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Global Content Strategy: It’s Gonna Be Big!

 

For the past few months, I’ve been interviewing content marketing executives at global enterprises about the challenges and opportunities they face when trying to scale up single-country or regional content marketing efforts to take them worldwide. (I’ve also been helping some brands build the strategies to make this happen.)

Here’s an advance look at some of my research findings. The full report publishes soon.

Five top global content strategy goals

When I asked global content strategy leaders what their top goals and responsibilities are, five clear themes emerged.

1. Creating a global content strategy While about half the organizations I interviewed said they have a global content strategy, the rest admit they don’t yet have that aspect of content marketing formalized. Some have domestic strategies or have worked out strategy on a country-by-country basis, but tying it all together is complex — from strategic and logistical standpoints, as well as from the perspective of convincing diverse stakeholders, groups and regions to get on the same page. If 70 percent of organizations in the US don’t yet have a documented content strategy domestically (according to numerous research studies, including my own), looping in over 93 nations is geometrically more complicated.

2. Evangelizing and socializing content strategy (and content, period) As one executive I interviewed put it, “A content strategy is just a piece of paper. The really difficult part is implementation.” “Evangelism” is a term I heard over and over. Convincing senior management to allocate budget. Determining who spearheads initiatives. Making certain numerous voices are heard, but that overarching rules and guidelines are enforced. Developing training programs, perhaps establishing a Center of Excellence. Small wonder that when asked what their principal duties as global content leaders are, “change management” was the most-cited term.

3. People Content can’t happen without people, one of the three lynchpins of enabling a strategy (the other two, process and technology, follow). A global content strategy requires buy-in from senior leadership. It also requires content leaders, often in central command roles, as well as regional leaders who can help oversee efforts on the ground in, say, Europe, Asia or Latin America. People in lines of business other than marketing have to be involved in content initiatives, too. IT is one obvious area; so, too, is legal. But the really good content leaders know looping in divisions where stories and customer-facing issues lie is also critical. This means establishing relationships with customer service, product groups and internal thought leaders, not to mention sales divisions and often even HR and recruiting. Content strategy relies on strong relationships, consensus building and the ability to tap into diverse skill sets.

4. Process The components that enable and streamline a global content strategy are, by definition, more complex than what keeps a single-country content strategy chugging along. As a content leader in Scandinavia puts it, “Process and governance are where it gets complicated and expensive. But leave these out and quality is the first casualty.” Overwhelmingly, I’m finding process is driven top-down. Most organizations have a central, overarching content strategy or, failing a formal strategy, governance on levels such as brand and/or legal. But at the same time, process must also be driven bottom up, with countries and regions given enough leeway to develop their own initiatives, and also granted sufficient resources to allow that to happen. Establishing process also means developing training. Nearly every organization I interviewed has initiated formal training, ranging from mandatory courses in topics such as Digital 101 to highly specialized modules on discrete disciplines. Finally, process encompasses metrics and KPIs, broken out for global, as well as regional and local initiatives.

5. Technology Clearly, no digital marketing initiative occurs without technology, global content marketing being no exception. Technology’s role is to enable, centralize, streamline and optimize. The number one need I heard in my interviews (as well as from companies I’ve worked with in this capacity) is centralized assets — a digital asset repository where creative elements can be easily stored, accessed and retrieved. Not only does this require the usual tool assessments, but also carefully designed taxonomies and tagging that will work across languages and cultures. Shared assets are just part of the call from collaboration tools. Unilever has saved millions of dollars worldwide by enabling shared assets and collaboration, so multiple agencies and internal stakeholders can drink from the same well, so to speak. Knowledge sharing is another important role of technology, as well as the ability to share work and results. Nestlé has built out an extensive internal social network for content creators for exactly that reason. Finally, while it’s important to assess tools for global accessibility and fluency in multiple languages and alphabets, it’s essential to understand there will be exceptions in regions like China, where firewalls create a need for separate systems.

Final thoughts

As I finalize this research, I look forward to sharing more findings.

In the meantime, if you’re conducting content marketing on a global scale, please share your successes and challenges with me.

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Eight Best Practices for Contextual Campaigns

Content moving beyond screens into the “phygital” world of beacons, sensors and the Internet of Things has been a focus of my most recent research.

Together we’ve looked at some of the benefits brands such as Nestlé, GE, Marantz, and Disney are reaping from campaigns that go well beyond “the right message to the right person at the right time.” They’re adding additional contextual elements such as purchase history, weather conditions, location and demonstrated consumer interests to create messaging and campaigns that are personalized to a degree never before possible.

Yet doing so is an immense challenge to the enterprise. Context requires getting plenty of ducks in a row (even ducks in departments other than marketing).

I asked major brands already active in the field for their best-practice recommendations for gettingcontextual marketing off the ground. Here, in aggregate, are their recommendations.

Assemble the right teams

For pilot projects, initiatives often start with just one line of business (e.g., email, customer service, social or mobile), then spread more broadly through the organization.

Education, knowledge-sharing, agility and empowerment are essential to spark thought and experimentation.

Content strategy

As with every other form of marketing, content is foundational to context. For contextual campaigns, content strategies must be significantly expanded to address different contextual elements. This must encompass not only goals and KPIs, which can be myriad, but also the many additional situations, conditions, offers, customer profiles conditions, locations, device interfaces and other specifics that go into communication and messaging.

Content strategy must also be linked to product strategy for many contextual initiatives, and it must address design and user experience to a higher degree than in other marketing scenarios.

Anticipate and script responses

The real-time nature of contextual campaigns requires outbound and inbound scenario mapping, then scripting content to address numerous potential situations and reactions, both to offers and the campaigns themselves.

Here’s an example of a social media triage process:

triage

When D+M (Marantz’s parent company) is called out for being slightly creepy with proactive customer service push messaging in response to consumer behaviors with their devices, the scripted response is, “You would expect this level of support from BMW. Why not from us?,” which the company has found to be a successful way to allay customers’ feelings of surveillance. This applies equally to potential consumer cross-domain sensitivities.

Real-time ability

Real-time and context go hand-in-hand. Location data, for example, cannot suggest a customer visit a venue when it’s closed at 11 p.m. Iced tea is an inappropriate offer for a snow day. My earlier research outlines 12 steps to prepare for real-time readiness.

Many brands already have what I’ve referred to before as “always-on war rooms” in which well-trained analytics and social media teams continually monitor digital sentiment and react and optimize their messaging in real time. The sentient world will rapidly become part of this intense, pressurized marketing function.

Permission and opt-in

Even more than with email and social channels, contextual communications cannot be pushed on unwilling or unreceptive consumers. In addition to offering value to make messaging welcome, permission is a critical component of the brand/consumer dialogue, as is an opt-out mechanism, especially for brands leveraging data across domains (e.g. in-home, in-car, in-store and so on).

The four components of permission communications every brand must consider include:

  • education
  • brand accountability
  • consent and agency
  • value/WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)

Ecosystem of internal & external partners

Consider new partnerships, both internally and externally. Contextual campaigns touch areas beyond marketing, and the data inputs and outputs can be of value for a broad variety of stakeholders.

This value can and should be used as a justification for spend, not just from marketing budgets but also from budgets of other lines of business.

Technology vendors

Understand what tech vendors bring to the table, as well as their limitations. A large player can act as a backstop but might limit experimentation.

A small, nimble startup might be better for a pilot than a national implementation. Determine who will be responsible for the chain of technology — for example, a chain of 1,000 retail locations, each with 10 beacons.

Continuous education and training

In a quickly evolving sector, it’s essential to keep abreast of tools, technologies, use cases, data and best practices.

This post originally published on MarketingLand.

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Contribution to a New Book: The New Advertising

The New Advertising: Branding, Content, and Consumer Relationships in the Data-Driven Social Media Era

Together with many peers I admire and respect enormously, such as my frequent partner-in-research Jessica Groopman and Publicis Chief strategist Rishad Tobaccowalla, I've contributed to a new book out just this week. 

The New Advertising: Branding, Content, and Consumer Relationships in the Data-Driven Social Media Era published this week from Praeger. It's a hefty two volumes, the second of which includes a chapter I contributed based on my research on real-time marketing.

 

 

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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