Sneaky and sly are content marketers who soothsay the future without giving us a roadmap to find our way. Many give us crystal ball prophecy no better than snake oil serums for supernatural cures peddled by voodoo witch doctor.
You have to watch out for them.
But Jay Baer isn’t one of those creeps. In Baer’s post, “Cooperative Content Will Eventually Dominate Your Published Content,” he makes a bold statement.
The future of content marketing is low effort, cooperative content.
Baer isn’t completely wrong, but he’s not telling use the whole story. The problem, as he puts it, is this; people don’t make purchasing decision based on polished content such as white papers, e-books and corporate videos. I don’t disagree with this notion at all. He says, “Eventually – before parting with their money – customers want to hear the story from someone other than the marketing department.”
Unfortunately, the truth according to Baer stops there, leaving us with nothing to do. Nothing we can work on today. He does give us some hot air about Google’s long tail, and talk of employee-generated and customer-created communication as the future of content marketing. Well, this isn’t new. Employees have be sharing stories of solving customer problem since mankind started his first business. How the message traveled, however, was slow. Today we have technology, which allows us to speed up communication penetration of these stories. But doesn’t give us a roadmap.
So, let’s go there. Let’s go all the way. Let’s go where Baer and countless other marketing swami won’t go. Let’s reveal the secret.
Harvesting Employee-Generated Content
Before we talk about a strategy of reaping content your employees make and using it to build deeper relationships with customers, let’s be honest. Not all your employees are writers, some don’t care, and the ones that do, you’ll have to coach and entice. Additionally, some may not be in a position to develop content, simply because their position isn’t customer-facing.
Nonetheless, here’s what you need to know:
- Identify customer-facing personnel who work through problems that arise between the company and its customers.
- Ask these employees if they would like to share their customer experiences on the corporate blog, or a blog designated for this content.
Once you have a pool of employees who volunteered, you’ll need to train them in three areas: 1. Writing, 2. Legal and 3. Observation. In other words, you’ll need to teach them how to write brief, 250 word case studies that capture the essence of their customer service encounter. Helping them understand some of the legal issues around writing such content, especially in regulated industries, will help smooth out approval processes too.
Here’s more to consider.
- Teaching employees how to be watchful and identify good examples of customer care will make for better, more engaging, information you can share later.
- Provide them with the technology to easily capture, organize, and submit content to a review board. Oh, and teach them how to use that technology.
- Create a review team of public relations and SEO professionals, not marketing professionals.
- Publish content consistently.
- Honor or reward employees for the best content, which will reward them for conquering the toughest customer problems and solving them.
Put PR in Charge of Content
I made a very bold statement about making public relations accountable for reviewing, editing and publishing employee-generated content. It’s important to understand, marketing folks are not trained to tell compelling stories, but public relations professionals, many of whom come from journalism backgrounds, understand storytelling. They also understand how to position content to create an environment where customer relationships are nurtured. Research tells us as a person’s trust in an organization increases, so follows their loyalty, and from that their desire to buy. Marketers are too focused on products and sales, which cheapens a relationship. Their approach to reviewing, editing, and publishing employee-generated content could focus more on sales at the expense of the relationship.
Pair SEO with PR
Provided your organization has a search engine optimization strategy, you’ll need these guys to coach PR about the keywords, their placement and how they work in overall content development. You can’t expect employees to know this, they’re too busy helping customers.
Cooperative Content is the “NOW” of Content Marketing
Is this really the future of content marketing? He says, “I see the differentiator being based on which company can create the most topical breadth, driven by hyper-relevant, low effort content made not by journalists, but by large groups of employees and current customers.”
I say it can happen now. It should happen now. We have the technology. We need you to champion the frontier.