How To Build A Culture of Content

 In Content Marketing

One of the biggest issues we see in the brands who are struggling with content marketing, no – in the brands who are struggling with marketing overall – is culture.

Marketing at many B2B brands emerged out of the sales team’s need for more leads. Marketing generally started in the field, hosting events, hanging logos and grabbing business cards.

In B2C, marketers started in the traditional advertising side of the house where the game was all about reach and frequency. But again, the goal was about getting  the brand message out to the target audience – with the logo attached.

The biggest mistake marketers make: they make the message all about themselves. When I started my own content marketing journey, I remember hearing the challenge almost every single day, “but how much more stuff will this  help us sell.”

The simple fact is that the best way to sell more stuff is to help your target audience better than anyone else. And the worst way to try and reach your target audience in today’s digital, consumer-led world is to try and sell yourself directly. Ads are what we try to avoid.

But answer the buyers’ questions, and you may earn the right to tell her more about yourself (your brand, products, and services.) Creating a company that focuses on helping over selling? Now that is a question of marketing culture! I have covered company culture before, but here we are going to talk about the main job of the CMO: building a customer-focused culture of content.

What Is A Culture of Content?

And so effective marketing simply becomes the art of providing the best answers to your buyers questions. And that is a content problem.

The most misunderstood aspect of how to use content to drive real business value is what I call a culture of content. Now, apparently there’s a book being written about it. But Rebecca Lieb and the folks at Altimeter have been talking about this for quite some time. In their Content Marketing Maturity Model, from 2012, they talk about content as the new marketing equation.

Almost 3 years ago, their content marketing maturity model listed 5 phases of content marketing maturity. While the 5th: monetizing content (RedBull) may be out of reach for some brands, they identified culture of content as a more attainable stage for most brands.

Late last year, Altimeter published an updated report on how to foster a culture of content, which I was honored to contribute to. IN the report, Rebecca points to education, executive buy-in and employee advocacy as some of the key components of a culture of content.

Shifting Away From A Culture of Selling

Most businesses think that the best way to drive new sales is to talk about themselves. They think that if they are not outright asking for new business that they won’t get it.

This is a business-centric view. In today’s world, we tune out promotional messages. We can see in an instant which content is trying to sell us vs. help us or entertain us. Businesses need to (get) the brand out of their content and make the customer the hero of the stories they tell. They need to exhibit empathy in a real and human and emotional way.

One of the most effective ways to use content to drive traffic that many businesses forget is to simply answer your customers’ most basic questions. If you sell widgets, the first question you should answer with your content is “what are widgets?” Then go on to answer “How can widgets help a business like mine?” Once you’ve done that regularly, you can go on to answer why your widgets are best.

There is no magic pill for effective content to drive traffic. The best businesses have a documented strategy for publishing high quality content that helps their audience. They put someone in charge to drive that strategy. And they publish on a consistent basis. Businesses that publish audience-focused content more than once per day are many times more effective than those that publish less frequently. This requires a culture of content.

How can brands establish a “Culture of content?”

The best way to build a “culture of content” is to help your employees across the entire business understand your brand’s higher purpose.

Companies that do this well make sure their ecosystem understands the larger world they operate in and how they fit into that world. Then they activate their employees to tell authentic and personal stories about how they contribute.

As a content marketer, I found myself more often in the role of teacher and coach. Teaching others how to write, how to share on social media, and how to build their personal brands.

It takes executives who embody this spirit – living and breathing the notion that your brand is more than what you sell.

The job of creating and defining a culture of content starts with the CMO. But you can’t wait around for her. It is also your job, each and every day. What content have you produced today that helps a potential customer? Have you coached any executives on how to turn their presentations into slideshares and blog posts? Have you encouraged any of your thought leaders to start contributing more often?

It’s time to get started . . .

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

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Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, former Head of Strategy at NewsCred, and the former VP of Global Content Marketing at SAP. Michael is also the co-author of The Content Formula, a contributor to leading publications like The Economist, Inc Magazine, The Guardian, and Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to the Marketing Insider.
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Showing 4 comments
  • Anne Janzer

    Michael, I love your point that a content culture comes from a genuine understanding of the brand’s higher purpose. A business that understands its own story and values will find it much easier to understand how to provide value to its customers.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Anne, I think the higher purpose can help brands get beyond the over-promotion and the natural and healthy belief that what they have to sell helps people. But the best way to earn trust is to start with the higher purpose and the desire to help, not the solution.

  • Gina Rau

    I couldn’t agree more, Michael. The culture of the organization must be one that recognizes and values the stories within — all the way throughout every department and employee. Some times I approach it as a culture of curating stories since some people aren’t comfortable writing, but they can contribute ideas and stories that others can write.

    This is too big and important of a task for one person, and must be collaboratively held by everyone to truly be successful, and represent the collective authentic brand.

    I also often work as trainer and coach with my clients to educate them on the opportunity and facilitate the change. Love this work — especially when you see it click! Great article, Michael! Thanks.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Gina, I think playing the role of trainer and coach is so important. And I totally agree with you about everyone contributing, even if they are not writing directly. One trick I’ve used is to email people a couple of really simple questions. Then turn the email response into a simple Q&A format blog post.