Content Marketing Process: Designing The Strategy

In our second of four series on the content marketing process, we want to talk a bit about the design of the function of content.  If you missed the first week, we discussed how Creating Content Marketing Management was about taking the first step, before actually designing the process. But now, once it’s working, we need to formalize it; make it real.

Content Marketing Process – Design Your Process 

Content Marketing Process Management
Content Marketing Process & Strategy. This is our Content Creation Management approach.

A U.S.-based pharmaceutical and healthcare company with operations in more than 100 countries around the globe designed an innovative content creation management group within the corporate brand department.  As a global company, most of their marketing efforts are not only done at the regional level, they are also guided by the brand managers for each of the products they produce.

The company’s vice president of corporate identity led this charge. In his role, he is responsible for the complete brand story for this global company with its huge, diverse range of products.

The company found itself going through a complete re-brand initiative to re-introduce the company to customers and to unify some of the companies that had been recently acquired. This vice president saw an opportunity to create new processes to help tell the company’s story more broadly, more efficiently, and in a more effective way. In short: he envisioned customer-centric brand experiences across a number of channels (including web, social, print and even television) as an opportunity to unify the brand story and feed a more holistic company story. His goals were to bring more awareness to other company solutions in nascent markets, such as South America and China, and to provide more brand strength to mature markets, such as Europe and the United States. With every product group running its own marketing and brand strategy, along with the navigating intricacies, complexities, and regulations of different international markets—this was no small task.

So, what did he do? He built what he called a “content engine” and housed it within the corporate brand group. He appointed a new head of this content creation management group, and he helped to manage and create the organizational process for facilitating the story. The VP then created a charter and a proposed organizational process in which regional offices would (or could) have representation, allowing each to interface with product marketing in its own region. This global CCM group had responsibility for surfacing, curating, creating, packaging, and making available global and locally based stories, which could then be used by local markets. The group was then measured on the quality and quantity of stories being consumed by local markets.

One of the keys to launching this was the VP’s ability to get the company’s new CMO to approve and make this group “official,” so that it would be recognized company wide.

Content Marketing Process: Define Roles

As we stated in Recruiting The Team and Planning The Evolution, one of the keys to making a CCM process official within an organization is to get buy-in and recognition (from both senior management, as well as departmental leads) that the function of content and experiences (as strategic marketing assets worth managing well) is now in place.

Remember the point we made about San Francisco Travel when the manager there said: “It was important for us to position our Content Center of Excellence and our new team as merely an extension of processes we already had in place – making it easier to get buy-in and not overwhelming stakeholders.”

In other words, they didn’t architect a group in a PowerPoint deck and then go seek permission to create it.  They created the function and collaboration of a group – and then went to management with permission to formalize it. This is a crucial difference.

Content Marketing Process Center of Excellence
This is a sample of how we structure a content marketing team. Led by an Editorial Board, and made functional with a Content Center of Excellence

But once you are ready to formalize this group and make it “real” in the organization, you will need to take a number of tactical actions. These include (but aren’t limited to):

  1. Formalizing the roles and responsibilities that managers will have in the CCM process. With some luck, these will be clear from the functions you already established during the “evolution” step previous; and the members will be eager to accept them.
  2. Adding content creation and content management to official job responsibilities and bonus structures.
  3. Providing for both accountability and corporate structures for content-centric job functions (e.g., editors, designers, subject matter experts, and reporters).
  4. Senior management recognizing that a CCM process and governing body (perhaps called an Editorial Board or Content Center of Excellence [CCoE] or even Content Department) now exists—and is not just some virtual team assembled in an ad hoc way.

The structures of a CCM governing body can take a number of forms. These include, but certainly aren’t limited to, the following examples:

The Chief Content Officer (CCO)
The department of one

In smaller organizations, this may be the person who is given the charter to create content and experiences with the goal to inform, engage, delight, and differentiate the business. Whether called a CCO, “content strategist,” or “content marketing manager,” this person is responsible for the product development of content and its eventual management as a strategic asset within the business.

The Content Center of Excellence (CCoE)
The cross-functional – “dotted line” team

In larger organizations, it may make sense to create one or multiple CCoE’s to facilitate and manage the creation of content in a more holistic, cross-functional way. For example, in a midsized organization the CCoE may be an assigned cross-functional team that spans public relations, brand, digital, and field marketing—each with content creation and management responsibilities. This group then provides best practices and acts as a governing body to ensure consistency, re-use, and effectiveness of content. In a huge organization, many of these may actually be enabling groups arranged by region, industry group, or other separation.

For example, in 3M – a truly mammoth organization – Carlos Abler is the leader of online content strategy for global eTransformation. He has created and manages a content-enablement group.  His charter is to teach, and ultimately enable, the creation of other CCoE’s across the giant landscape at 3M. As he sees it – it’s not unlike the way a non-profit enables local governments to build successful economies. As Carlos said:
“I realized that is was essential to have a framework that could apply to any level of the company, from leadership, to corporate CCoE’s, to business service groups and divisions themselves.  The emergence of content champions, and initiatives where pain-points are tightly bound up with the content can and do emerge from anywhere in the company.”

The Content Department
The dedicated team

This may actually be the future for most organizations as we enter the seventh era of marketing and as content and content-driven experiences become more of the norm as a marketing evolution. Currently, content departments are in-house or even outsourced groups dedicated to the creation, curation, management, packaging, and use of content strategically for marketing purposes. In many cases, these groups find homes within more traditional parts of the marketing and communications infrastructure.

Julie Fleischer, for example, who was director of content, media, and data for Kraft Foods, leads a dedicated group of content development managers. They create multiple online websites, a print magazine, videos, and social media content supporting a distinct content brand. Fleischer has established a “home” within the media department of Kraft, providing customer research insight and programmatic advertising data services to the product managers, who are responsible for marketing Kraft products.

Authors’ Note: Stop here for a moment and re-read that last paragraph. Notice how, from a content experiment, Fleischer was able to lean-in and build an entirely new business leadership function out of a traditional brand-marketing job, and now has multiple functions as part of her value-creation position. This is the quintessential example of someone who has re-crafted her career by focusing on change, then inspiring the revolution, and then building an entire dedicated marketing team as a function of value.

The key to all of these models is that others in the business MUST also have content as part of their job function. In the same way that the company accountant has the power to make everyone in the organization responsible for the processes around costs (e.g., filing expense reports, complying with cost policies, purchase orders, etc.), so too must content become a measurable and accountable asset.

Content Marketing Process: Design A Charter

Once the CCM governing body is ready to start operating, either out of the success of an inspirational prototype or as a uniquely created group, this group’s focus should be on executing against a global editorial strategy.

This strategy will either be developed singularly by the team and executed by contributors networked to the group, or it could be a group that curates the different experiences being managed in other functional areas, serving as a collaborative and communications hub for the company.

Writing a charter for this group will be critical to its ongoing success, and so time should be spent, now that the group is formally recognized by the business, to have an intelligent, focused set of business goals. The charter can be as straightforward as ensuring that content across the entire buyer’s journey (e.g., all customer experience touch points) is delightful, consistent, effective, and measurable. Or, this group could be chartered with creating entirely separate content brands that will support the full continuum of the business, from awareness through loyalty (e.g., the Red Bull model). Multiple groups also could be formed with individual charters that span the gap between different CCoE’s (the 3M model).  Regardless, it’s crucial to develop a clear charter that can evolve as the group evolves, and that will support the business for content-driven experiences.

Independent of the size of the charter, the group’s main responsibilities can be wrapped around four main tasks:

  • Planning – Using long-range calendars to provide budget and executional plans for the types, tone, and categories of content to be created for the business.

  • Storytelling – Determining, as a group, the overall narrative and experiences that will be created for the brand. What is the business’s story (or stories) beyond the product or service that it offers? How will these stories be told cross-culturally and cross-functionally in the business?

  • Production and Publishing Management – Aligning to global marketing and communications calendars and business goals, this group should be balancing the mechanics of content production to the overall operations of the business. Everything, from new product launches to major corporate events, should be aligned within this group to ensure that stories align to the greater business needs.

  • Engagement and Measurement – This group is ultimately the keeper of the “purpose of content” within the business. It should be tasked with the business case for new platforms, new stories, new content initiatives, and determining how they will be mapped and measured as effective structures within the marketing and communications infrastructure.

Content Marketing Process: Create The First Mission

Perhaps no other topic gets as much attention as the question, “What should we talk about?” Entire books have been written on whether brands should be entertaining, engaging, informative, useful, or all of the above. The one thing that is usually missing is an even more fundamental question, “What is the purpose of the experience we are trying to create?”

So, now that the organization has formalized and created a charter – it’s time to get busy and start creating. This phase begins to merge into the actual management of the CCM process – and the group will be responsible for either creating new content-driven experiences for the business, rebooting or giving continued effort to existing experiences or all of the above. 

In short – it’s time to put content-driven experiences on the agenda.

This is a shift from most marketing strategies.  Marketers have been trained to think medium first and content second.  In other words, as marketers, we tend to think – “we need a television campaign” or “we need an email campaign” or “we need a print campaign.”  And then what we do is to backfill with the message (or content) that will fill that medium.

Media companies don’t do this. When looking to start something new, a media company will first start with the content and what value it will provide to an audience. Then, they will look to how to best deliver that value TO the audience.  This is the change we need to make when developing our content mission.  We should think story (or experience) first and then the medium through which it will be expressed.  

Thus, it’s very simple: any business that’s looking to create an experience-driven mission needs to ask four simple questions:

  1. What is our goal for this experience (what business goal will it satisfy)?
  2. Who will satisfy that goal (who is our audience for this new experience)?
  3. What value (separate from our product/service) will we deliver to this audience?
  4. What makes our approach to delivering this value different?

Each of these questions forms the foundational approach from which the next should be answered. Let’s say our business makes pet food. So, we might ask the following questions:

  • What is our goal? — A perfectly adequate answer might be “to build greater awareness for our new product.”

  • Who will satisfy that goal? What audience? — There is almost assuredly more than one answer here, but pick ONE specifically. For example: “the new ‘mom’ (i.e., owner) of a puppy that has been adopted by the family.”

  • What value (separate from our product/service) will we deliver to the new mom? — The answer, in this case, might be education about all of the things that puppies should and shouldn’t eat.

  • What makes our approach to delivering this value different? —The key is NOT to stop at “value,” but to get to the core differentiator of the business’s approach. Perhaps, in this case, it’s our brand’s belief that puppies should be on very specific nutritional diets at very specific ages, and that there is a regimen for food that goes way beyond what most pet stores advise.

As our colleague, Joe Pulizzi, has said, “…the content mission is not about what you sell … it’s what you stand for. This will become the basis for your content marketing strategy. It’s based on the informational needs of your customers and prospects, and also inherently drives your business.”

To be clear here, you will ultimately almost certainly have multiple content missions that support different audiences or different parts of the customer journey. The content mission is truly the center of gravity for EACH of the content platforms that the CCM team will create as part of a portfolio of experiences.

That helps us be clear in our designed process, and enables us to take the next step which is to Manage the platforms we build.  We’ll talk about that next week.

Stay Tuned.


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