I’ve been hearing this question from digital marketing leaders and executives more often lately: How do I get my content teams to tell better stories?
Of course, “better” is highly subjective. What it often comes down to is how do we make them:
- Highly relevant
I’m really glad more and more executives are realizing the importance of developing these skillsets in their teams.
In reality though, what I have found is that it’s not just about getting teams to tell better stories. A lot of times the teams already want to create good content. I personally don’t know any content creator that sets out to create less than useful content. Nobody does that. And certainly there are different levels of content marketing skillset – so don’t forget about the talent management piece.
So why aren’t we sharing the best stories, anyway?
Assuming the right people are in the right seats on a team, typical reasons for not sharing the best stories often come back one of more of the following:
- Political barriers inside the organization
- No buy-in from the people with the stories
- Expectations aren’t clear
- Technology that wastes people’s time and brainpower
It sounds so simple, and it is, once you’ve identified the issues and made up your mind to correct them. With that said, here’s my step-by-step guide to help leaders empower their teams to tell better stories.
Step 1: Set a clear strategy
Again, this sounds so simple in theory. We come up with a strategy, write it up and get the right people to approve it. The job is done and we safely store the documented strategy in a Word document, saved 12 folders deep on some lettered drive. Ugh. That usually doesn’t work on a day-to-day approach.
I’ve used Word documents, too, for strategy before, but I always made sure to have a printed copy so teams can remember the goals. Often, we would bring printed copies to meetings and then scribble updates on them. That’s not perfect but better than creating and forgetting about it.
Of course, a one-stop platform is best. The easiest way to track progress towards strategic goals is to put the goals in the same place as where your team is creating content.
Step 2: Get buy-in from the right people
In most mid to large sized companies, the content creators hardly ever tell their own stories.
For example, I’m writing this post myself, but I can because it is based on my own experiences (aka stories). This is often not the case in most corporate storytelling. The person with the stories is usually not the one writing them. That’s why it’s so important to get buy-in from the leaders and front-line staff – those who craft the stories and can then help the content creation team share them.
Sometimes I’ve run into front-line staff who have told me they don’t worry about the organizational storytelling because the digital or marketing team take care of that. That’s, of course, true to an extent, but those teams also need help from the front-line employees.
Step 3: Set expectations with stakeholders
- Leaders – here’s who approves things and how this will help you achieve your business goals
- Front-line staff – here’s how this will help you, the business and here’s how we’ll make this easy for you
- Content creators – here’s the content we want to create: Content that is helpful to us as a business but the top goal is to share unique and useful content for our audiences. (I call that the Zone of Mutual Relevance)
Step 4: Align workflows and skills
I would usually recommend a workflow like this:
- Stories are documented as something worth sharing.
- Planning – share ideas and stories and prioritize but don’t over-vet them!
- Production (audio recording, writing, etc.)
- Nimble and short approval processes
- Solid and regular publishing on a schedule
- Sophisticated distribution process and plan
Step 5: Use only technology that actually helps
Technology is a wonderful thing. I love it. I hate it. I love it. In reality, technology can make content creators’ lives a lot easier. When it works, it’s beautiful. We don’t have to think about it too much. In other words, it doesn’t waste our brain power but empowers us to use our brain power to create better content.
–> Still use Word Documents for your content creation? Book 30 minutes with me here to discuss better options!
The brain power strategy really does work! Remember Steve Jobs, the brilliant Apple exec? He wore the same clothes daily so he didn’t have to think about what to wear. Instead, he thought about creating the iPhone and other useful technology.
The same works here for content creators. The more time we allocate for them to create and then distribute that useful and unique content the better it’ll be. We only have so much brain power to go around after all.
Don’t be afraid of stories
Sometimes we overthink and over-vet stories! Is this really the story we want to tell? Is there just one person somewhere who might not like this story for some kind of reason? The answer is: “Probably. Somebody somewhere will not be your fan!”
When content marketing is done, it won’t please everyone. When some people don’t like you, that means you are reaching people. What’s more important to you is that a larger amount of people within your target audience like and love you!
Content marketing leaders can help their teams tell better stories by creating efficient systems, not letting teams get bogged down in office politics or with bad technology, and giving them the time to create and distribute the unique and useful stories that will help your business stand out.
Thoughts? Comments? Are you facing an issue not addressed here? Drop me an email here.
Christoph is ScribbleLive’s Vice President of Content Marketing Strategy.
He helps businesses and organizations in the Americas develop and implement strategic content marketing plans and practices by combining efficient workflows, content marketers’ skills and useful technologies.