7 Steps to Turning Large Companies into Content Marketing and Blogging Machines

by Marcus Sheridan

About a year ago, I started creating a vision in my mind whereby employees of larger companies around the world would see themselves individually as teachers, marketers, and content producers for their perspective company/employer.

I literally sat back and imagined employees from every imaginable branch of a large corporation—be it customer service, sales, marketing, engineering, HR, etc.—taking the time to teach the rest of the world what they do, how they do it, and why it’s important.

In my mind, if companies were spending hundreds of thousands in payroll to have employees answer consumer questions day in and day out (with their normal duties), why couldn’t those same employees produce content? Why couldn’t they shoot videos when they saw a teaching moment? Why couldn’t they write articles that would make for the perfect information piece as part of the company blog?

As I shared this vision with a few folks in my field, many said it couldn’t be done.

“Employees can’t write.”

“Employees don’t really care about marketing.”

“You’ll never get buy-in.”

Blah, blah, blah.

In many ways, HubSpot was one of the first medium to large sized companies to empower all their employees so as to be content producers.

Notwithstanding the naysayers, I moved forward with this vision in my head, which is why when a company like Block Imaging called me last year for help, I immediately suggested we embrace a company-wide culture shift—one where everyone would not just understand the principles of social and content marketing, but they’d also clearly see how they individually could make a difference and use their skills and passions to benefit the entire organization.

After having explained this vision to their CMO Krista Kotrla, she had the audacity to dream big as well and pitched the idea to management. (Read an excellent interview with Krista here)

Considering Krista had essentially been on a deserted island before that and left alone to produce all the web content, she understood just how much of a change this program could have on her company as well as her personally.

Believing in the teaching abilities of her fellow employees at Block Imaging is just one characteristic that makes Krista Kotrla such a visionary in her field.

To make a long story short, after I met with the entire staff and gave the vision of what Krista and I saw to be possible, everyone bought in. Bloggers and content producers came from out of the woodwork and the magic began.

Today, less than a year into this “shift,” Block Imaging’s blog has become the voice on their industry. It has also skyrocketed their brand recognition and lead to a significant uptick in sales.

Even better, they’re just getting started.

Since that experience with Block Imaging, I’ve created an entire business model around going into organizations and teaching the vision that is a “culture of content marketing.” From basement waterproofing companies to government contractors to law firms, I’ve had the incredible pleasure of overseeing and being a part of this shift—regardless of the industry or sector.

As mentioned in a previous article here on TSL, the sales staff at US Waterproofing is a great example of a company with a content marketing culture.

To say the last year has been an incredible ride would be an understatement. Furthermore, I can’t wait to show, in detail, the results these organizations are getting as time rolls on. But for now, I want mention 7 keys to establishing these content marketing cultures within larger organizations, and I look forward to hearing your further thoughts below in the comment section.

1. Complete Buy-In from the Top: I’ve got one main rule when a company calls me to speak/consult with their organization about social and content marketing—there must be buy-in from the top. Why? Because if management doesn’t see the vision, 99% of the time the efforts will fail. A trickle-down effect of good or bad will absolutely occur based on the decisions and attitudes of management.

2. Educated Management: What is SEO? How does Google actually work when it comes to search? How do consumers use Google to research, shop, and buy products? What type of questions do they ask? What effect does great content have on a company’s sales process?

All these questions and more need to be understood by management if there is going to be content marketing success, as “professional ignorance” is simply not an acceptable alternative if greatness is to be achieved.

3. In-house Summit/Workshop: This is the step most companies completely miss. Sometimes management understands the power of content marketing but their employees have no clue—nor should they—at least until someone teaches them the “why” of all this stuff.

The entire purpose of an in-house summit is to help all employees understand exactly how content marketing works, how it will benefit the business, and how it will impact them directly. Once employees understand this, and are all on the same page, then the magic can happen.

The bottom line is that a culture of content marketing will never be established with uneducated employees, top to bottom. In this competitive world of business, ignorance is NOT bliss, nor does it equate to success.

4. The Imperative that is a CCO: I’m going to be talking more and more going forward about the power of a Chief Content Officer for an organization but let me just say that all cultures need leaders, and if a company is going to embrace a culture of content marketers then a CCO is essential.

The definition of a "CCO", as described by the renowned Content Marketing Institute

Over the last year, I’ve trained and hired multiple CCOs for organizations around the globe, and the impact this one position can have on a company of 10, 100, or 1000 is absolutely astounding.

5. An Editorial Calendar: Like everything else in this world, until something is written in stone, it’s likely not going to happen. To explain it simply, an editorial calendar for content marketing has 3 essential elements:

  1. A blog post title (generally speaking, there should always be 25 blog post titles in the queue)
  2. A publish date
  3. A responsible author

Most of the companies I work with always have at least 3 months of content, dates, and authors laid out in advance so as to ensure consistency over the long haul.

6. Continual Training: What do consumers want in a blog post? How should it be written? How can we overcome the “curse of knowledge” as teachers? What are some do’s and don’ts with video?

These questions and more should be discussed by the CCO and management with employees as they attempt to embrace the content producers/teacher mentality.

7. Continual Awareness: A content marketing culture is meant to be permanent, and so to keep the benefits of content marketing at the forefront of employee thought, here are the types of “victories” that should be made known to the organization on a regular basis:

  • When a blog post or video goes viral.
  • When a blog post, through SEO or social, generates a lead that turns into a sale/customer.
  • When a blog post ranks high for a particular keyword phrase.
  • When a consumer/reader makes a positive comment about a piece of content.
  • When a sales person has an experience whereby a piece of content quickened the sales cycle by having a positive impact on the prospect.

As you might imagine, the possibilities here are endless, but employees need to hear about all the success that is happening as a direct result of their content marketing efforts, and individual recognition/awards is a big part of this.

(Note*** Most companies I work with have a monthly content marketing success newsletter whereby most of this “recognition” occurs.)

Your Turn:

I’ve tried to keep this list to the essentials of CM success but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. Has your organization done any of these things listed above? What have been the results? What have been your struggles? What would you add to the list?

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Reed June 28, 2012 at

What’s great about the spark you lit at Block and how Krista facilitated it is the circular reinforcement by involving the employees. Those successes feed the organization, build morale, and support loyalty. Engaged employees shift the culture from a sales focus to a service/customer focus. And, low and behold, engagement goes up and so do sales.

Great stuff as usual, Marcus.

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Ryan Hanley June 28, 2012 at

Use of the word “Audacity” two weeks in a row… Check!

Dude,

The idea that every member of an organization can become a content creator is so radical… Makes me wonder if you were ever really a pool salesman or if you didn’t actually crash land here in a space ship.

Tuesday I gave a presentation titled “The Future Agent” in which I discussed what I envisioned the Insurance Agent of the Future to look like and what their role within the agency would be… What was the overwhelming theme?

The most crucial piece of their job description would be Professional Content Creator.

When I look at my own Industry I can’t tell you how badly I want to integrate the concept you’re describing above. This is the future…

Maybe I crashed here in that same ship?

All the best dude.

Hanley

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Ryan Aspy June 29, 2012 at

Ryan – I’ve been reading TSL for quite a while and Marcus and I are long-time friends, but this is only my second time commenting. I wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed many of your comments from time-to-time.

You’re right that this idea is radical. However, the general concept that every employee can contribute in areas that are generally viewed as outside their expertise was first made famous by Jack Stack – dubbed “The Father of Open-Book Management.” He wrote one of the best business books of all time called “A Stake in the Outcome” where he details the practice of building a culture of ownership within a business. The success he had at SRC Holdings shows what can happen when employees truly believe they have a stake in the outcome.

While these two concepts don’t mirror each other perfectly, I believe the model Marcus has outlined parallels nicely with Stack’s philosophy. Bottom line is that employees need to get out of the mindset that they operate in silos. If content creation is viewed as solely the responsibility of one person or a small group in the marketing department it will never gain the power it could if contribution came from all over the company. However, culture change is extremely hard to manage. So, just as Marcus has described (and Jack Stack demonstrated) this has to start at the top of the organization or it will die on the vine.

Ryan

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Ryan Hanley June 29, 2012 at

Ryan… dude… Thanks for your thoughts. I had not heard of Jack Stack before but he’s on my Amazon wish list now (That’s where I keep the list of all the books I want to read).

I agree with you on both points that content creation needs to be cultural within an organization and that it must start from the top down.

Making those things happen. Thanks the trick.

I’m glad to connect with you!

Ryan H.

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

Hanley, glad you’ve met Aspy. He’s seriously good people and a close friend of mine. You’ll likely be seeing his name a lot in the future.

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Ryan Aspy June 29, 2012 at

Ryan,

I just wanted to add that if you’re going to read Stack you also need to read “The Great Game of Business.” That’s the one he’s most famous for. I got to hear him speak when I was in grad school. He’s a good friend of our entrepreneurship director. You can’t go wrong following what he has to say – he’s an amazing guy. And if you dig into his story about the early days at SRC Holdings it’s literally one of those stories that’s unbelievable.

Ryan

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Ryan Hanley June 30, 2012 at

I wasn’t going to use the word Dang (like a certain blogger) but I certainly appreciate the feedback. I’ll start with The Great Game of Business then… I love good book recommendations!

Thanks!

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

Well dang Aspy, look at you pulling out these Jack Stack teachings. Careful, folks around here might start thinking you’re a pretty smart guy or something. ;-)

Marcus

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

Hanley, your vision and drive inspires me man. Really, it does.

And yes, “audacity” can’t possibly be used enough IMO. ;-)

Have a great weekend bud,

Marcus

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Ryan Hanley June 30, 2012 at

Audacity is a great word… Would love to see sneak that into every post.

Keep killin’ dude…

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EZ (Easy) Editorial Calendar June 28, 2012 at

really a good article for content making and especially about editorial calendar, which will really help to manage a blog with lot of writers

Thanks & Regards
~Jo
Please check the website (www.ezedcal.com) to manage editorial calendar easily for your blog and show your editorial calendar in your blog easiely (optional)

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Shania Wright June 29, 2012 at

The article is really awesome. It inspires to those writers to become a better writer in the future.

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

So glad you liked it Jo! :-)

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Matthew Stock June 29, 2012 at

I gave a presentation today to a very large potential client today. You must have stolen my plan for implementation! Great minds must think alike.

Thanks for the recognition.

Only thing I should probably be doing more of is #7 (continual awareness). I do frequently as it relates to sales, but not so much as it does to SEO.

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

Hahahaha, more like you’ve stolen all your junk from me big guy! ;-)

Love watching you push buddy. Keep it up.

Marcus

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Ian Cleary June 29, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Great article. I see companies all the time that look at blogging as a chore. It’s another item on the list they have to do because their boss told them. It’s a tick box item same as sending their tweet and doing their Facebook update. But with that sort of attitude they are not going to get anywhere. So someone near the top of the organisation needs to get that initial training, read those wonderful case studies and think about a blogging strategy that requires some up front investment for long term gain. I think the structure of the programme you are implementing is extremely valuable for organisations around the world . Sending this from Sunny Ireland (it’s Sunny a couple of days a year…).

p.s. Your session at blogworld was the most enjoyable one and I learned tons!

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

Ian! How goes that big smile of yours man? So glad you stopped by here and appreciate your words.

Looking forward to catching up again!

Marcus

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Ian Cleary June 30, 2012 at

I’m still smiling, I’ve a lot to be thankful for! Look forward to catching up with you again, you fill a room with passion and it’s great to be there!

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Adarsh Thampy June 29, 2012 at

Marcus,

I have seen companies embrace content marketing while some others BS it.

Fortunately, I am part of a start-up who believes in the power of content. The audience isn’t that receptive of actionable content though.

Working in a startup, I believe that even though a company wide adoption of content marketing may happen, it wont happen during the initial stages. Each person will be busy with their own tasks- often working 65+ hours a week.

What do you think is a good strategy to get everyone involved when all of them are so crunched for time?

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Krista Kotrla June 29, 2012 at

Marcus, you’ve started an amazing movement with your audaciously awesome vision and we’re “all in”! What an honor for our team to be mentioned here as an example. Seriously, TheSalesLion is to Block Imaging as Yoda is to Luke Skywalker :-)

Your 7 Steps are dead-on. The only addition I could even think of working in here is Encouragement. This shift to content marketing for many individuals is a very intimidating change. Even when they “get it” and understand WHY a company is moving in this direction, individuals still need constant reminding that they have something significant to contribute, that the team is counting on them to contribute their expertise and then show them constantly how what they share is generating results and having an impact.

If you’ve got an amazing team of people in your organization, let them know how much you believe in them and simply invest in a more effective platform like content marketing to achieve significant growth.

“Do or Do not. There is not try.” –Yoda

Unleash the brilliance.

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Marcus Sheridan June 29, 2012 at

Yes, “encouragement”…LOVE that too Krista! And I know that’s easily one of your prime strengths!

(I have a feeling you’re going to be teaching the world about what it takes to be a great CCO as time goes one…but that’s just my little prediction fyi ;-) )

Marcus

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Krista Kotrla July 3, 2012 at

Awwww thanks, Marcus! What a cool prediction… “the world” huh? Why not think big? ;-)

j/k – I love it.

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Marcus Sheridan July 6, 2012 at

I predict based on what I honestly see and believe to be true. :-)

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James Martin June 30, 2012 at

Authentic idea Marcus! Who can better explain how a system works than the ones using it! I think this strategy of yours, encouraging employees to be much more involved in the progress of your company, will further promote and reach out to your customers. Employees are the best story tellers and one way for employers to squeeze this out is through recognition or a reward system.

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Elaine July 2, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,
I just read your massive e-book, so I think I’m mostly caught up. Question: what do you tell people when they think they’ll run out of topics to write about? Like in your case, after years of writing about pools. Do you recycle some old topics?

Thanks for what you do! Marketing blogs are a dime a dozen but yours is the most down-to-earth.

Elaine

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Marcus Sheridan July 2, 2012 at

You’re incredibly kind Elaine, thank you!

As for writing about old topics, yes, it’s fine to do that in my opinion. Keep in mind, we’re constantly gaining and losing readers with a blog, so what was sent out to your audience just a year ago has not been viewed by many on your list.

Also, make sure to turn those old posts into eBooks.

And, as always, keep listening to the “new” questions being asked ;-)

Marcus

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Anton Koekemoer July 5, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

I do agree with you – Having An Editorial Calendar (especially if its visible to the public or subscribers online) is a great way of having users return to a site and can increase the exposure by marketing the schedule – as to inform people of what to expect and ultimately have them visit your site (and hopefully convert into a sale or a loyal follower). Having loyal followers and having them socially recommend your content, product or service is great for increasing traffic. And with content marketing you idealistically want more people to read your content – and in return the more authority it will gain (and hopefully more natural links back to the articles) and in return better exposure. Having “continual awareness” and increasing the exposure is extremely important when doing content marketing – Whether you are a corporate business or small- to medium sized.

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Sylviane Nuccio July 10, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Wow, what an ingenious idea. Visions do work don’t they? I am not surprised you ran into few naysayers, there are always some of those people everywhere, but like any good leader you just ignored them and pushed forward.

Fantastic story, and thanks for sharing this.

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Andrew Lolk July 12, 2012 at

Great article.. It really sums up what needs to be done.. We’ve gone through the same process right now and we’re trying to implement the content sharing culture in the entire organization – Especially with our Account Executives who deal with questions and customer service on a daily level.

Thanks for a great article!

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gico.vn July 18, 2012 at

Hi, everything is going well here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that’s genuinely fine, keep up writing.

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Sutradhar January 5, 2014 at

Yes, in my turn, I would like to say these 7 steps are really most influential to boost up the sales and marketing through content caring for an industrial company. I carefully studied all these points twice and I also would like to voice your tune again “In this competitive world of business, ignorance is NOT bliss, nor does it equate to success”. It is very true nothing scope to stay at laggard base like traditional conditions ignoring hummingbird era !

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