If you’ve just started a new role as the new corporate content marketing manager, this might sound familiar: “Well, we’ve never done it like that and it’s just not the way we do it, I’m afraid.” To which you should probably respond: “Yes, you should be.” You might say it in your head, first, before mobilising your newly created content department that no one apparently knows what to do with. But being stuck in a company’s old ways is indeed something to be feared. It should at least be begrudgingly shunned, and at some point, somebody from the other departments needs to recognise that you’re here for a reason and you might have a point about this digital content malarkey.
To achieve your content marketing goals it seems you will inevitably drag a couple of die-hards kicking and screaming into 2014.
It’s always the way in this funny new world of digital. ‘Internal stakeholders’ seems to be a byword for people that will get in your way, and in order to achieve your content marketing goals it seems you will inevitably drag a couple of die-hards kicking and screaming into 2014. Only then will you tell them that 2014’s predictions are either obsolete or already too widely adopted to offer any competitive advantage, and we’re now looking forward to 2015 and a whole new set of rules to keep up with. Yay. So with that in mind, allow me to pre-empt the problem. At Southerly, we’ve had a lot of experience handling internal corporate ‘politics’ on behalf of our clients. I wanted to share what we’ve learned along the way… well it is nearly Christmas, isn’t it? Internal stakeholder management is all about putting yourself in their shoes; once you see where they’re coming from, they’ll better understand where you’re going.
Here’s how internal stakeholders rain on your parade, and how to deal with it:
1. Everyone’s an editor
You’ve spent ages constructing killer content and suddenly everybody from the boss to the janitor is scribbling red pen all over your work. Solution: Ensure that there are editors and sub-editors in the process that are pre-defined, pre-agreed, and most of all, that you trust. This may well take the form of professional, outside agency help. Make this clear to other stakeholders early on.
2. Sign-off and off and off
Once your work has gone through the legal department, passes the eyes of numerous experts and/or non-experts, and has been cross-examined by the local cat, the content you start with is not what you end up with. Solution: Plan ahead for potential legal pitfalls and steer clear of the gaping holes. Take on board expert advice and then double check it. Ensure it is made abundantly clear to these departments early on that the piece has been evaluated for editorial purposes and requires no more input to that end. Feeding the cat should alleviate most of its issues.
People just want to feel like their priorities are being taken into account.
3. Everybody wants a bigger slice
Especially true when you’re managing internal communications, every department in the corporation wants the most column inches. Solution: Outline your plan early on and stick to it. If one department asks for more than its fair share, explain that this will be disruptive and kindly request that that department prioritises the content elements to be published. It could well be that you’ll be able to lavish more love on them later on – people just want to feel like their priorities are being taken into account.
4. Nothing matches the marketing messages
You are coming up against resistance because your campaign ideas don’t fall in line with the over-arching principles of the current marketing drive, and don’t seem to reinforce the key messages. Solution: Seek absolute clarity on what wider corporate campaigns your content will falls under and ensure to design you strategy plan within those constraints. Don’t plan to go against the grain, rather, seek to be creative within these pre-defined parameters and establish a mutual trust.
5. Never on time
You can’t plan to do anything that needs to be timely or reactive, as the pre-publishing process is very convoluted. Solution: Don’t plan a reactive campaign, if possible. But if it’s necessary then explain to stakeholders the benefits of needing to be reactive in particular instances, perhaps for good PR or the need to be seen as an active engager on social media, for example. You may be able to identify key scenarios at which you will need to be reactive and can pre-agree the tone and make-up of that message so that extra sign-off is not needed. It helps to cite research at times like this: software firm Lithium commissioned a study by Millward Brown Digital in Q4 2013 that revealed 53% of consumers expect a brand to respond to their Tweet in less than an hour, a figure that rises to 72% if that Tweet is a complaint. If a company doesn’t meet this expectation, 60% will take ‘unpleasant actions’ to express dissatisfaction. And who wants to be on the receiving end of that?
6. Creativity killed
You can’t create an edge, because there are too many people around with their safety caps on. A message that has been assessed by 10 people all thinking safely will be very safe indeed. Solution: Always ensure your edge has a point, first and foremost. Edgy content should steer towards the personas of your target audience, so that it will resonate with their normal pain points. Don ‘t make things edgy for the sake of edgy and don’t hinge the entirety of the campaign on one risky statement. Also, know your limits, then push them. Provide yourself with a benchmark. If you know when edgy has gone too far, you’ll know how far you can reasonably push the boundaries.
7. Boring tone
You can’t maintain an engaging company tone because the sheer number of people looking over your work will stifle an individual personality. Solution: Provide context for all stakeholders involved. Let them know that tone of voice is absolutely vital to building company trust because it lets clients know there is a human behind that logo. The tone of voice you adopt is intrinsically linked to either change individuals’ perception of a company, or reinforce the perception you’ve already established.
Use modern techniques to breathe new life into traditional PR campaigns.
8. Ties with incumbent agencies
You are aware that the incumbent agency is not targeting audiences in the way you like as it is perhaps more rooted in traditional forms of marketing or PR. Your organisation is resistant to using a new, innovative creative agency because of strong and trusting ties with the current one. Solution: Firstly, agency integration is now essential, albeit a relatively new trend for this year, but a recent Econsultancy survey revealed that four out of five clients saw a direct relationship between integration and increased revenues. Convince your bosses and the agencies involved to work together. These days, it’s often that several creative agencies with a smorgasbord of skills between them come together to form the complete team. Start by identifying areas where the new creative agency can use modern techniques to breathe new life into traditional PR campaigns, or grant them an extra dimension.