Follow these three core principles to ensure your content campaigns get buy-in from key stakeholders.
79% of marketers report that their organisations are shifting to branded content, according to
Forrester. But getting buy-in for articles, blogs, PR, social marketing or other low-budget content activities proves easy in comparison to the major content marketing projects that really move the commercial needle. Marketers need to be asking their fellow directors – “Do we want to be spending money on noise, or on creating a voice, brand and knowledge platform that’s a cut above the rest?”
That being said, it’s often a difficult process. Internal matters of ego and politics, questions about ROI, and scrambles for resources and budget create serious obstacles. So the first step is being certain yourself of the value of content marketing – so that when you need the buy-in of fellow business leaders, your arguments are authentic and accessible.
The three core principles to pitch internally are content endurance, search over time, and trust and engagement. The first, content endurance, is about getting colleagues to understand
that in the slew of real-time news and shortened life-spans of everything in the digital world, it is high-quality analysis that endures because it delivers long-term value. A Kapost and Eloqua survey found that content marketing ROI was over three times the value of paid search – proof that spending money on what will endure and continue to deliver value over time is a better investment.
The second, search over time, builds on from the first. High quality content helps with organic search, ultimately increasing inbound leads and brand presence.
The third, trust and engagement, is where the quality factor plays the biggest part. Sixty-four per cent of consumers need to hear a message from a company three to five times before they believe the message (Edelman) and 82 per cent of prospects feel more positively about a company after reading custom content (CMI).
So, with the world of marketing moving rapidly toward being relationship-based, these statistics support the pitch for high-quality content marketing initiatives that create entry points for prospects to build trust and have repeated touch-points with your brand.
The stakeholder map
Managing the process of a large-scale content marketing initiative start to finish requires the project manager to be in the driver’s seat. Get the agency you’re using to meet with the major stakeholders so they feel involved, but outline the sign-off process from the start so that time isn’t wasted down the line with edits and amends.
Work backward by briefing other department heads such as Business Development, PR and Sales on how they will be able to use the project to reach their department’s goals and figures, so that they support the project and become early allies.
Ensure you’ve got buy-in from the CEO but that she or he understands the value of editorial independence and its impact on trust so you have a quality champion right at the top.
The gates of doom
Traditional marketing flaunted the attributes of a company’s product or services. The way to position yourselves as the best in the market was to tell everyone that you were. But with 71 per cent of prospects switching off when content is salesy, traditional marketing is falling flat on its face. Most marketers know that – but convincing a Head of Practice she shouldn’t be interviewed for the feature article on innovations or dealing with a CEO who thinks that the publication is “not about us enough” is a battle of big egos.
Editorial independence is the number one priority for any high-quality content initiative. It goes back to trust. Prospects will only trust, and therefore engage with, content that is credible. And as credible as your business leaders are, it’s more credible to put forward independent experts, because it shows that your brand is putting knowledge ahead of its sales agenda.
The best way to get past the Gates of Doom? Flip the argument on its head and ask the nay-sayers how they’d feel reading a publication from a company with that company’s C-suite quoted throughout every article. They’d dismiss it as marketing fluff, right? So would everyone else.
‘ROI’ today is too often synonymous with ‘lead generation’. Particularly amongst other departments, the assumption is that good marketing is marketing that just gets leads. But this reductive interpretation of ROI is dangerous because it has zero focus on quality.
A quality brand adds value to its target market and has a relationship beyond the transactional. So,‘ROI’ must be re-framed as a calculator of value, not a tally of leads. While it’s tempting to quantify with the advent of analytics and tracking, there are examples of marketing success that can’t be tracked but do drive results.
Lead-gen activity, while yielding ‘clicks’ or ‘visits’, aims too low in the marketing funnel to be sustainable. It targets people who are too junior to influence real decision-making, and it’s often interruptive rather than sought-out. Lead generation activities, on their own, don’t give you the chance to get people engaged with what you believe in, and don’t let you talk to the big hitters. And research shows that the number one reason a deal is done is because the buyer feels something– they’re engaged.
People buy with emotion, even if they don’t realise it. So the way to really drive ROI is to be in that playing field. The metric is simple: are we delivering value to our target market? Stick to that.
Sixty-two per cent of companies were outsourcing their content marketing in 2016 and the numbers are increasing. What’s more, 84 per cent of companies report that hiring for content marketing is a real challenge, according to Marketing Charts.
Putting two and two together isn’t difficult: great content marketing takes a unique skill set, one that even a journalist alone doesn’t have. It’s so tough that hiring for it is a real battle, and companies are looking to publishers or agencies to help.
The question of resources skirts the ego conversation. Many execs will insist that the company already has the resources: marketing can project manage and design, PR can write the copy, practice heads can do the interviews, and we’ll just pay for printing. But any project taking this approach is heading straight for the Gates of Doom because research shows that this approach is not the answer.
Preparing both a breakdown of what costs are needed and why, at each stage, it’s necessary to get the right resources and is essential for getting buy-in. The simple reason? The quality of the project will be compromised if in-house teams and expertise are used. Either because too many cooks in the kitchen lead to salesy editorial, or because the level of commissioning and production is standard at best and therefore fails to move the commercial needle.
The first steps
1. Get your internal stakeholders in a room
The average business decision today includes 5.4 internal stakeholders. So admit from the start you need the buy-in from your colleagues, and go out and get it. By getting them in a room early, you work to bring them on board and on side, and use the multiplicity of stakeholders to your advantage from the start – if they’re bought in now, they’ll help the project succeed and prove its ROI when it’s complete. Give everyone responsibilities, and make sure you manage their expectations when it comes to the process (like sticking to the project brief once it’s set).
2. Hold everyone to a few core principles
Editorial independence and integrity and high quality execution are key here. Flip this discussion on its head – if that’s what your colleagues would respect or respond to, that’s got to be what you set out to create, and the level you seek to play at. No point spending time and money on something one of your own executives would just ex out of or dismiss right away.
3. Get the ball rolling
Even if you don’t have absolutely everyone on side or a £1m budget, get the ball rolling. It’s better to have proof of concept and early success than not to have anything to show but a lot of draft proposals. Turn ‘luck comes to those in motion’ into a serious business motive – if you build up steam, others will follow and get on board the juggernaut.
4. Stick to your guns
Be ready for everything to go wrong when colleagues change their minds, the ego comes out again, or opinions run thick and fast as drafts come back. It’s important to retain sight of the end goal (delivering value to your audience), and to stick to your guns in terms of what was agreed when everyone was first in the room and bought into the core principles. Revert back to the why of the theory behind the project – and remind your colleagues what they’d respond to. As the ultimate project manager, it’s to you to maintain the project’s integrity regarding everything from quality to timeliness in delivery.
According to the CMI, producing the kind of content that engages is a Top 3 Marketing Challenge. A big part of the reason for that is the battles marketers too often have to fight internally – over resources, project goals, budgets, timescales, content and more – which result in publications that are lessthan-desirable and that fail to move the commercial needle.
In today’s Knowledge Society, consumers have wisened up and can recognise what content is sales fluff and what isn’t – and unless brands are willing to be brave and stand together on sticking to the principles that result in a high quality product, even the most well-financed project will fall flat. The big win of high-impact content marketing is that it takes the value exchange away from the transaction of payment and toward the transaction of knowledge – and if you can get your colleagues to buy into that – the results are priceless.