4 Ways to Generate Content From Every Employee You Have

by Marcus Sheridan

employee insourcingA while back, I discussed a good bit about something I still feel is content marketing’s most potential powerful and useful tool—Insourcing—or the process of using a large portion of employees within a company to generate great content, and lots of it.

Since that time, I’ve had some pretty exceptional experiences with companies/clients while implementing this culture of insourcing–watching them go through the journey of giving their team and staff the “what,” “how,” and “why” of content marketing–something that is essential for ultimate success.

During this period of work and constant reflection, I’ve come to a much clearer realization as to why some companies are so very good at leveraging their employees, while others struggle mightily and ultimately fizzle out.

The 3 Laws of Successful Insourcing for Content Marketing

To make a potentially long explanation very short, there are essentially 3 Laws of Insourcing I’ve observed, which are as follows:

1. Content marketing excellence will not occur (to achieve huge results) if management and ownership are not “all in.”

2. Content marketing excellence will not occur if there is not a catalyst employee (ex. Chief Content Officer/CCO) in charge of organizing and maintaining the culture.

3. Content marketing excellence will not occur if employees are not allowed to produce the content in THEIR preferred method/style.

Although I could write a few thousand words to explain numbers 1 and 2 with this post, today I’m only going to focus on number 3, which is so often overlooked by companies attempting to involve their employees in the content marketing process.

So in this post, I want to take a brief look at the 4 types of company content marketers and how to leverage each of their skills.

The 4 Ways to Generate Content from Employees

1. The Writers: Here is the traditional way most companies up to this point have used their employees to create articles, blog posts, etc. Generally, if done the right way, they’re given a topic to write on with a corresponding deadline, after which the articles flows back to the content editor (or CCO) to be cleaned up and posted. Although this method of deriving content from employees is still very powerful in my opinion, it’s extremely rare that all employees will be willing to embrace it. Furthermore, some might be very poor writers, which also makes the CCO’s job, much, much harder when attempting to “clean up” poor written and formatted content.

2. The Actors (AKA: “The Sales Guys”): Most companies have a sales staff, many of which are your  typical extrovert that go 1000 miles an hour, jumping from one activity to the next, but certainly not ones to sit down for 45 minutes to write a blog post. (Granted, I’m generalizing here, but you hopefully get my point.)

In order to draw the great knowledge (content) from these types of employees, video-based interviews are often times the best solution. I’ve done this many times with clients and the results can be magical. To do them effectively though, generally it’s most ideal to have two people on camera—one person asking the questions (just as a customer/consumer would) and the other person answering the question in a relaxed and personal way (see video below). Doing it this way versus sticking a person in front of a camera and telling them to “go” is often times way more successful in generating great content.

Also, this method is extremely effective when the words (audio) in the video are transcribed and turned into text for a blog article, making the finished piece of content perfect for the reader that would rather learn visually or textually—therefore able to consume in their preferred style.

Keep in mind, video based content (be it demos, interviews, etc.) isn’t just for the fast talking sales people on staff, but anyone that is willing and able to clearly communicate on camera. To give you a great example of an interview-style video that was turned into a text/video based blog post, watch the following short segment, taken with one of my current clients, The Hybrid Shop.

3. The Talkers: For those persons that would prefer not to write articles or be on camera, and also for those companies that simply don’t want to invest in the video side of things, interview-based blogging can be extremely effective. This is a process that can be outsourced but if the right CCO is on staff, there is no reason why it can’t be done in-house to great efficacy. Generally speaking, a 1-hour interview with an employee can generate up to 10 potential blog articles/pieces of content for the company, which as you can see, has some powerful possibilities.

4. The “Questioners”: As many companies have found, some employees aren’t good writers, they’re not good on camera, and they don’t make a good fit for interviews either. This being said, just because they don’t have these communication skills doesn’t mean they can’t help with the process of brainstorming the types of content the company should be producing—basing said content on the types of questions consumers ask and seek out every day.

As I mentioned before, in every company there are employees that crossover and have multiple communication strengths, but the key to any of this is that management is willing to be flexible with the way they generate their content, and go beyond simply thinking about everything in terms of just writing articles.

Yes, this process of learning the communication styles of the employees does take some time, but once it’s discovered and a system is put into place, the results can be magical, and the amount of great content that can be produced is often profound.

Your Turn

I’m curious, which (if not all) of these communications styles have you used in your company to generate content from employees? What has been the most successful? What have been your challenges? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

John Gibb September 25, 2013 at

Hey Marcus

I love that video sample, maybe you could share more of it and similar other clips with how you were helping your clients..

Interview-based blogging. That sounds interesting, and something which I thought to do for my HWA blog.

I outsourced my content for my niche blogs, as for my main marketing blogg, I write it myself, or hire others. Don’t have employees that could handle this part yet.

Cheers!

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Walter Pollard September 25, 2013 at

Fantastic video! Very rich content for Hybrid owners.

I have a client that is an oil company, and am producing similar video content through a question and answer session.

Also, really like the concept of the “Questioners”. There’s definitely a place for all employees when it comes to content marketing.

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Don Stanley September 25, 2013 at

Love how you laid out the 4 different ways to generate content. Makes a ton of sense.

I just did an interview with one of my clients today. He’s the super busy CEO who wanted to show his staff that he’s all in and will make time for producing content. He’s not much for writing but is great in Q&A settings. So, I interviewed him via phone, recorded the call and will transcribe the answers. In 10 MINUTES, we got 6 quality answers to 6 FAQs. IN 10 MINUTES!

He was blown away at how fun and easy it was to do as well as how it was no different than answering customer questions 1-on-1 for him. We all know these answers will now be on his website 24/7, 365 so his knowledge and passion will be available for everyone to find on their time, not just when the super busy CEO is available.

Yes, we’ll have to transcribe the audio so overall more then 10 minutes will be invested producing the 6 posts. But the key content producer was engaged in a simple, easy-to-implement process you taught me. This flat out works!

For me, the best part was hearing him go back to the rest of the staff excited about having everyone join in the content production process. He sees it as fun, relevant and worth investing in. Can’t wait to see where their company is in 6 months time. Thanks my mane man!
Rhino

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Tiffany Cavegn September 26, 2013 at

Hi Marcus, this was great insight. I’m going to leverage some of these ideas at White Bear Montessori to get the teachers and students involved in why they love their school. Kids just take the cake, right!?

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Steve Freeman September 26, 2013 at

Marcus,

I have been doing video interviews for over a year now and love the end result. The problem is I am getting picky about the quality of the product. It takes time to produce a fairly good video.

One thing I did that caused a light bulb to go off. I interviewed someone for my site using Skype. The interview was for a text article I was writing but recorded the interview (with the persons permission). There were things said that I completely forgot about, but watching the recording realized I had at least 2 more articles I could write from the same interview.

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Marcus Sheridan September 27, 2013 at

Funny you say that Steve. I think it’s an easy trap to fall into, as I experience a little bit of that myself. I think ultimately the key is that we can to produce great content without delays. If “super high quality” in video stunts growth and launch in a major way, at that point I think we should accept less than great. Either way though, it can be a difficult line to walk. :)

Thanks again,

Marcus

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neeraj sethi September 27, 2013 at

Those are great suggestions, I was just pondering upon the very same topic recently and this definitely shed light to my thoughts. I think invovling non-marketing employees are vital to businesses today especially when social media should NOT be only embraced by the marketing theme. I always believed that like it or not, every employee is on social media so why not give them the platform to do something useful and beneficial to your brand?

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Marcus Sheridan September 27, 2013 at

Well that’s just it Neeraj–they are on there like it or not. It’s a new world. We all need to figure out how to make it work, versus doing what so many companies are doing, and that is living in denial about the direction of information, the net, ect.

Thanks so much for dropping by!
Marcus

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Cara Posey September 27, 2013 at

Neeraj, as Marcus said…these employees are already on social media. Their expert content is on Slideshare, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. And without bringing it all together, organizations have no idea if there is consistency in messaging or branding. And they also have no idea that these “lone rangers” could actually help their brand, rather than make it more fragmented. Embracing employees and their talents and providing them guidelines and assistance means that organizations can harness this energy and content for mutual benefit. More people will see the expert content and it will actually produce better results.

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Cara Posey September 27, 2013 at

One of the key elements in this is recognizing that employees beyond the executive level have great expertise worth sharing. Then, it’s about empowering those employees to share their knowledge. When thinking about who can provide value, try thinking laterally and down, rather than up.

And then, as you pointed out, some people are better in certain formats or capacities than others. Take the time to recognize who will provide the most value by helping you with writing, or talking on video, or speaking at an event, etc.

The more that we look to our own experts to build our brands, the more authority we can build for our companies. It’s a win-win, as it also helps employees feel valued as experts on behalf of the organization.

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Marcus Sheridan September 27, 2013 at

Cara, LOVE your take on this. I can tell you’ve done it quite a few times. Awesome!!

Keep up the great work,

Marcus

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Cara Posey September 27, 2013 at

Thanks, Marcus. It’s part of our reason for being at ExpertFile. We help companies identify these experts and make them visible. It truly makes a difference in a brand’s authority within their industry, as well as their overall brand awareness. My hope is that more organizations will realize the value of making their subject matter experts visible and discoverable.

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Tom Howlett September 30, 2013 at

Great post. Many companies don’t appreciate the value they have within the company and tend to place this responsibility on a single department or to outsource it. Hopefully more people will see this post and take note.

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Marcus Sheridan September 30, 2013 at

That certainly is the hope Tom…we’ll see :-)

Thanks for dropping by,

Marcus

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Nicky Helmkamp October 2, 2013 at
Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2013 at

Thanks so much for the inclusion Nicky :-)

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Davina K. Brewer October 3, 2013 at

Forget ‘ownership’ and all that silo b.s. Everyone can contribute, everyone needs to buy in to learn its value to the organization, everyone should have the creative freedom to do so in ways that works for them. Insourcing is something I think a lot of organizations miss because TPTB don’t want to cede power/control and/or they don’t see the ROI when they recognize – and properly reward – those that offer such valuable contributions.

Other ideas for you: any artists? chart gurus? Maybe let them create an infographic or repurpose a presentation. Photo hobbyists? there’s your Instagram, Pinterest team. Etc. etc. the point being you’ll be the best results if everyone is invested, play to their strengths – and keep it fun. FWIW.

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Marcus Sheridan October 7, 2013 at

LOVED your “other” ideas Davina…I need to push that more on my end with the companies I work with!! :-)

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Randy McKown October 3, 2013 at

nice pointing out that everybody can contribute in some way even if it’s restricted to only brainstorming. Some people can come up with amazing ideas .. they just can’t implement them.

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Three Ladders Marketing October 13, 2013 at

Man, there are some really great ideas here. Some of the best people to promote your business through content marketing, are the ones working there, not already doing your content pieces. It would also be a great way to bring together the team and collectively product something together. Maybe a good idea to create a contest out of it.

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Prithvi October 15, 2013 at

Being honest, a successful business is all about having great employees, investing into them and finally extracting the best out of them.

You have covered some nice points here on how to make your employees more productive and extract the best out of them.

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Deepika October 21, 2013 at

I think communication is the best way to build great relationship with your employees. Sharing ideas, views or thoughts can help you a lot in writing a nice blog that can help in growing your business.

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