How to find homegrown content marketing evangelists

content marketing evangelists

By Mark Schaefer

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.

It’s enthusiasm.

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

Here are some places to look for your own in-house content marketing evangelists:

Customer Service

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.

Retail Staff

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.”

The C-Suite

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!

Other sources

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?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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  • cdashnaw

    As a PR professional and now freelance copywriter, I love this blueprint. It’s something I’ve done with varying success, and I think one key element is to have posts on standby in case a scheduled blogger doesn’t deliver. This is where having a writer overseeing all would help – besides being able to edit (and post) all the submissions, she or he could deliver in a pinch. Great article!

  • Pingback: How to find homegrown content marketing evangel...()

  • Thanks so much for the kind comments. I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Herb Silverman

    Amazing but true, reading your post, I was talking to an aphasia vendor about helping out as a guest blogger in the future. ESP?

    Volunteers (even for personal blogs,) are a big component of not only credibility, but responsibility for years to come. Believe me, I don’t know everything (trust me on that,) so to have experts that are truly passionate on our common goal is enormously helpful. Thanks for the insight…

  • Awesome Herb. Glad this was helpful to your efforts.

  • YES! Finding and inspiring these warriors of enthusiasm is my favorite, Mark. The really fascinating thing is that the best ones aren’t always obvious by external appearances. They’re often the unexpected introverts, the insatiable learner, the patient teacher, the written word artist, the problem solver and the servant-hearted who all turn out to be the most vibrant content creators. It is so fun to see someone come alive given a new opportunity to communicate in a different medium. Thank you so much for sharing all of these great ideas about where to find more of them!

  • Hi Mark,

    I’m now working with a construction company. They are completely on board with a content marketing strategy, but with a busy staff of 70-some employees (half in the field it will be a challenge).

    BUT like I said, they are enthusiastic, ready to roll and realize this will be a long-term effort. I’ve already interviewed many employees for the overall marketing campaign, so might employ that strategy to create blog posts. Interview a mix of employees and transcribe what they say.

    But the most important thing is the fact that they are enthusiastic about it, and know it can work. Many small- to medium-sized businesses wouldn’t even consider this a few short years ago. Anyway, their market segment is certainly nothing close to saturated, and a mix of local SEO strategies and a long-term content marketing effort will do amazing things for them. Will let you know how it works out 🙂

    Oh yes … thanks for this piece, Mark! It’s a great help.

  • Social media and content creation and what can do, spread the company’s image as well as spread.

  • Love that — “warriors of enthusiasm!” That may show up in a future class! : ) Thanks Krista.

  • Sounds like you are definitely on the right track there Craig. Your challenge will be sustaining the momentum. All those people who volunteered? Most of them will drop out when they get busy so be prepared with Content Plan B! Try to find ways to reward and highlight contributors to make it “cool” to be a blogger.

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