Creating content at the speed of culture—without being slowed down by bureaucracy

How to work within the system to get things done (without sacrificing service to your audience)

“These independent content creators are killing us,” a head of marketing told me recently.Does this sound familiar? In many markets, Instagrammers, newsletter writers, and YouTubers with next-to-nothing budgets are amassing audiences and trust faster than comparatively well-funded and resourced operations (for example, 90% of the content Gen Z consumes is created by individuals, not corporations).

Outside of marketing, journalists are quitting major publications to build their own independent brands. With the costs of publishing and distribution low and platforms that enable audience growth easily accessible, we’re in the midst of one of the friendliest environments for independent creators to flourish.

One reason some independent content creators can sprint ahead of their more established counterparts is a lack of an intricate system for content governance. You know it well — the lead time required, the reviews, the questions, maybe even encountering that one person who still doesn’t understand why marketing has a budget (!). When you work at an enterprise, collaborating with other teams is an art form. As frustrating as it may be at times, these safeguards are important (there’s a reason every company has them), and we’ve seen those that design systems to work with others — instead of trying to circumvent them — achieve their goals faster. 

The key question, of course, is how can we design a way to effectively collaborate internally and be more responsive to our audience of buyers, prospects, and influencers? 

Winning internal support and creating a failsafe system

Here are a few ways for content marketers to flourish within an existing system of checks and balances:

  1. It’s not enough to have a strategy. You need to communicate it early and often, get feedback and seek buy-in. Rule #1 is the most important: Include all relevant departments upfront in your strategy process. Interview them in advance. ID your biggest potential roadblocks and make them feel heard. Communicate as you’re creating the strategy, then roadshow the strategy to every department after it’s been created. Your goal is to make everyone an accessory to your effort, because if they are more deeply invested and involved in it, it will enable you to work faster and have more resources at your disposal.
  2. Audience data is the best way to build trust internally (and win arguments quickly). Seeking out audience data doesn’t only make you a better marketer; it gives your ideas weight. Every piece of content should have a reason for being, and ideally, each has TWO reasons: Immediately, it serves an audience need, and ultimately, it serves a business purpose. (That’s why we developed Relevance Monitor, a suite of intelligence tools designed to track your target audience behaviors and translate it into winning — and bureaucracy-approved — concepts and ideas).
  3. Broadly celebrate wins. Sometimes there’s resistance to content marketing as a practice. That’s when celebrating audience and business wins that stem from your content efforts is critical. If a lead converts because of a video, make sure everyone knows about it. If you started earning the equivalent of your paid search budget from your organic search efforts, make sure everyone knows about it. This is time well spent because you’re reminding everyone why this effort is important.
  4. If you’re in a stalemate, try a pilot-and-learn approach. Sometimes you’re going to do steps 1-3 and you’re still going to hit resistance. Don’t give up yet. Instead, pivot to a “let’s try both and we’ll see what works” approach. (That said, if you can’t live with the idea — if it’s something that’s way off strategy or will isolate your audience — ignore this step).
  5. The right creation and editing system can save headaches. Establishing an editing process is critical so that you don’t have to go through 10 people every time you want to publish. For example, you can use a “stoplight” approach to ensure execs are comfortable with fewer reviews. Essentially, we define “green” (safe), “yellow” (borderline), and “red” (danger) content topics and have editing protocols for each. The writer and editor are in charge of flagging any yellow or red content for further review by legal and PR.

Content marketers tend to be entrepreneurial thinkers and restless achievers, and it can feel frustrating when you feel slowed down by an internal system. But don’t give up yet — implementing the above steps will help you accomplish more and make your content program stronger. R

Keep going — we believe in you! And if you ever want to connect to vent or compare notes, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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