winter / 2014

The magazine of branded content
THECONTENT
WHISPERER
Feature
09/30/14
On the front lines of content marketing, Robert Rose tells C-suite execs how to formalize the process: “Destroy your silos”
Sep 30, 2014

“Jet stress” is common among frequent fliers, but from Robert Rose’s view, it’s nothing compared to the stress he sees organizations endure when trying to change their corporate culture.


“I run around the world connecting marketers with the best practices of content marketing.”


As the chief strategy officer for Content Marketing Institute, Rose travels the world and evangelizes, in boardrooms or in front of thousands at events, about the merits of brand story, helping organizations think of content creation as a functional part of their marketing mix.

“Basically I run around the world connecting marketers in very large organizations with the best practices of content marketing,” he says. Rose, based in Los Angeles, sees plenty of companies that are doing really cool things. “But I also see companies that are doing really dopey things, and I get to help them connect with better ideas.”


“What typically happens is somebody in the organization does a blog and it starts to get some success.”


Rose sees all manner of corporate buy-in—as well as corporate reluctance to effect change within their organizations to make content a priority.

“It’s very rare that [buy-in] occurs because of a CMO saying, ‘OK, let’s go do content marketing. Hire some people and start.’ That never happens. What typically happens is somebody in the organization—the lead nurturing people, or the sales team, or customer loyalty team, whatever group is hurting the most—does a blog. And all of a sudden it starts to get some success and somebody says ‘hey, this is kind of working, what do we do now?’ And an immediate reaction to that is ‘great, let’s now form a team.’”


“And then somebody says ‘hey, this is kind of working, what do we do now?’”


That instinct to form a team, says Rose, is where many businesses get stuck in the content quicksand. To help companies avoid that quicksand, Rose has plenty of advice.

“Let’s think about content as a function of a business rather than a team that’s separated off,” he says. “Instead of just creating a blog team, why don’t we create content as a function across all teams? And therefore, the function exists to win the hearts and minds of all the people that are cross-functional. Go convince Bob that he wants to do this as part of his job, and then go convince Mary and Stu of the same thing, so you’ve got this group that buys into the idea that the function of content is a marketing thing, and you’ve got an expression of it already—the blog.”


“Instead of just creating a blog team, create content as a function across all teams.”


The challenge for these organizations is to build a business case to treat content as a marketing line item, not a campaign. “This cross-functional team will operate the content—not just the blog, but the content—as a marketing function, and we’ll tell them to integrate all the different platforms into it, so that today it’s a blog or tomorrow it might be a White Paper program, and the White Paper program is going to feed into the blog. It's when this cross-functional team is actually doing it that it becomes formalized, and then there’s no longer this proprietary feeling of 'I’m the blog team and I only do the blog, and you’re the White Paper team and you do the White Papers.' Content has become the function, not the platforms.”

Still, silo-busting within organizations is not easy, and as any CMO can attest to, ‘bringing the team together’ for weekly meetings doesn't always translate into a content strategy that speaks to customers.


“This cross-functional team will operate the content—not just the blog, but the content—as a marketing function.”


“If content gets executed in silos, it’s being measured in silos, and therefore the team doesn’t have any incentive to share,” says Rose. “A perfect example of this is from a company I worked with that had a social team and a web team. The web team ran the website, the social team ran all the social channels, and each team created their own content for each. Then a third team was brought in to run an online magazine—with wonderful how-to content that cost a lot of money. The online magazine went to the social team and said 'hey, we’d like you to publish some of the content we’re providing.' And the social team said 'no, why would we do that? We’re measuring on engagement and if we put up a picture of a cute cat, we get a hundred Likes, and if we put up your blog post we get four Likes, we don’t get bonuses if we don’t get my one hundred engagement points. I’m going to continue to post my cute cats that get my analytics, which is engagement.'

“The online magazine people then went to the web team,” Rose continues, “and said ‘hey, can we have a button on the home page to the new blog?’ The web team said 'no, why would we put a button on the home page? We get measured on traffic and if we put a button to your blog on the home page it’s going to siphon traffic away from us and we get our bonus based on how much traffic we generate.'”


“It’s a subtle but very important difference to measure content, not the teams.”


Scenarios such as these—rooted in the idea that analytics be the proof of how good the team is doing rather than how good the content is performing—are poisonous yet systemic, Rose says. “It’s a subtle but very important difference to measure content, not the teams,” he says. “This all goes back to change being messy and hard. Getting a marketing department to understand that ‘OK social team, you’re going to exist, you’re not in risk of being fired (at least not today), but we need you to measure the effectiveness of content so that measurement doesn’t become the proof of life of how good the social team is doing.’ It becomes a way to measure how good your content is on the social channel.”


“That's how organizations can improve their content over time.”


“That's how organizations can improve their content over time,” says Rose, “and that’s the real change that needs to occur in organizations.”