Leadership is critical for content marketingI’m traveling this week, attending the annual ISA (International Society of Automation) Fall Leaders’ Meeting. The Society is about to launch a brand new website and we were talking about the new blogging capability we’ll have. Several people asked me what has been successful with my clients when it comes to content marketing. The secret ingredient can be described with one word.


Top Down or Bottom Up?

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Many people understandably focus on the content creation component of content marketing more than anything else. They worry about how much time it will take and how they’ll conjure up blogging topic ideas. In many projects, I’ve helped companies establish great content strategies, put the infrastructure in place to launch the program and get them trained to do it well. And then they fail. They fail because those companies tried a bottom-up approach. The marketing team does their part by getting everything in order and many employees buy in with the best of intentions to provide content to the effort.

And then life gets in the way.

In the bottom-up approach, participation is treated as an optional activity that people will do “when they have time.” You can probably guess how often that happens. Not very often. That’s why these programs work best when the organization’s leadership is involved up front and fully bought-in. There are two crucial contributions that leaders can make that greatly increase the chances for a successful content marketing program.


The first thing leaders can do in support of content marketing is to establish a culture that values and prioritizes content development. Subject matter experts (SMEs) within the organization need to know that they have permission to spend time on content development and that those efforts are valued. It’s important to note the difference between granting permission and demanding. Not every SME in the company will be comfortable with or competent at authoring. Carrots work much better than sticks in this regard.


Once team members have permission to write content, the other half of the battle is providing them with the resources they need. The number one resource is, of course, time. I’ve seen many circumstances where organization leadership gives their blessing but does not put a framework in place that creates the time they need to do it. As I mentioned earlier, if the content creators must continue to perform their current responsibilities without additional time being freed up, it will be difficult and rare for them to find that time.

One approach that tends to work well is for the organization to appoint a facilitator who is responsible for working with SMEs to create content according to a predetermined editorial calendar. The facilitator can take on the role of a reporter, who interviews these SMEs and then authors the content. In cases where the SME is more comfortable as a content author, the facilitator simply keeps them on schedule and offers assistance.

Another resource leadership needs to provide is accountability. As I mentioned earlier, content development works best as a volunteer initiative but that doesn’t mean there can’t be accountability. When a SME volunteers to contribute content, there should be accountability. And conversely, those volunteers should also have the resources they need in order to fulfill their commitment. It’s the responsibility of leadership to make sure those resources are available and to crack the whip when and if necessary.


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