the opportunity.

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  • Always a pleasure! Yes indeed Mark “Culture plays…a huge role in…” all ventures.

  • Here is how I counter that — you don’t have to write a PhD thesis. Just share what you know. It really works : )

  • Really awesome suggestions. Great ideas here Edwin. Thanks!

  • Gosh Eric that is SO important. I’m really happy you brought that up! Thanks!

  • Absolutely. When I am in the middle of a change process I insist that the management ask questions about the effort at every staff meeting. That sends a message!

  • Megan Conley

    So how do you deal with projects/clients where the management/leadership isn’t full invested or convinced of the value content creation (especially when you don’t have any “wins” yet to make you’re case)?

  • Enjoyed the points especially the organic growth of content in an organization. Mine the golden nuggests that are already there. I read a tip from Lisa Cron, author of Wired For Story, who said forget writing what you know. Write what you feel. People want to read and engage in authentic feelings. Thanks for spreading the value of content.

  • It won’t work. They are going to be anticipating the same quick gains they used to get from advertising and when it doesn’t happen like that they will pull the plug.

    What I have done in a case like this is start with a series of educational classes on various digital marketing topics, bringing in experts to do either live or remote talks.Hopefully over time they will begin to see the opportunity and really buy-in!

  • I think that is partially true. I didn’t write about my feelings too much in this post and you still enjoyed it, right? : ) If I wrote about my feelings all the time I would bore myself and everyone else. At the end of the day your content has to be original, personal but also delivering some value.

  • Mark, certainly did enjoy your post. To your point, perhaps feelings are best sprinkled than poured.

  • Love that! : )

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  • Marilyn King

    WONDERFUL advice! We recently wrote about the importance of Company Culture and what else employers need to know to stay in the game – Thought I’d share.

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