I read with interest John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing blog Why Content Creation Is Everyone’s Job. The post raises good ideas with, in my opinion, the wrong conclusion. It’s a short post, I suggest you read it. I’d like to offer a different perspective and approach.
This is a teachable moment. The lesson involves the difference between thinking like a marketer, and thinking like a publisher. It illustrates a new reality all organizations face, but is especially important for enterprise marketers.
The new reality is: the traditional, project oriented, creative craftsman approach to content, cannot meet new, digital content and marketing requirements.
The problem and premise is pretty well stated in the blog:
“The need for content has moved beyond a traditional marketing department’s ability to create because the content an organization must produce today represents the voice of an organizations strategic point of view.”
But the conclusion in the very next sentence may not be the best way to address the problem:
“In other words, content creation must be part of everyone’s job.”
Traditional vs Publishing Process
Marketers think in terms of creating — writing — content. Publishers think in terms of setting up and executing a process to continuously acquire inputs to a different kind of production process.
The problem with the traditional production approach manifests itself in enterprise organizations, especially for companies committed to relevant, useful, educational content, delivered in a “multi-channel” manner that requires many different formats, as a Scale/Cost problem.
For smaller companies, or departments within enterprise organizations, it manifest as a skills, hard work, motivation and distraction problem.
A publishing process separates key tasks, and assigns them to the best resources. This link will take you to a 12 minute explanation of the full process summarized in the graphic below.
Writing is best left to writers. Asking writers to also become domain experts is one area where the traditional process breaks down, just as does asking subject experts to be writers.
This will become more important when marketers — or whoever ends up managing the organization’s customer facing content operation — realize the organization has MANY use case requirements beyond the ever-expanding requirements marketers primarily focus on today.
This is an important point raised in the post:
“You can’t simply hire a marketing specialist and put them in charge of the blog. Marketing, sales, service, even HR, must take part in content creation if a firm is to tap the awesome power this idea brings.”
What’s a Marketer to Do?
If you don’t have “subject experts” in each functional area create content, what do you do?
The in-post recommendations are to “hold a content workshop,” “bring departments together to brainstorm,” create a common “content editorial calendar,” and “provide training and guidelines.”
What if marketers thought about owning and managing an operations process, more than “be in charge of the calendar”?
As a high level summary, every organization should follow this operational process:
1. Content Strategy — know Why — the purpose — for which content will be created and used, based upon the organization’s goals, go-to-customer strategy and plans.
2. Document Foundational Supports — Understanding of Audiences (buyers) and Conversation Support elements (at a minimum). This is a critical step whether you ask people to create content or you adopt a more leveraged publishing process generally described here.
You must supply any content creator with what are generally referred to as “personas”.
To make it easy for people to write content that is consistent with corporate brand, theme and language standards, conversation support inputs similar to those in this checklist should be provided.
These elements will become more robust as your content maturity grows, so it’s important to start documenting these elements as early as you can.
3. Plan using Functional Use Case Requirements — ask each functional group that requires content — think of them as your “content constituents” — to define and document their primary use case requirements (provide a guideline template to support them).
4. Separate Content Tasks — publishers separate the traditional content project into a content supply chain, by assigning different work elements to the best resources for each task.
5. Acquire Inputs — publishers continuously acquire inputs from subject experts through well defined, structured interviews. Functional subject experts should contribute their insights to the content process through well-designed, structured interviews, based upon the content strategy, foundational support, as well a content plan informed by a “mapped and gapped” content inventory.
6. Design and Create for Multiple … Purposes (constituents), Audiences, Issues, Buying Stages, Formats (Channels) and other requirements you might define.
To get the most out of your content, and your content investments, requires a different operational process.
Most people don’t want to, and lack the skills to be, creative content craftsman. For operational efficiency, quality content, and steadily improving return on content (ROI), you don’t want them to create content either.