Are you ignoring your greatest content creation resource today?

Every time I meet with a new company to talk about ramping up their content marketing efforts, the biggest challenge identified is being able to create enough content.

So I ask about employees contributing content and if there is a process in place to welcome (and even reward) that? In 99 percent of cases, the answer is no (beyond the senior executives), we do not do that. And I say, why not?

There are typically two responses, and they are linked to time or trust.

“Everyone is so busy; we can’t add this on top of their already packed schedules.”

Or

“But how can we guarantee if they will create content that is aligned to our business and core message?”

So let’s take a step back. User Generated Content (UGC) is something most businesses are obsessing over today, with many marketing leaders trying to work out how to integrate the amazing content that customers are creating into their marketing platforms. UGC is good – it’s good for everyone.

Influencer marketing is also getting the limelight – especially in the B2B space. B2C influencer programs are well established, although many are struggling to quantify value. However, B2B is different and I recommend you read this great article “The 4 Biggest Stumbling Blocks of B2B Influencer Marketing” for some insight.

But Employee Generated Content (EGC and I have no idea if this is already a term or if I’ve just made it up) is where truly amazing things can happen, because your employees are your greatest resource to scale your content marketing efforts today.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – people trust people, not brands – so rather than just focusing on external influencers (which are definitely important), how about the internal influencers who know and (hopefully) love your company?

How do you get started?

Find out who is already blogging, because the bigger your company, the more I can guarantee someone in your business is already doing it. How do you find out? Start by checking out your employees on LinkedIn. Who’s active, who’s blogging, who’s getting the importance of building their personal brand?

This is the start point. They’re already doing it, which makes them ideal recruits for your EGC program. The really important point. Please don’t try to control them. They already know what they’re doing, so you need to trust them and watch the results come in.

Don’t forget to encourage all employees to get behind these stars and help the content succeed. Equally, you need to make all employees aware that they are welcome to join this program too.

I’m going to share a great case study soon about a company that started and grew a fantastically successful blogging program. Stay tuned for that.

Do I need to reward or incentivise employees?

Personally, my personal brand has always been so critical to me, I don’t need to be rewarded, because I know it’s the greatest asset I have to support my ambitions. But yes, small things matter, so why not set up a reward program? Gift certificates, $100/blog, monthly blog star awards, most-read blog awards, etc…

Do I need rules and training for employees?

People who really understand personal branding don’t need rules. They know what they’re doing. However, this community is still quite rare, so yes, I would look at your existing social media rules and revise them for the modern day. A lot of the existing rules are too restrictive for today’s digitally connected world. Training should also be a critical part of this process, to help employees understand how to do this and become brilliant ambassadors for your business. I can help you with this.

What resources will you need?

  • You’ll need a chief editor to own the content platform and decide what gets featured, as well as to define company-wide themes employees can write on. This is similar to LinkedIn’s Influencer themes, such as #HowIHire #IfIwere22 #Thankyoumentor #SkillsGap #OutsideWork #BetheBoss
  • It would be wise to make editorial support available to your employees, especially those without the confidence to write or create content themselves. This can get them over the line
  • Provide free image access to employees – they will love you for it. I use Shutterstock
  • Not everyone writes, so having design resources available is smart too. Additionally, the design team can re-create written content into other forms of content – PPTs for SlideShare, Infographics, etc..
  • You’ll need a platform for the content (a content hub or a blog) and a team to upload content
  • You’ll need the social media team integrated into this team
  • And you need a system or editorial calendar. You have two options:
    • If you establish a system where employees submit blogs they have already published (such as on LinkedIn) you can create the calendar as you go. Executive Lifestyle is an excellent example of this model for a multi-author community
    • You can also ask employees to submit topic ideas and schedule a calendar. This model requires a lot more management than the first model, as you will often have to chase contributors to submit their blogs on time. With that said, my former company, Novus Asia is a successful example of this model

What about employees who don’t blog in the company voice?

Well they shouldn’t. They should blog in their own voice, and no one should be blogging about the company anyway. They should be blogging for their audience, helping them, being of service.

Blogging and content marketing is not about you, it’s about delivering value to your audience.

However, let’s say many of your employees are writing blogs about how great your business is – wouldn’t blogs like this be awesome for your recruitment efforts?

But let’s look at your business more broadly. When you look across your company, every type of discipline will be there. While you can segment deeply, let’s start with splitting employees into two categories.

First, your people in sales, product development, customer support, product design, leadership, etc… are all in a perfect position to blog to the challenges your customers are facing – in some form. This is incredibly valuable content that builds customer loyalty and is the essence of content marketing.

Then there is a second type of employee – your marketing and communications team, HR, finance, etc… This community can all comfortably blog on their broader discipline. As an example. You do not sell marketing solutions so how do you include a blogger from your marketing team who is sharing their passion for their craft?

That’s where a content hub comes in – I talked about a content hub in this blog.

My suggestion is to segment content from your employees across different themes, rather than just putting it all in one place. As an example, you could have three content pillars:

  • Thought leadership for your industry, focused on solving customer challenges
  • HR – the “isn’t our company awesome” blogs series – to attract and retain talent. Don’t forget feature articles on your great employees here. Microsoft Stories does this beautifully
  • A talent section, or Our Voice – to highlight the amazing people you have working for you, which is where the marketing blogger could feature

What’s the goal of all of this?

  • To build your business
  • To influence customers throughout their decision making process
  • To gain a greater share of voice for your brand
  • To build your SEO
  • To attract great talent
  • To keep great talent
  • To make your employees stars
  • To show what an awesome and innovative business you are

Will this be easy?

No. It’s like herding cats!

With the established bloggers, they may push back because they’ve been doing really well without you thank you very much. Equally, they may not trust you to honour their voice and integrity. You’ll have to work hard to win their trust.

It might also be slow getting things moving, so you need patience and you need resilience – often a lot of it. If you set your mind to success with your EGC program no matter what, you will get there and the ROI will start showing in year-end results.

Still sceptical?

Wait for my forthcoming case study where I talk through all of this with an inspired leader who gets it and has built one of Asia’s success stories on the back of the company blog.

Conclusion

To address the two challenges I raised at the beginning. Building a personal brand is critical for every professional today, and blogging is core to that. Your people don’t have time? Then they don’t understand where business is heading or where your customers are learning and deciding. Blunt but true.

Every professional in business must make building their personal brand a priority. When brands hire people who get this, it’s because they understand this is where real employee value lives today – in online influence and trust. These businesses will be more successful than those who continue to ignore the deep benefits of employee advocacy.

And controlling output? Any business that thinks the future of marketing is about controlling the voice of every employee is completely missing the opportunity. Your employees are the reason your customer’s do business with you. Trusting them to have the maturity to have a voice in the market is critical for attracting and retaining the best talent today. Equally, it is one of the most effective ways to build your business.

I wrote about trust and the lay of the land in this blog last year.

I can tell you one thing, once you get moving, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start your EGC program sooner.

So do you work for a company with an employee advocacy program? Are you welcome to blog for your company? Are you supported? I’d love to hear back from you to understand how this content relates to your reality?

Cheers

Andrea

Picture: a crowd of people, courtesy of Shutterstock.

BTW on June 10th, I will be running my workshop – How to Build a Rock Star Professional Social Presence Today. Happening in Singapore, if you have employees you know that have the potential to become world-class advocates for your business, but aren’t quite sure where to start, send them along. I’ll get them inspired for you I promise. I also run employee advocacy workshops for businesses. Get in touch if I can help you get cracking. I love this stuff.

Please feel free to share with your communities if you enjoyed reading this. That’s what it’s all about today – sharing and giving to each other. If you like my style and what I talk about, feel free to follow me on LinkedInTwitter or on Facebook. Thanks so much for reading ad giving me your time.

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