Cultivate Story Advocates on Your Team to Avoid Content Droughts

Tim Holdsworth
Posted by Tim Holdsworth on August 18, 2014

blog_drought“Hey, Bob…what’s on deck for tomorrow’s blog post?”

Cue the crickets…

As a marketer in any industry, you’ve probably heard — or asked — this very question.

The idea well has run dry and you’re faced with the unenviable task of scrambling for tomorrow’s topic…and you don’t even want to think about what you need to write about for the end of the week.

While some people thrive on last minute panic as a source of inspiration, many of us don’t enjoy working that way if we don’t have to.

So, how do you build a repository of ideas that will keep Bob’s nerves calm and help you meet your goals for providing content that is timely and relevant?  

Start with pillars and personas

Find your company’s mission and positioning statements or other formal documentation to help you identify three to five areas (pillars) for which it wants to be known among its customers/constituents. For example, a manufacturing company’s pillars may be innovation, product quality and responsiveness; a university’s pillars may be sustainability, education, community involvement and service. Next, if you haven’t already done so, look at the personas you’ve developed for your company (and if you haven’t constructed personas, get crackin’). The personas will most likely naturally align with the pillars you identified and will help you know what to angle to take for any particular story.  

Define content categories

With your pillars and personas providing the framing for your content plan, it’s time to define the categories of content that you’ll want to generate. Identifying these categories, and defining the frequency with which you want to use them, will help you maintain a nice mix of content for your audience, rather than producing a glut of the same type of story. The content categories you create will vary depending on your organization, but some potential categories may be customer success stories, profiles (customer, staff, donor), industry trends and issues, product development, community involvement, and research.

Identify your story advocates

Your organization has lots of stories to tell — and those stories live in all areas: sales, customer service, technical operations, product development, fundraising, engineering, maintenance, etc. Take a look at the key departments / areas within your organization and identify who most likely has those stories. The goal is to bring these people together on a regular basis to share story ideas and what’s happening in their areas of the organization. After all, if you don’t know about it, you can’t create content about it and, therefore, it doesn’t exist.

Get leadership buy-in

Once you’ve identified your pillars, personas, content categories and the story holders you want to gather together on a regular basis, you’ll want to get leadership to support your content plan. If the story holders know leadership supports the idea of them meeting regularly – and story sharing becomes an expectation – you’ll have an easier time getting consistent cooperation. And if you’re lucky, leadership may also join in for a few meetings to share the stories they may have.

Gather your story advocates together

Find a time that works for everyone and pull together a meeting. And don’t be above bribery to encourage attendance…the cost of a few doughnuts or a free lunch in exchange for content ideas is well worth the investment.

In that first meeting, be sure to explain your pillars and personas, and the content categories your aiming to fill. Then go around the table and have them start sharing story ideas from their respective areas. Keep in mind no story idea is a bad idea (okay, well there might be a clunker in there), but encourage people to share freely and collaborate on ideas. Once people see their story ideas developed and published, they will be more likely to share more – and others within the organization may begin sharing those ideas with you as well.

See who is willing to write

You may not have time to write all the great ideas you start receiving, so encourage your story holders to write the content ideas they bring up in the meeting. After all, many hands make light work.

You may get some pushback (i.e., “I’m not a writer”), but encourage them to at least try. Provide them a template to start from, give them a list of questions to answer, send a summary in an email…even if they can provide just a few paragraphs from which you’re able to start and ask more questions or add more detail it will be a great help. Plus, they’ll hopefully begin to appreciate all that goes into developing content.

Encourage broader participation

One your story advocate group has been up and running for a while, you may want to open up the group to some more people in your organization to gain additional ideas and perspectives on your business. Also, be sure to encourage your story advocates to get spread the word to provide story ideas when people hear about them.  

Regardless of whether you work in manufacturing, education or at a non-profit agency, you don’t have to suffer from a content drought. Build a solid structure on which to organize and schedule your content and work to build a network of content advocates to cultivate story ideas and you’ll have a wealth of ideas to write about — plus, you will be Bob’s new favorite co-worker.

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Topics: Content Marketing

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