At Bambu, we help our customers overcome two main challenges in their employee advocacy programs:
- Adoption: How do you make the employee advocacy program something employees will actively want to participate in?
- Content: While relatable to adoption, what stories, events, articles, insights and other pieces of information will connect with employees enough for them to want to keep coming back for more?
The two challenges are related, but consider it from your own perspective. Once you’ve found a reliable source of great content that provides personal value, you make a habit of tuning in on a regular basis, right?
You tell your friends. You follow the people who publish it. And ultimately you want to advocate for that content because it’s awesome.
In the context of your employee advocacy program, this kind of relevant and valuable content experience is what sustains adoption and creates highly engaged employees.
What Makes Content Relevant?
Content is relevant if it has some measure of value to the reader. For employee advocacy programs, this is where it gets tricky. Value for the employee (a reader) may differ from value to their social networks (also a reader).
In the beginning, active employee advocates may not place as much emphasis on personal value from the content they share as their audiences might. However, over time the employee is going to question why they continue to spend time on an activity that doesn’t give them any personal return.
This is a problem that content can still solve.
How Can Companies Create Content That Has Value to Its Employees?
Let’s answer this question with another: what if your employees had a hand in creating the very same content that shaped your company’s employee advocacy strategy?
- Is it safe to say your employees would feel more engaged with the advocacy program?
- Do you think they’d be more enthusiastic about the content they’re sharing with their social networks?
- Is it fair to assume their social networks would pick up on this enthusiasm and find even more value in the content you’re creating?
Since the answer to all three of these questions is yes, we’re now left with the need to create a culture of content. While this all sounds great on paper, someone has to do the work, right?
Bambu brought in reinforcements to help us figure it all out.
Introducing Ann Handley
Ann Handley is a veteran of creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals. Ann is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (September 2014, Wiley). Ann is also the co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (2011, Wiley). She is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs; a LinkedIn Influencer; a keynote speaker, mom and writer.
We had the good fortune of getting Ann to share some thoughts about this topic with our audience. Specifically, how marketers can build a culture of content that engages employees across the organization and why that’s important.
Ann, your blog post about content marketing’s role in 2017 says that it’s more than just ToFu (top-of-funnel). What other types of content should companies be thinking about today?
I’m one of those weird people who really likes tofu. (Stir-fried tofu in peanut sauce with a sprinkle of herbs. Maybe cilantro. Yum.) But too many of us content marketers tend to think of only tofu (or ToFu, in marketing-speak for Top-of-Funnel).
If we eat only tofu, we’re missing out on a lot that life has to offer. And the same is true if we use content only for top of funnel, we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. Content is a long game. It’s not just about generating leads. Instead, it’s about creating a shared mindset–both internally and externally.
The smartest companies use content throughout the business. And I believe there’s especially an opportunity to tap employees in two specific content areas: recruitment and customer retention.
GE’s “What’s the matter with Owen?” recruitment efforts are a good example of the former. The videos celebrate the key role developers play at a “new” GE with humorous storytelling.
These new types of content could create some overwhelm for the content team. How would you enlist help from around the org?
Yes–that’s a great point. The most successful content programs I’ve seen are shepherded by Marketing. But the content is not inspired by nor created by marketers alone.
The job of the marketer is to unlock employee expertise or customer insights and bring them into the light. That means:
- Encouraging and empowering staff to look for those stories. Help them develop an editorial sensibility and encourage them to always be on the lookout for content inspiration; and
- Finding a way to operationalize that content feedback loop and process.
I just tried to think of another word to use other than “operationalize” in that last sentence because it sounds so robotic and un-human and decidedly un-fun. But the spirit of the idea is to find a shared platform or tool that allows you to gather and share content ideas across the organization.
Similarly, how can companies empower their employees to want to get involved in both creation and distribution?
I like that you used the word “empower” there because I don’t think external incentives or bribes really work long-term. What does work is ongoing communication about content’s results of the organization (creating that shared mindset internally).
It helps if you have a champion in the C suite who believes and supports the culture of content across the organization.
And it helps if you hire people who share the mindset, that enthusiasm for stories and sharing, whether it’s part of their official job description or not. Treat them as internal influencers who can help you strengthen your own content program.
How would companies in traditionally “boring” industries create content their employees would want to share?
“Your honor: At this point, I’d like to call to the stand GE’s recruitment video as an expert witness.” (See my answer to question 1.)
“Boring” isn’t an excuse. There is no such thing as a boring business. There are only uninspired marketers.
Silos might need to be broken down for all your amazing advice to work. Any tips for our readers on how to start the process? (baby steps, quick wins, trust falls, games, executive sponsorship, etc.)
I love the idea of a Content Marketing Trust Fall (CMTF?), especially between Sales and Marketing. Suddenly I want to set one up for the B2B Marketing Forum this October! You in?
Look, I know this isn’t easy. So, yes–absolutely take it one step at a time.
Identify the subject-matter expert who is willing to get out of his or her comfort zone and help them be great on camera.
Uncover and empower your most colorful social (media) butterflies and get them excited about what marketing is doing. Solicit their advice. Treat them as internal influencers.
Finally, approach your content and marketing with a sense of humility. You might own the Marketing function, but you need to create a shared mindset internally. Ask colleagues for their opinions. Find out what they think. Incorporate their best ideas, and let them know when you do.
In my experience, maintaining a sense of humility goes a long way toward building internal momentum and buy-in.
Stephan Hovnanian is a content solutions architect at Bambu, an advocacy platform by Sprout Social. He has spent most of his professional career as an email marketer and business owner focused on helping companies build stronger relationships with their audiences.Find Stephan Hovnanian on Twitter @stephanhov.
Creating a Culture of Content: Q&A With Ann Handley
Written by Stephan Hovnanian on February 12, 2017