content strategy

Rebecca Lieb's picture

When Content Goes Rogue

Is your content going rogue?

Do you know all the sites and social media accounts controlled by your brand or company? Who can access and update them? Who knows the passwords? How frequently is the content on each property being updated, and how do those updates conform to larger communications and brand strategies?

Or has this whole content thing mushroomed out of control, quite possibly behind your back?

A current project was supposed to have been delivered last week. It’s late (I hate late!) but it can’t be helped. Scope creep doesn’t begin to describe the situation when you thought you’d be auditing a small handful of web sites and social media properties, only to find one more. And one more.  Hang on, here’s another. The tally is up to 25 web sites, a plethora of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and one YouTube channel (the only number the client was right about). All for one non-profit organization.

Think this is unusual? Think again. In research conducted last year, my colleague Jeremiah Owyang found the average enterprise  class corporation (those with 1,000 or more employees) have an average 178 social media accounts (he didn’t look at web sites or microsite for the study).

Heck, it’s so easy to open accounts nowadays, anyone can do it. And do it they certainly do. Frequently, it’s with the best of intentions, not to mention a high degree of frustration with existing policies and procedures (“we launched it on WordPress so we wouldn’t have to wait in the IT queue for 18 months” was a refrain we heard multiple times when interviewing companies about how they organize for content marketing.

We heard this so frequently, in fact, we dubbed the trend “going rogue.” While anyone who’s ever been stuck in that IT queue can sympathize, going rogue does come with major downsides.

Inconsistency We’re all for creative license to a degree, but carefully crafted voice, tone, brand and other content governance guidelines tend to go out the window when content channels spill into unknown and unsupervised terrain. Inconsistency may, in fact, be a best-case scenario. Rogue content channels can easily result in full-on sanitation or crisis control initiatives if left unchecked.

Tactics Over Strategy Let’s launch a Facebook page! Why don’t we try using Pinterest? Enthusiasm for the latest and greatest social media channel, tempered with a healthy dose of bright shiny object syndrome leads to abrupt launches with not strategic foundation from a marketing perspective, no associated business goals, no measurement plan, editorial calendar. In short, nothing whatsoever that make a very pubic launch something that should be, at best, a sandbox experiment. New shouldn’t happen unless there’s a sound reason for it.

Digital Detritus A common result of shoot-from-the-hip tactics over strategy launch is digital detritus, the auto graveyard of the information superhighway. The Twitter account that’s been tweet-less for two years now. The site promoting the event that happens last July. The photo account with three shots on it. The Facebook page that was frequently updated the week it launched, then abandoned. Digital detritus makes organizations appear unplanned, unfocused, undedicated and uncaring. They should never, ever be your public face.

Lost Keys Julie from marketing quit last month, and now no one can get into that account she maintained. Worse, it’s prominently displaying content that’s outdated/inappropriate/inaccurate and no one can get in to fix it.

Please read the rest of this post on Marketing Land, where it originally published.

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Why Repetition is Integral to Content Strategy

One of content marketing’s biggest challenges is coming up with new material.

One of content marketing’s other biggest challenges is overcoming something you’ve been told not to do since you were small: repeating yourself.

By “repeating” I’m not referring to verbatim repetition.  You don’t want duplicate content issues on blogs or web pages (and the subsequent SEO penalties). You don’t want to tweet the same tweet, or post the same update multiple times to a Facebook news feed.

But a degree of repetition can be invaluable, sometimes imperative, to successful content marketing initiatives for four primary reasons.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

Image Credit: Skulls in the Stars

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Where Does The Content Budget Come From?

Unless you work for a very unusual, or highly progressive, organization, it’s unlikely there’s a formal content division within the enterprise. The much-ballyhooed but rarely seen in the wild Chief Content Officer really doesn’t exist. Or when the odd one is spotted, the species is too rare and dispersed to reproduce, at least for now.

That’s why the recent research report I published, Organizing for Content, proposes six real world organizational structures for companies grappling with the need to feed the beast from an operational perspective. These models are deliberately presented in a non-hierarchical fashion. The point is to push companies into doing something constructive and collaborative to promote content collaboration, production, workflow, and strategy.

These organizational models matter for another very important reason: they can help create, or at least to flow, budget into content operations and initiatives.

The “Free” Fallacy

Content marketing operated under an enormous fallacy just a few short years ago. Marketers dove into content initiatives head first because they’re…. free! Blogs? Free. Facebook? Free! Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, all free, free, free.

For a delirious moment or two, content marketing seemed to be the marketing equivalent of an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet: perhaps a bit lacking in the quality department, but abundant and bountiful in every other respect.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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Why Brands Must Orchestrate for Content

Why is content orchestration needed across the organization — all departments included, no exceptions? Here’s a recent example of a near-missed opportunity.

The client recently launched a content marketing initiative, one that’s rich in blog entries and videos around health and wellness. Six months into the program, which is governed by the social media marketing department, the metrics all look good: repeat visits, brand favorability, page views — so much so that the program will be expanded with a site redesign and new features.

One planned new feature is giving readers the ability to subscribe to email updates. The social team did some digging and learned the company is already working with a major email service provider, so the machinery is in place to add that ability.

This is where it bears mentioning that this particular organization is in a highly regulated industry. Marketing activities can only be conducted in certain states. Moreover, different brands of the parent enterprise come into play on a state-by-state basis. To say marketing for this organization is highly segmented is an understatement.

Clearly, because what’s at play here is content marketing, the sell is soft. In fact, it’s non-existent in terms of this particular content initiative. Yet it’s possible that could change, or that the company might elect to add a link, a call-to-action, or a promotional “brought to you by” message in the footer of the subscription emails.

All that’s possible, and more. Subscribers could be asked to indicate in which state they reside when signing up for the emails. Email append could be used on the list to segment subscribers on a state-by-state basis in order to insert the relevant brand name into the messages.

All these ideas are as possible as they are (for now) theoretical. Yet none were entertained by the social media department running the campaign. This would very likely be to the chagrin of the email division, or the direct marketing group, had they known of the plans afoot (which, of course, they do not).

This is only one recent, real-life example of why organizations must organize for content. Without cross-functional communication, coordination, expertise, and goal-sharing, companies are doomed to be mired in inefficiencies, missed opportunities, reduplicated efforts, and just plain not sharing the very high levels of expertise inherent in the broad array of digital practice areas.

How to organize is, of course, the question. Few enterprises have a formal content division or an executive expressly charged with overseeing content initiatives. Recently, research I conducted included asking 78 companies how they’re tackling the content issue. Only nine of them have, to date, made express content-related hires (i.e., people with titles containing “content” or “editor”).

Unsurprisingly, this leads to ad hoc content and content responsibilities that tend to be based more on factors like hand-raising than expertise or strategy. Case in point, here’s how one major brand has allocated content responsibilities:

Yes, models have emerged to address the need to synchronize, manage, coordinate, and optimize content strategy, creation, production, and distribution. Not all of these frameworks necessitate increasing headcount, a solution that at the majority of organizations is quickly filed under “easier said than done.”

Read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

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New Research: Organize for Content

More than a handful of brands publish more content now than a major media property such as Time Magazine did 25 years ago.

Despite the overwhelming and ever-increasing trend toward content marketing, and the need to continually feed an ever-increasing portfolio of content channels and formats, most organizations haven’t yet addressed content on either a strategic or tactical level.

It’s high time they did, and hopefully my new research report, Organizing for Content, will help. It provides both frameworks for coping with enterprise content marketing demands and a checklist of recommendations for organizational readiness.

Consider: The average organization is responsible for the continual content demands of an average 178 social media properties, to say nothing of a myriad of other owned media properties, from websites and blogs to live events.

Those few large enterprises not yet active in social media can easily serve five million email subscribers, as well as multiple millions of monthly unique visitors per month to their sites.

Yet the overwhelming majority of organizations don’t have content divisions in their org charts. Only nine of the brands we interviewed for this report (out of 78 stakeholders, also including content service providers and domain experts) have made explicit content hires, i.e. people with titles such as “editor” or those that contain the word “content.”

Who, or what, governs content internally? Responsibilities and oversight tend to be reactive, highly fragmented and distressingly ad hoc, as illustrated below. This highly typical diagram portrays how one major retail brand divides content responsibilities between divisions that are not necessarily interconnected or in regular communication with one another. This fragmented approach leads to inconsistent messaging, huge variations in voice, tone, and brand, and an uneven customer experience. Channel divisions themselves tend to be ad hoc, assigned more on the basis of hand-raising than any overarching strategic mandate.
Where Does Content Live Inside the Enterprise?
 It’s high time that organizations got organized for content. It’s only going to become more demanding – and harder – in the future.

Native advertising, advertorial, paid influencer, and sponsored content are just a few examples of the paid/owned media hybrids brands are exploring. Content must also be created for an ever-expanding spectrum of media, screens, and devices, ranging from smartphones and tablets to emerging platforms, such as augmented reality, Google Glass, and quite possibly devices like smart watches.

These new channels and platforms, coupled with a trend that de-emphasizes the written word in favor of visual and audio-visual content,  create new skill demands. “Hire a journalist,” a tactic many organizations adopted with the rise of blogging, now is in no way sufficient to address more technical requirements involving deeper knowledge of technology, production, design, and user experience. Requiring overtaxed and untrained staff to “do content” in their spare time is obviously hardly a solution.

Our research identifies six organizational models companies are using to address complex, cross-departmental content needs, and also contains a recommendations checklist for content preparedness. Please download the report (at no cost, we just ask that you share it if you like it), and let me know your reactions in the comments.

I’ll also deliver my findings in a webinar on Wed., May 29 at 1:00 EST. Please register and join us! 

Read and/or download the report below:
[slideshare id=19795236&doc=orgcontentv4-130423141546-phpapp01&type=d]

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Conducting Content: From Dissonance to Harmony

With today’s pressing content demands, every organization with a website, blog and marketing communication documents needs a content marketing strategy. Below are a few questions to consider when developing your own strategy.

  • Do you know everyone in your organization who creates and/or publishes content?
  • Where are your organization’s creative assets stored and managed? (“My Inbox” and/or “My Desktop” are not correct answers.)
  • Do you have an editorial calendar?
  • Do you have content specific metrics?
  • Do you have a channel strategy?

You’ve heard it a million times by now: every brand is a publisher. But no one said it’s easy to be a publisher. Publishing comes with a real need to “feed the beast.” And, that beast is hungry on pretty much a daily basis. Some brands, such as Red Bull, tweet up to 200 times per day.

Content demands have become near-constant and must increasingly be executed in real-time or near-real-time.

Yet, on the organizational level, content tends to be created and managed in silos. The social team does this, marcomm does that, and PR has its own concerns; meanwhile, community, customer support, creative and advertising teams are each on separate missions. The inevitable result is duplication of efforts, wasted resources, and inconsistent messaging.

At the same time, an ever-increasing number of channels and platforms demand both new skills and increase the need for cross-functional coordination and orchestration.

As an analyst, I’m about a week from publishing new research on how brands are organizing internally to meet the demands of content marketing, the result of dozens of interviews with senior marketing and content executives. My report publishes this month. Below is an advance look at the enterprise models we’ve identified for orchestrating content within organizations to ensure that it’s created in harmony with strategic goals, as well as properly resourced across departments and divisions.

More detailed descriptions of the various groups in the model are provided on MarketingLand, where this originally published.

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Six Emerging Content Marketing Trends

Three related, clustered events constitute a trend. So, what have we here?

  • February 25: Mindshare appoints a content chief
  • February 27: Edelman names (a new, digital-focused) chief content officer
  • February 27: Facebook announces a content strategy fellowship
  • March 25: Sequoia Capital appoints a head of content
  • March 26: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt names its first chief content officer
  • March 27: Weber Shandwick launches a content marketing unit with 100 staffers
  • April 1: Havas signs a global chief content officer

Chief content officers have been de rigeur in media companies for years. Editorial web sites, magazines, newspapers, and broadcasters have them. Even Netflix boasts a chief content officer.

What’s staggering now is the alacrity with which agencies are now piling into the white-hot content marketing space. Not all of this is new, of course. Content divisions and/or practices have existed for some time at major players such as Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, and OMD. Digital shops, too, have content heads, as do (of course) the small cohort of content-only agencies.

The appointments above reveal these interesting takeaways:

Agencies that don’t have content practices are scrambling to get into the game

From the appointment of an executive with “content” in his/her title to blowing out an entire new division, both ad and PR agencies realize content can no longer be ignored. Clients expect content-related services and advisory. While mileage on the revenue models varies radically, there’s also heated competition on the PR and ad sides for a piece of the content pie. “We’re in a dogfight with the ad agencies,” is how one PR executive put it to me in a private meeting.

Content’s meaning is increasingly (if not almost exclusively) digital

It’s not as if Edelman didn’t have a content officer before appointing Steve Rubel to the role. His predecessor, Richard Sambrook, a former BBC editor, focused on editorial development. Rubel’s purview will be much broader, focusing on relationships both with digital media properties and technology vendors.

PR shops are in the media buying business

Historically, PR firms never, ever bought media. They earned it. In announcing their new content initiatives, both Weber Shandwick and Edelman have stressed that media buying and other forms of brokering will be very much part of what they do going forward. Media convergence and native advertising models make this evolution imperative.

Content is essential for startups

When one of the leading venture capital firms appoints a content head to help its portfolio companies develop and improve their blogs, social media, and video, it underscores just how essential a well-executed content strategy is to success — or failure — in business.

Hire-a-journalist: Will it suffice?

For the past several years, “hire a reporter” has been the mantra of companies eager to get a leg up in blogging or on social media channels. Now that content strategies are more technologically complex and digitally convoluted (converged media, native advertising, video, mobile) than “just writing,” it will be interesting to see what skillsets the next crop of content hires possess.

“Global” appended to content titles

This trend will become increasingly important with holding companies and larger agencies. Brands, too, are beginning to make content hires and shuffle the org chart to accommodate content strategy and execution. One of the biggest content challenges is the one facing large, multinational enterprises that must create content for a wide range of countries, languages, territories, audiences, and products. If any single cohort relies on outside content support, it’s multinationals. Holding companies possess on-the-ground global support and know that coordinated efforts can be a boon to this important new line of business.

This post originally published on iMedia Connection

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Organizing For Content

How should organizations organize for content? Are brands really publishers? Very few have hired people with “content” or “editor” in their titles. Fewer still (read: almost none) have content departments or divisions within the marketing or other organizations.

Yet, more and more companies are producing content like crazy. Also, multiple websites. Large corporations have tens of millions of visitors to their dot-coms each month, perhaps five to 10 million email subscribers. Then, there are blogs, YouTube channels and multiple social media channels on social networks.

Like journalists, brands are challenged to “feed the beast,” often on a daily basis, sometimes in real time. All this content isn’t just written word. It’s images, videos, charts, infographics… Put all of this together and the process, workload, and workflow demands become truly staggering.

Yet, most companies have adopted content strategies that amount to little more than asking employees already juggling the demands of full-time jobs to please produce content, too, in addition to their day-to-day duties. Not only does this approach not scale, but these employees aren’t trained in either content marketing or content strategy.

Something’s got to give, and I’m currently conducting research to try to learn how companies are making room for the demands content is placing on marketing, communications, IT, customer service and CRM.

We’re analyzing our finding now and will publish our report in April. In the meantime, the questions we asked dozens of interview subjects may perhaps help organizations to assess their own content needs as they relate to workflow, process, technology and partnerships.

If you’re producing content, start asking yourself these questions. And, please let me know if we left anything important out you’d like to see included in future research.


• What’s your role? Where do you sit in your company’s org chart? 

• Do you have a dedicated content department or division? (Since when? What spawned it? How were buy-in and budget secured? )

• If you don’t have one, do you need one? If yes, how will this move forward?

• Which team determines the main messages or story line for products and initiatives? Is it a function of product marketing, corporate marketing, and/or do you collaborate across departments?

• Where does/should content sit in your company’s marketing org chart?

• Do you have a dedicated content staff? How many? Titles? Level of seniority?

• What content are you/your group responsible for creating?

• What target audience(s) or product group(s) does your team’s content serve?


Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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If You Build It, They Will Come (Maybe)

If you build it, they will come. Maybe. If they don’t, you’d better figure out the distribution part of content strategy.

Digital content marketing is undergoing a new wave of evolution. Initially, marketers felt all they had to do was build: a blog, a website, whatever. Throw in a little SEO and getting it “out there” was a done deal, more or less.

Social media only sweetened the deal. The ability to share and discover content on social networks far exceeds clunky, old fashioned mechanisms such as email and blog rings. (Anyone still remember blog rings?) Distribution of owned content got better and traveled farther. It was good.

Social distribution is rapidly becoming the next old(er) thing, while at the same time owned marketing content is proliferating exponentially. The distribution question has suddenly become a very real one for organizations investing in content creation.

The most innovative publishers are sitting up, taking notice, and helping content marketers come up with solutions to get brand content “out there.” Of course, they’ve long done this in print channels with advertorial and sponsored sections. Digital adds some new twists and opportunities for marketers and publishers alike.

Take the Huffington Post, for example. The publication recently announced a partnership with Goldman Sachs to launch a new (and upbeat) section on economic opportunity, “What Is Working.” Arianna’s been talking up the model over the past couple of weeks, but aside from that and a bylined column announcing the joint venture, there’s no disclosure — or even mention — of the sponsorship on the section. The initiative is based on Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women program. This corporate good-works initiative has itself generated a ton of content, all of it hosted on the firm’s own dot-com.

Another digital native publication, Mashable, has begun preaching the content marketing gospel. Founder and CEO Pete Cashmore waxes evangelical on the topic, and his points are valid ones. Content in the news stream is seen (right, Facebook?). Content is shared, while ads aren’t. It’s searchable. Content can be distributed as media. And if advertorial content isn’t visible enough on its own, it can be amplified with ads.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.

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Content: Six Reasons For Tool Disconnect

Do you have what you need to “do” content?

If you don’t, you’re hardly alone. We’re in the throes of conducting interviews with dozens of marketers at (mostly) Fortune 500 enterprises about how they are organizing, budgeting and resourcing for content marketing.

Ironically, while technology has democratized the creation, production and dissemination of content in digital channels, few (if any) of these senior marketers feel they’re properly equipped with the most fundamental tools of the trade: content management systems (CMS) and digital asset management (DAM).

Used with permission from Alvin Chua under a Creative Commons license.

The reasons for this, of course, are as varied as the subject, companies and industry verticals we’re speaking with.

Yet, some patterns are already beginning to emerge. It’s a given that the overarching gap is budget, of course.

The idea that content marketing is “free” is, if not taken literally, at least figuratively pervasive.

Still, other obstacles stand in the way of content strategists and marketers gaining access to the fundamental tools they need. Herewith, some of the barriers we’re seeing:

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand

Image credit: Used with permission from Alvin Chua under a Creative Commons license.

Rebecca Lieb

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


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