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Marketing | Oct 15
Jessica Greene on February 5, 2019 (last modified on July 19, 2019) • 21 minute read
In fact, 87% of the marketers who responded to our most recent poll expressed the same desire.
Of course, that’s not terribly surprising considering that nearly one-third of our respondents have only one or two people who create all of the content for their respective companies.
And while one or two people are perfectly capable of creating all of a company’s content, they might struggle to do so at scale.
Why? Writing is a time-consuming task. In fact, 71% of respondents said that bandwidth limitations were by far the biggest challenge in getting others to contribute content.
Beyond that, small teams of content creators may also struggle to cover a variety of topics. It’s extremely difficult to write about a topic you’re not a subject-matter expert on. You can lose days conducting research, and even after that, you’re never quite convinced that you completely understood and accurately articulated what you were writing about.
It’s far better when you can rely on actual subject-matter experts from across your company to contribute their thoughts and ideas. After all, the best person to explain a technical issue to a technical audience is someone who works with that technology every day.
And, the people who know the questions prospects need answers to before converting often work in sales and customer service—the people who spend most of their days answering these questions.
But how do you get individuals from other departments to help you create more content?
To answer that question, we asked our respondents—the subject-matter experts on this topic—for their recommendations.
Here’s what we learned.
Editor’s note: One of the most effective ways for motivating your team to contribute content (as suggested later in this post) is by sharing the impact that their efforts have on organic traffic. Grab this free dashboard to track how well your website is attracting organic traffic, what percentage of them are new visitors, the top pages, and more.
“A good way to inspire more people to create content is to show them the potential effect their content could have on your consumers, your social media efforts, and your business as a whole,” says Alayna Pehrson of BestCompany.com.
“You could do this by showing them an example of a different business’ website that is succeeding with content, or you could show them the positive effects that content has already had on your business.”
“The more positive results they can see coming from content creation, the more motivated they will be to contribute content,” Pehrson says.
Big Sea’s Maria Mora agrees: “Show results. When your team members understand what happens when helpful content gets shared organically, they’ll have a stronger understanding of why they have ‘homework’ in the first place. More buy-in and enthusiasm means more content from your subject-matter experts.”
And Tanda’s Dan Etiel suggests taking it a step further and celebrating successes: “Be transparent about the impact of the content your team creates. Share results, and then celebrate the wins or review the duds. It will hype up your team and guide them during the content creation process.”
Explaining to your coworkers how content will help them meet their personal goals is another great way to inspire your coworkers to contribute. According to Fundera’s Catherine Giese: “This is persuasion 101, but the best way to get people outside of the content team to contribute content is to emphasize how it helps them.”
“For example, if I want someone on the sales team to contribute content, I’ll say something like: ‘Helping us create this piece of content will help you get more leads, and it will also free up your pipeline. If we have this piece, you won’t have to spend as much time explaining things to people on the phone.’”
Mike Schiemer of Recover Reputation says it also helps to tell your coworkers how publishing content can help their careers: “I simply explain the benefits of content creation to not only the company—but to them as well. They can add the published content to their portfolios, gain exposure around the world, and even gain followers on social media.”
“It’s a no-brainer for team members who have any ambition at all to expand their personal brand and raise their stock.”
Of course, in order for people to use the content they’ve created to grow their personal brands, you have to give them credit for their work. As Zac Johnson of Blogging.org says: “If your brand is going to request that team members create and contribute content, you should also be giving them author bios at the end of the article.”
“Not only will this showcase your brand,” Johnson says, “it will also provide more exposure and legitimacy to your writers and team members.”
Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray agrees: “We encourage our team members to build their personal brand while building the brands of our clients. Building a personal brand has many benefits, such as gaining credibility, building confidence, and networking.”
“Even if we’d love for our team members to stay with us for their entire working careers, we aren’t naive; we know it won’t happen. Therefore, building a personal brand is very beneficial for them in the future if they want to look for another job. By understanding this, our team members create and curate a lot of content.”
Rick Ramos of HealthJoy says it’s all about credit. In other words, playing into each individual’s innate desire to be recognized.
“Give people credit!” said Ramos. “Everyone likes recognition, so make sure that you give everyone their own author page, let them add a photo, and you could even link to a personal website or LinkedIn page. Many company sites publish only as an unknown company representative. People want to be able to show their friends what they wrote, share it on social media, and add it to their LinkedIn portfolio. You need to feed into people’s desire to self-promote.”
Finally, David Oragui of Grow Hack Scale recommends taking things a step further and bringing someone in specifically to teach people how to grow their personal brands: “Hire an internal personal growth coach whose sole purpose is to help kickstart/improve your employees’ personal brands.”
“By working one-on-one with them, the growth coach can explain to employees the long-term benefits of thought leadership—and the role that content creation plays in that. Once you show your team how content creation can benefit their careers—both while they work for you and after they leave—you’ll have enough content to last a lifetime.”
“The main issue that many companies—especially small businesses—face when creating content is time constraints,” says Mike Liera of The Arena Gym. “It’s not easy to get multiple people to contribute to content creation when they already have their own separate responsibilities.”
However, if you make it incredibly simple for coworkers to create content, it alleviates their concerns about time constraints and encourages them to contribute more often.
Our respondents offered several suggestions for how to make contributing content easy.
“I find that the most effective way to get my coworkers to contribute content is understanding what truly interests them,” says Emma-Jane Shaw of Uku Inbound.
“I like to leverage those strengths when assigning particular topics and content types. We have some team members who love data and others who are great at project management and entrepreneurship. I believe that by truly understanding those strengths, we’re able to create great content on a consistent basis.”
National Health Care Provider Solutions’ Mackenzie Thompson agrees: “By playing on your team members’ strengths, you can ideate on new types of content to create.”
“For example, if you have a team member who loves connecting with others and being vocal, set them up with a video camera and a recorder, and have them interview another industry professional. A few quick edits later and you’ve got content for a YouTube video, podcast, blog post, and social media posts.”
Another great way to capitalize on coworkers’ strengths is to have them create content that’s related to their day-to-day actions and responsibilities.
“Have them create content out of their normal operations,” says Mike Liera of The Arena Gym. “They can share a case study from a customer they’ve worked with or a success story from a project they’ve worked on, or they can create a tutorial for a task they do every day.”
“Most people don’t have the time to write a whole blog post,” says Lola’s Connor Gross, “but they can spare 60 seconds to do a quick video clip. This also helps down the line: it builds employee advocacy because they share the content they’re featured in.”
Jeanne Hopkins, also from Lola, agrees: “Content doesn’t have to be written. Invite team members to participate in speaking gigs, on podcasts, and in webinars, and have them leverage GaggleAMP to automate the posting of company content to their social media streams.”
And Idea Girl Media’s Keri Jaehnig argues that even something as simple as having coworkers contribute photos goes a long way: “Use a route easily tapped for most: the mobile phone camera.”
“Accept photos from team members that display your company doing things well and that amplify your brand values. Feature positive customer service, stellar deliverables, behind-the-scenes snapshots of important projects/events, and anything else that showcases your brand in a positive light.”
And if you want to make it easy for your coworkers to share the content they helped you create, Travis Reynolds of Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group says it’s important to “arm them with pre-approved assets and messages.”
“One way to do this is to build an internal hub where employees can access content that they can then share amongst their own online networks.”
Steve Hauxwell of National Resource Professionals says writing reminds a lot of people of school, “and writing wasn’t fun.”
“If we present content creation as a re-purposing exercise and offer to fill in skill gaps, the whole exercise gets a lot easier,” adds Hauxwell. “Tasks like transcription, editing, and infographic creation can be outsourced. If you approach your team looking for the raw material for great content, they’ll find plenty. If you ask them to create content, writer’s block and stage fright will happen immediately.”
“I find the biggest struggle that team members have in contributing to content creation is figuring out what to write about and what types of posts to create,” said Alicia Ward of Flauk. “This first step can be paralyzing and make the whole process feel overwhelming. At Flauk, I’ve created guides with different types of posts and the benefits of these types for our team to help with this process. I’ve also taught everyone how to use our search console data so they can find topics that people are searching for when visiting our site to help inspire topic ideas.”
Another way to get people more comfortable with contributing is to make contributing a habit.
As Gray Group International’s Alejandra Melara says: “Since deadlines are the major setback we face when asking people inside the team to contribute—everyone is busy all the time—we decided to create a small workshop every day at an established time in which all of us can work on content creation.”
“Things like blogs take longer, but some content marketing initiatives are accomplished during that content creation hour each day. It’s become part of our daily routine.”
AJ Alonzo’s team at demandDrive runs regular workshops to solicit and inspire ideas of others.
“We run blog-a-thons and caption contests to involve more of our employees (outside of the core content creators),” said Alonzo. “For those of us that create content on a regular basis, writing a blog or coming up with a caption is a job. For someone who doesn’t do it often, it’s seen as an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and have a little fun.”
“Every day, I review queries from media outlets that are looking to hear from experts in a whole array of topics: data analysis, onboarding and HR best practices, logo design, CEO productivity hacks, etc. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve invited over a dozen of our employees to share their thoughts with external journalists.”
“In an ongoing process like this, I also believe it’s super important to stress that you shouldn’t expect your team members to write a perfect, ready-to-publish post themselves. While some of my team members certainly write up the entire text, others prefer to provide a detailed bulleted list which I then edit into a couple short paragraphs before submitting to respective media outlets.”
“You have to teach people how to write,” says Mention’s Sandra Chung. “Many people are overwhelmed by or afraid of writing, which deters them from doing it.”
“Our content team gave a blog writing workshop to our entire tech team. The result was very interesting and valuable. Our programmers learned not only how to come up with ideas, but also how to translate those ideas into different types of blog posts.”
Natasa Christofidou of alldayPA agrees and recommends “organizing a content workshop for as short as an hour where you share your best tips, tools, and apps for creating content.”
Teaching people to write and giving them helpful resources will work for some employees, but for others, no amount of education or resources will compel them to write their own content.
The bottom line is that some people just aren’t comfortable writing.
But even if your coworkers aren’t—and will never be—writers, you can still have them contribute to your content efforts by capturing their ideas and using those ideas to create content yourself.
There are a lot of different ways to capture your coworkers’ ideas—none of which require them to write.
“Not everyone is going to feel comfortable creating content,” says GreenHouse Agency’s Shannon Howard, “but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have something valuable worth sharing.”
“To help bring other voices and perspectives to the table, I interview other team members—either by email or by sitting down with them, whatever is their preference—to get their perspectives and capture some of their knowledge.”
“Then, as a content marketer on the team, I take responsibility for writing the article, but I use the voice of the team member who is contributing the ideas.”
P5 Marketing’s Robert Donnell recommends a similar approach: “Conduct short interviews with topic experts using a tool like Zoom. People who might be intimidated by writing are often willing to chat on a screen share.”
“You can record and download these conversations and have them transcribed using a service like Rev. A 20-minute conversation will easily generate a 2,000-word article—or several smaller posts. You may need to do a small amount of editing, but you will be way ahead of the game.”
“In a software development company, technical posts are essential,” says Aurity’s Ivana Veljovic, “but getting developers to write content can be very difficult.”
“I try to make their lives easier by skipping the part where they need to write. All they need to do is make a recorded presentation—up to 15 minutes long—where they will explain how to solve some problem. Then, we transcribe the video and make a blog post out of it.”
“After that, we promote the content. Once developers see the number of shares and likes, they get inspired to make another video.”
Privy’s Josh Mendelsohn agrees: “Instead of asking for a blog post, sit down and interview them. Or give them an outline for a video they can record that requires only a few minutes of their time. Follow that with public praise for people’s help and you’ll start to get people raising their hands to participate instead of hiding in the corner.”
“It’s hard to get your busy team to carve out time to produce content on their own,” says Mae Cromwell of PACIFIC Digital Group, “but the reality is that teams are doing things every day that can be used to showcase your company’s expertise. Capture those moments.”
“If someone’s leading a lunch and learn, record it. If folks are active in the company chat discussing something that’s happening in the industry, ask for permission to pull quotes out of that conversation for a post.”
“Leverage these natural moments for the content you’re seeking. Your team will love seeing their ideas showcased, and you’ll help foster an environment in which thought leadership is simply baked in.”
Orbit Media Studios’ Andy Crestodina says the best way to get coworkers to contribute is to “trick them, at least at first, into sharing their best advice.”
“If you start by just asking, what do you do in this situation or what’s your best advice on this topic, then they’ll have their guard down and will give you a good answer fast.”
“This is super powerful for gathering conversion copy from sales associates. Ask ‘How do you answer this question?’”
“After you write it up, show it to them and ask them for permission to use it. Or ask them to contribute a quote.”
“People create content all the time (through email and conversations); they just don’t know it. If you remove the pressure by taking out the word “content,” it flows freely out of your teammates.”
“So gather it first, then get permission later. And if they don’t want you to use it, no worries! Move on to the next topic and team member.”
Jay Kan of Fraudlogix agrees that getting people to contribute doesn’t have to be a difficult process. “Just have people share the customer inquiries they get repeatedly—and explain how they address those issues—to generate content that helps your users.”
As Referral Rock’s Jay Kang says: “Potential customers’ questions and inquiries are what fuels both SERPs and signups. The more we can identify these specific questions, the better we can provide answers using both our knowledge base and our blog.”
“We inspire our coworkers to identify these issues, and we encourage our teams to share customer successes and failures so that we can provide better experiences for them in the future.”
LyntonWeb’s Jennifer Lux offers this tip: “We recently rolled out a Thought Leader Thursday program in which we solicit blog ideas from the entire staff via a Google Form. We encourage participants to think through a recent client challenge or pain point and how that might translate into a more universal blog topic.”
“Those titles and rough ideas are then run by our marketing team for optimization from both a persona and SEO perspective. From there, the internal marketing team might reach out to the contributor for an outline or interview to create the content.”
Bright Inbound’s Sarah McIntyre recommends making content ideation part of your regular staff meetings. “In each meeting, set aside five minutes for everyone in the room to write down all of the customer questions that they were asked recently. This helps you brainstorm new customer-centric content ideas and also puts regular content creation on the company agenda.”
“Then, once the ideas are generated, the marketing team can go and interview the relevant subject-matter experts to flesh out the story.”
“One effective way we inspire more of our team members to contribute to content creation is to provide them with an incentive,” says Jackie of Fisher Unitech.
Our respondents shared lots of ideas for the types of incentives to use:
Finally, Matt Edstrom of GoodLife Home Loans says that fun is the best incentive. “Make it fun and make it a group effort. Rather than requiring team members to create content, give them opportunities where creating content becomes an enjoyable group activity.”
“For example, end the workday an hour early to hold a team-building activity like a scavenger hunt. At this event, encourage employees to take pictures or write about their experiences after the fact. This will be an opportunity for team members to create content, but it will also be a chance to work on team-building skills and strengthen employee relationships.”
“Finally, tell employees that if they take pictures or write about the experience, there’s a greater chance that the company will continue to hold similar events.”
You can try tricking people into creating content, teaching them how to write, explaining why it’s important, or giving them rewards, but at the end of the day, one of the best ways to get people to share the responsibility of content creation is to build a company culture that values it.
As Colibri Digital Marketing’s Andrew McLoughlin says, “Every member of our team already contributes to content creation! We’re a team of writers at heart, and we’re all passionate about what we do. It’s sometimes difficult to tear ourselves away to focus on other aspects of the business.”
Plus, getting more people throughout your company to create content, according to nearly all of our respondents, has a positive impact on your business.
One way to start building the right culture, says Anne Shenton of Ascend Inbound Marketing, is to “define expectations, and make them realistic.”
“We plan our content calendar a year out. We use a board on Monday.com to display the planned content pieces, along with deadlines, topics, and format. Each post has an owner who is responsible for creating that piece. We have two people on our team who are responsible for one post a month, and everyone else is encouraged to contribute quarterly.”
“To make these expectations realistic, we block off one day per month to focus solely on our agency’s content creation.”
Cass Polzin says that they use a similar approach at Accelity Marketing: “We’re regularly assigned a blog date in Trello. We then have to share a few topic ideas, and one is chosen and assigned. Then a different member of the team edits.”
“This helps everyone feel more bought-in on our content strategy, and it’s truly beneficial from an audience’s perspective because they get to hear from different points of view on a regular basis.”
“Our entire team posts to our blog regularly,” Polzin says. “It’s just something that’s required.”
“After all,” José Juan Morales of Sneakerlost says, “There are many ways to get people to create content. But it’s best when a team is united and motivated to work in the same direction—even if they’re from different departments.”
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