Partners in Content

Last week, I talked with a director of content at a manufacturing company. (How awesome is it that there are now manufacturing companies with directors of content?) He told me about a challenge he was having. His team had been developed a content plan around targeting a particular persona. They had built their entire department around becoming subject matter experts in this area. The challenge was that they had just acquired a company that targeted a different kind of customer. This director was charged with creating a new strategy for a persona for whom their staff had no expertise. They had tried to hire a few freelancers, but they didn’t know if those freelancers were hitting the mark. He asked me what they could do to jump-start this new program.

I suggested two possibilities. “One option,” I said, “is to partner with some of the folks in the acquired company. For example, they might create guest posts in the early days to supplement your own writing as you learn about this new audience.” The other option, I told him, was to partner with thought leaders in the space, inviting them to provide content – again, using the people at the acquired company to provide insight into who those leaders are.

“We’re not very good at that partnering thing,” he said.

If we’re honest, I bet that most of us would say the same thing. Partnerships in general require something of us. For them to succeed, we have to give as much as – or more than – we get. Unfortunately, all too often, we humans don’t operate that way. Take marriage. As my wife will tell you, being married can be like having a best friend who doesn’t remember what you say.

In all seriousness, the successful content strategies I’ve seen have included successful partnerships, both internal and external. I’m talking about partners who, like spouses on their best days, make each other better. As Jeff Bezos is widely credited with saying, “Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful.”

Unfortunately, according to a 2014 CMO Council report, despite the fact that 85% of their marketing respondents looked at partnerships and alliances as essential or important to their work, strategic alliances fail at a rate of about 60%. That’s roughly twice the divorce rate for first marriages these days.  So you’re more likely to fail in a business partnership than in your first marriage.

In the coming years, as we marketers look to lead our teams’ content strategies – which will inevitably include influencer marketing, account-based marketing, and content marketing — we need to develop our skills at creating enduring partnerships.

As John F. Kennedy might have said were he a marketer, “Ask not what your content partners can do for you. Ask what you can do for your content partners.”

How about it? What could you do for your content partners today?

Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.