- August 28, 2017
- Posted by: Robert Rose
- Category: Content Marketing
Aristotle famously said, “Well begun is half done.” And, reaching the “Manage” portion of managing a content marketing process wheel – and it marks the exact half waypoint for the content marketing framework.
In this week’s post, we explore the management of the actual process of Content Marketing and how the group that you’ve assembled will actually operate. If you missed last week’s article, we designed the process of content marketing. And that design came out of building the function of content marketing the week before.
This Messy Middle Of Content Marketing Operation
The irony of most content marketing operations is that this is the stage that many businesses actually start their content-driven experience. In so many cases these days, the strategy is defined by actually trying to manage the content into some desired (or new) channel.
In other words – a new social channel like Facebook appears, and the business decides that it needs a Facebook strategy and/or team. Or, mobile technologies become the way that our customers want to engage with content, so the strategy question becomes “how do we transform all the content we’re doing into a mobile interface?”
As we’ve discussed, these are simply the wrong questions. In order for any enterprise to scale the number of content-driven experiences it ultimately manages, it will be incredibly important to understand “why” and “what” content should exist in the first place. And then, and only then, the business will need to understand “how” it can use, re-use, package, re-package and manage content on ANY channel that may be developed. If the creation and design of CCM was enabling the business to have a good handle on “Why” and “What” – Managing CCM will provide it with the means to make smart decisions on “How” and “Where” the content will go.
Developing a process to manage the creation and management of individual “owned media” efforts is probably the most critical piece of what a CCM management process is meant to achieve.
The Content Marketing Operation Team will, of course, have the charter to manage existing owned content-driven experiences such as blogs, websites, print magazines, etc… But the additional responsibility will be to acquire and or build new ones as well. That first inspirational “experiment” may or may not be performing well – and it may need a new purpose and editorial strategy. Or, the group may decide that there is an opportunity to purchase an existing and already operational independent property, such as a blog or magazine, which will need to be integrated. Or, as will almost assuredly be the case, this group will need to devise new initiatives that will fit into a balanced portfolio of content-driven experiences. This is where mapping and building stories into a balanced portfolio becomes an important and critical skill for the team.
We segued above from developing a content mission – and as we mentioned this may be the first actual task to be accomplished at both the more macro level (e.g. as part of the development of an over-arching brand story) and at the micro level – for each initiative that will be integrated and/or created.
And certainly there will be multiple flavors across initiatives. For example, as we discussed two weeks ago with Gurdeep Dhillon at SAP, The Customer Edge blog was a platform that was conceived internally, built with the help of agencies, and is now managed almost entirely by Gurdeep’s content marketing team. But in another example, there is the “buy it” and “outsource it” method that American Express used with their OPEN Network, the extremely popular educational community for owners looking for expert advice on managing their business.
Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, senior vice president, American Express OPEN, described the model in a July 2010 interview with Fast Company:
“…it takes a small army, both internal and external,” offered Mary Ann, who mentioned a litany of external partners who help with site development, article content, online media, and related live events. When discussing why AmEx sought outside help like Federated Media for bloggers, Mary Ann pointed out that, “You can’t do it alone, there are a lot of experts—leverage them to make the most robust solution you can.”
Determining the right model to build and manage a sustainable owned media property will take the collective CCM team’s efforts. Time and again (as mentioned earlier), the CCM governing body will be called upon to provide the business cases for why a new content platform (e.g., a blog, event, print magazine) will provide business value. But then, once the group approves that effort – the management process will be critical to executing that initiative successfully.
Map The Experiences Of The Content Marketing Operation
The first step in determining whether any initiative is worth doing (or worth continuing) is to create an executional map, both from an editorial and a project-mapping perspective. The goal of this process is to create a high-level editorial and creative strategy—as well as to define the business goals and measurement—that will justify the existence of a given platform.
Put in its simplest terms, once an initiative has gone beyond the “this seems like a good idea” stage, the group actually has to determine what it will take to make it real.
To accomplish this, we have lately seen methodologies such as Agile take hold within businesses (especially within marketing groups) and pay some of the biggest dividends for this kind of work. Other methodologies (e.g., the “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, “Radical Management” by Stephen Denning, and “Discovery Driven Growth” by Rita McGunther McGrath) have also created tremendous opportunities – and we’d certainly encourage a deeper exploration of all of these approaches.
Our specific approach is one that we talk about in Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing called Story Mapping. This very specific methodology is both a template and an operational model to reach two distinct goals. The first goal of the Story Mapping process is how to create an editorial and creative strategy that helps to align the larger story with the brand approach.
Ultimately, the Story Map not only helps to align the business goals, it helps to align the purpose of the editorial and the creative as a means to create a compelling experience. Unlike a marketing campaign, the team is building a plan for something that is meant to last. In short, both goals are how to plan the first modules of a permanent space station, not a mission to temporarily orbit the earth and successfully land.
Build The Experiences And Their Purpose
One of the biggest complaints in creating content-driven experiences is that “we have to wait for results.” This isn’t true. Deploying a smart map—and a process for managing your progress—should give you immediate indication of how you are progressing toward a goal and the ability to course correct along the way.
Once you have a plan in place, the content marketing operation team also may be responsible for managing the ongoing development and execution of your platforms. Referring to the goals and timelines that you established within the initial mapping process will give the team a projection of what “success” should look like at this relative point in time. Then, in order to achieve “success,” the content marketing operation team will need to always be looking to “where we are,” and then make assumptions about “what needs to be true” at various waypoints along the path.
But, how will you know if you are tracking successfully? What will be the primary indicators of whether this initiative should remain a piece of your experience portfolio? This is the process of “building stories”.
Managing A Portfolio Of Experiences
Assuming we’ve established and met our minimally accepted success—and our new experiential or content-driven platform is officially a “going concern”—then it’s time to make new maps, as well as set the course for ongoing operations of the platform.
Here, more than specific steps, it’s important for the Content Creation Management process and governing group to infuse a number of core competencies and build processes to support them. These include:
As mentioned above, the content marketing operation’s true mission is to manage the portfolio of experiences related to communications for the business (or perhaps just their part of the business). The strategic management of content as a portfolio of owned, earned, and paid strategies will be the overriding mission of the group. This is where becoming a media company, and not simply acting like one, is so important. The CCM group must manage the entire universe of the content value.
An eye will be needed to continually look to new story maps, and innovations over time. Make the time to not only ensure that there is constant execution, but that the platform has an eye toward its own evolution.
The discipline to manage the portfolio against a larger performance goal (and perhaps an even broader story map) will be critical.
Success may simply be about executing exactly as planned. Or, as is most often the case, it may mean improvising based on a sudden, unplanned challenge or obstacle. One of the keys that we think is critical, is how to get into a review cycle that is not based on major developmental milestones – but rather as a function of progress toward the different phases of the story as the team has mapped it. Exactly how granular you make these rhythmic review cycles will depend largely on how confident you are about the assumptions you’ve made.
Stay tuned next week as we talk about the next (and last) major step in the management of content marketing – the measurement step.